Are we Burning Out?

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As Keller Education travels around the country talking to school leaders and educators, there is a tangible feeling of utter exhaustion and the question arises: “Are we burning out?”

However, there is very little evidence that Burn Out can equate to feeling tired.  One of the biggest contributors to Burn Out is chronic stress. As we draw to the end of another academic year, it may be worthwhile to reflect on how well we managed our stress levels.

There are Three Levels of Stress.

  1. Healthy stress or eustress. These are short bouts of stress like getting up and going off to work on time.  They are often a result of a deliberate choice you have made (ie. to stay in bed for another 10 minutes causing everything to run late and being caught in the traffic).  Healthy stress gets you moving!
  1. Acute stress must be carefully monitored.  At this stage stress is no longer good for you unless you have made a cognitive decision to allow yourself to experience the stress, like going on the Big Dipper at the amusement park or watching a horror movie.  Acute stress should be brief!  When this stress is no longer brief and it is imposed upon you by another – it becomes very dangerous as inflammation is introduced in the body activating your immune system and causing your body to take time to heal.

What the teacher can expect if he/she allows him/herself to be chronically stressed:

  1. Poor academic results from your students.
  2. Higher rate of sickness and signs of rapid ageing.
  3. Long term impact on student performance
  4. Depressed teachers negatively predict students’ Mathematics results.

McLean and Connor, 2015, showed that chronic stress causes both teacher and students to lose.  There is simply NO benefit.

Elevated levels of cortisol are poisonous.  

What can we do to about it as we reflect and refract (and reduce burn out) during this year-end vacation?

  1. Take intentional steps to control your obsession with checking your emails.  Decide on a time of the day when you terminate the working day.
  1. Change your cell phone number.  If your colleagues, students and parents have your cellular number, get another private one.  Take your “school phone” and put it on charge in a soundproof box where you cannot see it light up until you start the next day of work.
  1. Spend sometime this vacation learning how to practise mindfulness.  There are many Apps available.  Learn to take time to breathe and discover the beauty of life, again.
  1. Feed your brain.  When we are stressed we eat badly.  Some researchers believe this is to help the body repair itself, but it eventually leads to eating more carbs and sugar as a reward.
  1. Move your body daily.  This is a great time to begin the habit of walking each day.  Walking improves mood.  Moderate to vigorous exercise is good for you.  Make it a habit.
  1. Fill your heart with gratitude.  Focus on the positive things in the world and the many blessings you enjoy.  Focus intentionally on the good. 
  1. Smile as often as possible.  Make smiling a habit.

This is the season for healing.  Use it.  We need every teacher who has a love for children to return to their classrooms in January in a good state, both physically and emotionally.


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