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Give Burnout the Cold Shoulder: How to Manage Stress and Overwhelm

Give Burnout the Cold Shoulder: How to Manage Stress and Overwhelm

Teaching is one of the most rewarding yet demanding jobs out there. The pressures of juggling lesson plans, grading, meetings, data tracking, and more can quickly lead to burnout if you’re not careful. Don’t just survive another hectic school year—thrive by learning how to manage stress and maintain balance as an educator.

The key is being proactive and intentional about self-care. Use these tips to tackle teacher stress head-on:

Recognize Your Stress Triggers

The first step is identifying your unique stressors so you can prevent them or better cope when they arise:

Heavy workload - Unrealistic deadlines and the feeling of having too much to do in too little time

Challenging student behaviors - Consistently disruptive or unengaged students

Lack of support - Insufficient classroom assistance, resources, or planning time

Negative work environment - Gossip, politics, or lack of collaboration with colleagues

Work/life imbalance - Not enough time for self, family, and fun outside of work

Once you know your triggers, you can start to manage them.

Set Realistic Expectations

A major source of stress is the pressure teachers put on themselves to be perfect. Have realistic expectations of yourself and what you can accomplish.

✅ Prioritize must-do tasks over nice-to-do tasks

✅ Let some things go - your lessons don’t need to be Pinterest-worthy

✅ Delegate to or collaborate with co-workers when possible

✅ Say no if asked to take on too much

Take Mental Health Days

Don't feel guilty for taking personal/sick days specifically to recharge. Time completely away from school is critical for your mental well-being.

Too often, teachers feel obligated to show up each day, regardless of how drained they feel. But you can't pour from an empty cup. Occasional mental health days allow you to rest and prevent burnout.

Some additional tips for successful mental health days:

  • Coordinate lesson plans in advance for a smooth sub-transition
  • Block off your calendar so no meetings get scheduled
  • Let your principal/team know you'll be out but won't be checking email
  • Disable school email on your phone if you can
  • Do something fun and refreshing - get a massage, see a movie matinee, go on a hike, etc.
  • Avoid catching up on household chores - keep the day obligation-free

You have a demanding job. Recharge breaks are essential. Make mental health days a consistent part of your self-care routine, not just an emergency resort. You'll return to the classroom with renewed passion and patience.

Leave Work at Work

Establishing strong work-life boundaries is key to managing teacher stress. Some effective strategies include:

  • Finish non-urgent tasks and emails before leaving the building
  • Have a cut-off time in the evenings/weekends for schoolwork
  • Let your family know school talk is off the table during quality time
  • Keep work and personal devices separate if possible

Adopt Stress-Busting Habits

Incorporating small, daily self-care habits can make a big difference in managing teacher stress over time. Try integrating one or more of these practices:

  • Exercise - Even a brief walk can lift your mood
  • Yoga - Try YouTube yoga/meditation videos for teachers
  • Healthy eating - Avoid sugar and processed foods that can worsen stress
  • Journaling - Jot down worries and wins to process emotions
  • Laugh - Watch a funny show or hang with teacher friends who make you smile
  • Sleep - Aim for 7-8 hours per night

Simple yet intentional habits like moving your body, eating nutritious foods, reflecting on your day, seeking humor, and getting adequate rest can help relieve anxiety and build your resilience as an educator.

Leverage Wellness Resources

Many schools offer free counseling, classes, apps, or support groups. Take advantage of these perks to care for your mental health. Try a free trial with one of these popular options:

  • Headspace - Guided meditation and mindfulness
  • Calm - Sleep stories, breathing programs, and music
  • Talkspace - Online therapy with licensed counselors
  • Care for the Caregiver support groups - Connect with fellow teachers

Self-Care For The Long Haul

The demands of being an educator will always exist, but with the right self-care strategies, you can avoid burnout. Be kind to yourself - don't expect perfection. Let go of guilt when taking much needed mental breaks. Develop and stick to healthy daily habits that rejuvenate your mind and body. Take advantage of resources like counseling and support groups offered through your workplace.

Most importantly, remember that recharging your own battery is just as vital as preparing lessons and grading papers. By being proactive about reducing stress triggers and maintaining work-life balance, you'll find renewed passion and energy for inspiring your students each day. They deserve you at your best!

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