Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout

Using Positivity to Handle the Stress of Teaching

Teacher with his pupils in classroom using tablet.

Caiaimage / Chris Ryan / Getty Images

Teaching can be a very stressful job which can sometimes lead to teacher burnout. This article focuses on the top 10 things you can do to combat teacher burnout.

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Foster Positivity

Instead of focusing on the negative, turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Every time you think a negative thought reword it in your own mind. Even though this might seem silly, it is the core of internal happiness. No one wants to be around a negative person 24 hours a day. Therefore, to avoid stress and teacher burnout, you really need to examine the messages you are sending yourself about the job. If you find your thoughts are overwhelmingly negative, find ways to focus on the positive things that might have happened that day.

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Create Realistic to Do Lists

Some people put everything including fixing the kitchen sink on their to-do list each day. There is a point where there are just so many things to do that there is no way to accomplish them all. Therefore, you would be wise to create an overall task list that you need to accomplish and store this someplace where you can check it over each week. Then make yourself a daily to-do list that is reasonable and doable. Try to limit yourself to 3-5 tasks that you can accomplish in one day. Then when you mark them off the list you can feel a sense of accomplishment, and you will have something to celebrate.

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Accept That There Are Things You Cannot Change

If you are religious, the Prayer of St. Francis is an excellent way to help you accomplish this. Each time something happens beyond your control, you can just ask for the courage to change the things you can, the strength to accept the things you cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. While teachers often have a greater degree of control within their own classrooms, real stressors come from the outside. These might be in the form of ​high-stakes testing, educational reforms, or professional development requirements. While teachers cannot change much of what is thrown at them, they can change their own attitudes towards these challenges.

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Learn to Relax

Many find relaxation through meditation, yoga, or exercise to be the perfect anecdote to a stressful day. When your workday is done, you need to leave the stresses of it and the rest of your life behind, even if only for fifteen minutes. Relaxation and meditation can rejuvenate the body and the spirit. Right now you can begin by just closing your eyes and telling each of your body parts to relax as you sink further into your seat. Then focus on your breathing. If you only did this for five minutes each day, you would see a big difference in your own stress levels.

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Watch a Funny Movie

Research has proven that laughter often is the best medicine. The natural endorphins that are released while laughing help bring us relief from the stresses of the world. Find something that will really give you a good belly laugh—something that might even make your eyes water from the joy it brings.

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Try Something New

This might be something you do differently during your classes or it could be something in your personal life. Burnout can often be caused by getting caught in a rut. While on the Internet, search for new lessons or materials to help you teach an upcoming topic. Outside of school, find something that you've always wanted to try but haven't done yet. This might be something as simple as enrolling in a cooking class or more ambitious like learning to fly an airplane. You will find that these experiences outside of school will also transform your day-to-day teaching.

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Leave Your Teaching at School

While this is not always possible, try not to bring work home every night. You might want to consider going to school early so that you can complete your paperwork. Then you will be able to leave as soon as your workday is done. Every person needs that mental break from their work, so use the time in the evening for you and your family.

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Get Plenty of Sleep

The number of sleep hours each person needs varies by the study that is being discussed. Most sleep studies make it clear that everyone needs a good night's sleep to function properly the next day. Figure this number out for yourself and make a date with your bed each night. Your body will thank you! 

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Talk to Someone Positive

Sometimes we just need to talk through issues we're dealing with at school. This can be very helpful when trying to understand difficult situations or when trying to figure out solutions to problems. However, you must be careful who you speak with. There is nothing that can drag someone down faster than a group of disgruntled individuals. If every day you go to the teacher's lounge and join a couple of teachers complaining about their jobs, you will not be able to fight teacher burnout. Stay away from those who are disgruntled. Instead, find someone who has a positive outlook on life and talks about teaching with them.

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Celebrate What It Means to Be a Teacher

Think back to why you became a teacher. Always remember that teachers are important and valuable to society. Remember and cherish any time that a student gives you a compliment or writes you a teacher appreciation note.