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Preventing burnout among educators

Posted by Karabo Kgophane on 16 November 2021 12:05 PM SAST
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Article by Fiona Tapp

Teaching is a rewarding yet demanding career. With extensive hours and a heavy workload, it's easy to fall prey to teacher burnout. Without the proper support, teachers are in danger of being overworked and neglect taking care of their mental and physical health needs.

What is teacher burnout?
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Teachers are usually high achievers who like to work hard and are always looking for ways to improve. These traits are commendable but can mean that educators fall prey to perfectionism and don't leave enough time for rest and recuperation.

Signs of burnout
True burnout is much more than just simply feeling tired or overwhelmed and can lead to serious depression. This is why it is so vital to be vigilant about the warning signs. Below is a list of the things that you should look out for : 

  • Fatigue and insomnia: A full day of teaching is enough to make anyone feel tired, but if you're experiencing fatigue before you even get to school, you may need a break. However, those experiencing burnout often struggle with insomnia, which can turn into a vicious cycle.

  • Amnesia and lack of concentration: Burned-out teachers may find it hard to complete normal tasks and have trouble concentrating on their work. A lack of sleep can increase these symptoms even more.

  • Appetite and weight issues: Any drastic weight loss or gain should be investigated by your doctor, as this is often a sign that you need to focus on your overall health.

  • Depression and anxiety: Teacher burnout can intensify into feelings of anxiety and depression. Always speak to your doctor if feelings of sadness or anger are affecting your daily life.

Tips to avoid burnout
To avoid becoming a victim of teacher burnout, educators need to build balance into their lives. One way to do this is by setting clear work boundaries. This might mean that you do not check your emails after 18hrs, or that you'll only mark papers until your favourite TV show starts, or maybe that you do not ever work on Sundays. Whatever schedule you set for yourself, stick to it to ensure balance in your life.

Another way to avoid burnout is to take time off. Teachers need to reclaim their weekends and remember that a healthy life includes time for recreation, hobbies, personal relationships, and downtime. Make sure you have some time every weekend where school is the last thing on your mind.

Each year, aim to take a vacation, even if you are staying at home. Take some of that much-deserved time off to catch up with friends, go on a date, or hang out without thinking about school, and if you're sick, call in sick and take the day off. Don't be petrified your students will be fine, so take care of yourself.

The act of teaching is giving opportunities, ideas, knowledge, and guidance to students. But you can not do this effectively if you are running on empty. Take care of your needs, balance your life for optimum health, and regularly check in on your mental wellness. That is the best system for beating burnout or avoiding it entirely.

Source: HeyTeach

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