Burnout has been recently recognized by the World Health Organization as a medical condition. One of the professions with the highest rate of burnout is teaching. With the challenging demands of the rapidly changing society, various complex government mandates, and the pressure coming from its stakeholders, teaching has become one of the most challenging jobs. Teachers have to juggle these challenges on top of the academic subjects they need to teach, their duty to foster love for learning, and the issues they might be facing with their personal lives. Because of these, burnout has become inevitable, causing an alarming concern in the field of Education.
Burnout is real and it can happen to anybody, rookie or veteran. I have experienced it myself when I was in my third year of teaching. I was fortunate enough to have caring colleagues and compassionate superiors when I went through that difficult time. However, not everyone has luck in their favor. You have to watch out for the signs and examine yourself on a regular basis. It is also better to approach your colleague if you see some symptoms. Here are five signs that you have to watch out for:
1. Exhaustion: The fatigue is so heavy and deep to the extent that you want to disconnect from everyone. No amount of rest can compensate the feeling.
2. Anxiety: You are easily overwhelmed by tasks given to you even if you have already done them before. Your stomach suddenly feels tight or you might be coughing or vomiting due to restlessness. Your mind constantly thinks of what can go wrong even if there is no reason to worry. Your emotions are unstable. At one moment you’re okay then after a little while you burst in tears.
3. Endless Ranting: “Remember that student who didn’t turn in his homework… he’s such a…?” It starts with a little comment about a student then grows into your frustration about the educational system. You complain about every little thing, and even if you let it all out, it seems like an endless pit.
4. Quick Temper: You easily lose your temper with your student or a colleague. You easily get irritated. You might even raise your voice or throw a fit over a simple matter.
5. Lack of Fulfillment: You’re losing your creativity, focus, and vigor. You find it hard to appreciate the little joys and triumphs in teaching.
However, suffering from burnout is not the end of a teacher’s professional career. Just like a typical medical condition, there is a way to recover from it.
1. Self-Care: Veer away from the toxic belief that teachers are perfect. You are human. You have to acknowledge your needs whether they are physical or psychological/spiritual. You matter more than what your job can give you. If you neglect yourself, other important aspects of your life will follow. You cannot give what you do not have. Take good care of yourself so you can take care of others.
2. Support System: Connect with the people around you. Do not feel ashamed to admit that you need help. More often than not, your family, friends, and colleagues are more than willing to help you out. Join a support group. Find people that will become your “accountability buddies”. These buddies will help you out in carrying out your resolutions to rise again after the fall.
3. Gratitude: Develop an attitude of gratitude. No matter what happens, always be grateful for the opportunity to start over. Burnout is not a dead end. It just serves as a reminder for you to slow down and re-align yourself with your goals. Thank your support system for being there. Pay it forward and do the same for others.
4. Healing: You’ve been hurt. You’ve been disillusioned. It’s painful. Acknowledge the pain that it caused you but do not refuse the opportunity to grow through it. Take time to heal and appreciate the lessons you have learned. You are now stronger than you think you are.
5. Rediscover: After discovering so much about yourself because of what happened, re-align yourself with all the lessons you have learned. Take note of the realizations you have gained from the experience. Renew your faith in teaching, and most importantly, in yourself.
Burnout is inevitable but there are also ways to recover from it. However, if after all of these, you still choose to pursue a different path, it is completely okay. Remember, it is not the end. You can start over and find your place under the sun. But if you still choose to stay, we’re very proud of you. You are stronger than you think and braver than you know.