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Burnout: how to prevent it

Psychology Today describes burnout as "a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, 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.

You can do anything, but you can't do everything. Here are some ways to identify and prevent burnout and a summary of our Instagram Live session from today:

1. First-week Exhaustion

When you start back at school in September, be in as an NQT or a trainee, you will be hit with a truckload of information! Prepare yourselves - you will be tired, really tired at the end of the first day and the first week. The week before school starts, start getting back into a routine. Set an alarm for the morning and slowly make it earlier each day so that it's not such a shock to the system on 1st September. Relax when you get home... do something you enjoy, read a book, take a bath, go for a walk - but something to calm down your brain.

2. Fresher's Flu

Prepare to feel a little like you have been hit by a bus in that first October half-term holiday and again at Christmas. Trying to eat as healthily as you can, ensuring you keep to routines and looking after yourself can all help... and if it's your thing - Berocca and multivitamins.

@tenminuteteach (head on over to her Insta page) spoke about batch cooking food and ensuring that you have your lunches for school prepared in advance. For your evening meals - get yourself prepared, buy a slow cooker! It's also a good idea to have a "snack drawer" at work for those little energy boosts.

3. The Long Night

For any Game of Thrones fans, the term back after Christmas is a little like The Long Night. It's cold, it's dark, everyone is poor because, well, Christmas! It's the time of year with the highest number of staff absence and also the highest for student exclusions. It's good to start planning ahead to how you can plan for January (aka The Long Night) in advance

4. Leave work at work

This might mean that you have to stay "late" in the building (by the way, don't expect to be leaving for home at 3:30 pm every day. Some schools WILL frown upon that, some insist that you stay until 5:00 pm - suss that one out from your Mentor). As far as you can, keep a separation of church & state. There needs to be somewhere in your home that is work-free and is a place where you can properly relax. Beware the "pulsating briefcase" - that bag full of work that you have taken home, only for it to sit in the hallway in an oppressive manner reminding you that you are not working. If, realistically, you're not going to be "in the mood" to do it when you get home - leave it at work.

5. Routines

It is just as important for adults as it is children to have a routine that we keep to. Think about keeping a regular bedtime and a regular winddown routine. Ditch the screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Equally, keep that midweek Yoga class or Saturday morning gym session. Make time that is just for you and that is "protected"

6. Protected "You" Time

Keep one day at the weekend that is completely work free. It's unrealistic to think that trainees and NQTs won't work at the weekend but you do need downtime and time to relax. If you're at a school that expects you to work over the weekend, consider whether that's the right environment for you.

7. Protected Family Time

If you have a family at home - whether that be you're living with your parents and have younger siblings, whether you live with a partner or whether you have children of your own - it's really important to put some time aside for them too. This is also good for your own mental health and wellbeing. If you can, try to leave the phone to one side or in another room whilst you're spending time with your family. Teaching is a BIG job and it has the power to be all-consuming. I myself am a "live to work" person - I love my job, and most teachers have this mindset. However, I still make a point of having "time off" at key points over the weekend to spend time with my family. Mealtimes are also "protected" - we eat together and phones are banned from the table! No work is allowed until my little one has gone to bed as our time together in the evening is important. Consider how you can plan your time to keep this time safe.

8. Office Hours Emails

Some schools have really strict email policies! If you really have the urge to work into the evening, press save rather than send on those emails and keep it for the morning. Better yet, if your system allows it (like Gmail), preschedule the email to go out in the morning. Also, be wary of working on remote classrooms like Google Classroom late into the night - your comments and posts are timestamped and we need to set good examples for our students.

9. Saying "no"

It's ok to say no to things. You can do anything, but you can't do everything. If you're feeling like you want to do a piece of work but need extra time - just say "I can't do that right now, but I can do it by..." and then plan it into your schedule

10. Planning your time

Work out what you will do in your PPA time or after school and use your planner to write it down. I LOVE lists - writing to-do lists is an absolute must... they help you keep on top of your job list and also you get an immense sense of satisfaction when you can cross things off it. Pre-plan and schedule when you are going to go out and observe other colleagues and stick to it. Make them a priority. Schedule your marking too e.g. in this hour I'm going to mark Yr10 books and try where you can to plan a week's worth of lessons in advance

Further Reading

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