Are you experiencing teacher burnout?
Have you been hearing the term “burnout” a lot lately? What is it? What are the signs? How is it different from just plain old exhaustion?
Psychology Today defines burnout as "a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress."
Recognize the signs
If you are experiencing most of these symptoms you may be experiencing burnout.
- Having trouble getting yourself to work or getting started on work or a lack of motivation.
- Noticing your job performance has slipped. Burnout can happen slowly so compare your performance to that of previous years vs. weeks or months.
- Experiencing changes in your relationships with those around you either by having more conflicts or being more withdrawn.
- Spending a lot of time thinking about work when you’re not working. If you can’t turn your brain off during family time or when you should be sleeping, it could be a sign you’re in burnout mode. 1
- Finding it harder to concentrate. Is it more difficult to plan a lecture or answer a complicated student question? 2
You’re not the only one
If you checked off most of the items above and are feeling burnt out, know you’re not alone. 52% of employees say they are experiencing burnout and 75% have experienced it at some point in their career. 3
Kevin R. McClure, associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, shared this about his experience with burnout: “I hit a physical and emotional wall. I was tired — tired in a way a nap couldn’t fix. At the end of a particularly long day, I remember a Zoom meeting in which a colleague suggested that we find a way to recognize our graduating master’s students. My immediate response was: ‘Do we have to?’ It was uncharacteristic enough for another colleague to say they were worried about me.” 4
The pandemic seems to have only increased the number of people experiencing burnout. A survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that 70% of the faculty members they spoke with currently felt stressed, while back in 2019 only 32% said the same thing. Plus more than half those surveyed were seriously thinking about retiring or changing careers. 5
There is hope — Coping with burnout
Burnout, if not addressed, can lead to serious impacts on your physical and mental health. McClure (with the help of his colleague) recognized the signs and was able to do something about it and you can too.
Try some of these techniques to get back to your old self.
- Don’t view burnout as failure
- Prioritize mental health (enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise, socializing in a safe way)
- Take time to do activities that take your mind off of work (reading, cooking, running)
- Find ways to express all your emotions about the situation and keep a close support system (human or animal)5
When it comes to burnout, it’s important to remember you’re not alone — most people experience it during the course of their career. There are many ways to overcome it, you just have to recognize the signs.