Teacher burnout. It is a serious problem in the United States. An estimate released by The Center for American Progress in 2015 stated that about thirty percent of individuals in education leave the profession within their first five years, and that number has been as high as fifty percent in the past. And guess what, it’s because teaching is HARD. Any educator has heard, “Oh you get the summers off! It can’t be that bad!” or “You get off at 3:15, you have to love that!” and then rolled their eyes for about thirty minutes. In reality, teachers work their tails off all year long, for far longer than their contract hours reflect. Planning lessons, grading assignments, preparing labs or activities, and the countless hours of worrying about students when they aren’t in school. It can get exhausting and stressful and it is often what leads to burnout in our profession. While I haven’t perfected the art of self care and I still often feel burnt out and tired and question my career, I know that it is what I was called to do so I make sure I take steps on a regular basis to take care of myself and my mental state. Here are a couple of my favorite self care activities, but I encourage you to find what works best for you!
Shutting the Computer
This can be a tough one. A really tough one. I’ve on many occasion gotten lost in grading or planning or researching and the next thing I know it is 11:00 pm and my computer is still open and I’ve done nothing for myself that night besides throw a freezer meal in the microwave to nourish myself. Lately, I’ve been trying to set a limit to how late I can be on my computer. I tell myself that by 6:00 pm, even if I’m not done with what I want to finish, I have to shut my computer and do something just for myself. Weather that is watching Netflix with my husband, baking or doing a DIY project from Pinterest, I have been trying to make a conscious effort to take a break from my classroom and reminding myself of the other things I love. Not only has it allowed me to do more things I enjoy, but it has helped my sleeping habits and that makes for a happier Mrs. Hutch in the morning!
This is a really hard one for me during the cold winter months, but when it is nice outside, the minute I get home I try and ditch my khakis and flats for athletic pants and tennis shoes, put the leash on the dog and go for a nice long walk. It is amazing what a little vitamin D and fresh air can do for my energy level at the end of the day, and how much better I feel when I get out and get some exercise instead of heading straight to the couch for a nap.
Indulge in Yourself for a Weekend
Now, this one is pretty easy for me because I am a total introvert and I gain my energy from my alone time, but I think it can be helpful for even the most extroverted teachers. There are weeks and even months where you’re just running from school to a meeting to a social obligation and you don’t even remember what your house looks like and you’re running out of clean underwear because you haven’t had time to do laundry. Been there, done that! So if you get a weekend where you don’t have any plans laid out, leave the weekend wide open and be selfish. Stay in your jammies, binge watch a new show, snuggle with your pet or your spouse, the whole nine yards without regret. You’ll head back to school on Monday recharged and refreshed and ready to inspire young minds for another week!
How do you keep yourself from too much stress during the school year? What are your best self-care tips? Leave them below!