Overworked. Under-appreciated. Classrooms full of students with unprecedented needs. We are enduring enormous stress, so it’s no surprise that many are calling it quits. And it’s heartbreaking. Our students need us to stay. With the new year upon us, it’s a good time to try fresh steps to surviving and even thriving in our jobs. We can’t fix a broken education system overnight, but we do have the power to change our ways of reacting to it. Here are three steps to beat teacher burnout and stay strong.
Step 1: Don’t just grin and bear It
A positive mindset is not enough. Some people have misapplied psychology to assert that we can grit our way through oppressive, dehumanizing situations. We can’t, because when we just grin and bear it, we tacitly accept the unhealthy work conditions. Effective mindset work is not:
- Thinking positively to accept broken systems.
- Rejecting our negative emotions.
Instead, we have to process our emotions. We want to use the power of our thoughts for good. To do this, we recognize that the stories we tell ourselves impact everything. Our thoughts feed our emotions, which drive our actions and, therefore, our results. If we want conditions to improve for ourselves and our students, we need to examine our thought patterns with a critical eye.
A few years ago, my stress levels became unbearable. A coach, Kristin Dabney, helped me see that I could find agency and tranquility, even though none of my circumstances were going to immediately change. I used what was in my control to improve my well-being. My default thought pattern had been, “There is never enough time,” and “I’m so behind.” My coach helped me to realize how these constantly looping thoughts set me up for greater stress and made me powerless in a losing battle against the clock. I worked on telling myself, “Do what you can in the time you have.”
Reflection Time: What thoughts are you playing on repeat? What story are you telling yourself about your current situation? Jot them down, and if you suspect they are setting you up for feeling deficient, plan to edit them from your brain, and read on!
Step 2: Try on a new mantra
Banishing your old negative feedback loop takes focus and time. But it gets easier when you try on new thoughts. When I first adopted new mantras, it felt forced in the beginning. I even taped the statements to my bathroom mirror, wrote them on my calendar, and repeated them when I started to feel anxious.
It worked! After a couple of weeks, a new perspective emerged. I used many of the same time-management tips I had used before, but everything felt different. I wasted less brain space on feeling guilty about things that didn’t get done. I felt in control of my life and therefore had more energy and was more productive.
Reflection Time: Find or craft statements that suit you. Here are a few to consider:
- There is plenty of time.
- Everything is as it should be.
- I have everything I need.
- Discomfort is necessary for growth.
Step 3: Rewrite to rewire
Shifting one’s thinking takes time. The process is ongoing. I’m not suddenly “cured” of negative thought patterns. Lately, I’ve been working hard to stop thinking this: “I’m dropping too many balls as a parent, educator, spouse, daughter, friend,” to “My children are happy and kind. I’m serving many students in positive ways. I am there for my family and friends when they need me most.”
So, do you see how this ongoing work is about taking your negative statements and then rewriting them? The kinder mantra helps us match our actions to these healthier thoughts and help teacher burnout.
Reflection Time: Keep practicing! Keep recognizing and challenging your thought patterns over time. When you feel stressed, try to:
- Pause and breathe deeply.
- Name and allow yourself a few seconds to feel whatever you are feeling, whether that is angry, hopeless, or whatever.
- Gain awareness of the thought that is causing the intense emotion.
- Ask yourself if your thought(s) is serving your long-term goals or who you want to be.
- Try a new thought that is more aligned to your core values or will better serve your long-term goals.
Free 7-Day Reset
The world needs you, so I hope you’ll give it a whirl. Know that my team at Learning That Transfers and I are here for you. For more ways to beat teacher burnout and put this mind work into practice, join LTT for a free 7-Day reset course. Click here to sign up.