During the last few years there has been a lot of conversations about how educators can avoid burn-out by using self-care strategies but in reality exhaustion, burn-out and stress have always been common place in education.
In fact, there have been some periods of time in my career where I have felt burned out, stressed and exhausted. At those points I have also felt unsupported, judged, guilty, embarrassed, annoyed and shame for not being good enough. Some of this was created by myself and my own determination to be the best – desperately trying to prove and fix the childhood messages of not being good enough or worthy of love. The rest of this was created by the environment I was working in – other adults creating the stress, triggers and shaming.
Looking back at my 25 years of teaching, there has never really been honest and healthy conversations about mental health protection in schools for the adults in the building. Like many teachers, I have sat through hundreds of hours of PD and I really can’t remember any that explained better ways of protecting myself as a teacher. I think it is a sad situation and in truth I could have been a healthier and happier teacher and colleague with a little more help in this area.
In truth we never had lessons on mental well-being in school, none in university and definitely none in teacher training. In fact most of what I have learnt about managing stress and avoiding burn-out has come from personal growth and learning from an excellent range of coaches outside of the education field.
So here are a few strategies that I have found to be helpful in my quest to be a healthier and happier teacher:
- Recognise and acknowledge when you are starting to feel burnt-out. The signs to look out for include shortness of temper, being frustration, negative mindset, binge eating, scrolling on social media, binge watching tv, not exercising, staying up late and stress headaches.
- Instantly cut out and stop doing all the items on your plate that can wait and don’t immediately serve your purpose or goals. This will give you some space to start putting yourself first. You’ll will get to those goals much quicker if you take a little time for yourself to heal and rest!
- Look after yourself first! Make yourself your number one priority and only speak kind words to yourself. Catch the ego mind trying to speaking unkindly or negatively – it will do it all day if you let it!
- Prioritise you by protecting your time to do 3 short activities only for you. Whether this is painting your nails, soaking in the bath, reading, etc. This will give your over-active mind a rest from thinking about the past and future.
- Make it a point to get back to prioritising sleep, eating healthy and getting outside in the fresh air. Your health is essential and impacts all areas of your life.
- Meditate – so under-rated and yet so powerful!
- Journal – focus on writing entries that celebrate the wins for the day, those moments of joy and gratitude and all the positive interactions. Writing 5 gratitude entries a day will help re-wire the mind to look for the positives and those moments are always there.
- Stretch, do yoga, exercise, walk in the fresh air. All great for helping the mind stay in the present as well as the positive impact exercise has on the brain.
- Do your hobbies, learn something new, and read.
- Hang out with positive people who bring joy and happiness to your life. Avoid the negative battery drainers. Reach out to old friends and family – reconnect to feel connection again.
- Question the unexpected triggers of emotions. Why did you feel that emotion? What message was it sending you? What do you need to heal? Focus on healing childhood trauma. We all have wounds from the past to heal and doing the inner-child work is life-changing.
- Work on responding rather than reacting. Remember that boundaries are for you! You need them and have the right to say no to others. How they react is their choice and a reflection of them not you.
- Let it go – holding on to anger, frustration and negative feelings hurts you. It’s not about forgiveness for others – its about peace for you. You’ll be surprised at how much of that trauma you are carrying daily in your body. Letting go will release those stored emotional triggers and will change your breathing. Breath work is really important for healing.
- Listen to podcasts and Youtube channels by motivational leaders and coaches to be re-inspired. Watch comedy and films that make you feel good.
- And of course, play, compose or listen to music!
In my coaching courses I help teachers and musicians create change and become happier and healthier versions of themselves. If you want to know more about coaching please feel free to reach out. I am more than happy to answer all of your questions – we are in this together and everyone deserves to feel good!