How educators can take care of their mental health and avoid burnout

It’s been hard working in the education sector during these uncertain times. Many educators have been trying to juggle demands at home while attempting to master new tools and technologies to help students succeed.

We’ve put together some recommendations on how to take care of your mental health and wellbeing and empower you to thrive when the new academic year starts.

Create a maintainable daily routine

Be honest. Are you still holding yourself to the goal of exercising, juicing and keeping a diary before your first meeting of the day? If so, you may be setting yourself up for emotional stress before the workday even begins.

Make sure your routine is manageable in order to create a sense of control and accomplishment. The last thing you want is to set yourself up for failure! You may need to start with baby steps: set a morning alarm, eat dinner at the table, or take a walk with your kids at the same time every day.

You may be someone who prefers weekly goals as opposed to daily ones. Consider setting and adhering to personally-set deadlines, creating and posting a certain amount of content for your students, or trying a new recipe once a week.

Start slow to learn what is attainable for your lifestyle. Are there aspects of your life in which you should be more flexible? What are your non-negotiables? You are gifting your students and their families grace; make sure you are also granting it to yourself!

Set a physical timer

If your mind is racing with your ever-growing to-do list, set a physical timer. If your thoughts are work-related, only focus on one particular task until the timer goes off. Don’t check your mobile phone, open up a new internet tab, or grab a snack.

Blocking everything else out sounds harsh, but it’s a quick way to tick items off of your list and help you feel in control. You’ll be amazed at how quickly time flies and how much you accomplish while focused.

Physical clutter can create mental clutter, so by cleaning your desk, straightening the room, or deleting some internet tabs, you are on your way to a stress-free mindset.

Additionally, you can use a timer to schedule breaks so you can stand up, engage in some physical activity, or enjoy a meal without your mind wandering too far away from your work. Remember that what is effective in your classroom can also work for you and your own family!

Set clear expectations for your students

By now, most students have learnt how to navigate their online classrooms. However, it’s never too late to establish expectations for remote learning and engagement, especially if we face a national or local lockdown over the winter months. That may mean revisiting the basics of how to pin a screen on Google Meet or muting the microphone when someone else is talking.

It may also look like determining appropriate ways to connect with others online or being a respectful listener. Practicing these expectations is not just important for students now, but also helps build their soft skills for future use.

In addition to identifying behavioural and social expectations, communicating clear cut academic ones will eliminate stress for you and students in the long run.

Assign work within programs students are familiar with so they don’t have problems accessing and operating at home if needs be. These assignments should also be clear cut so that students don’t have to search for different links and resources. Fewer steps equal fewer excuses.

One such program is Xello, where at the click of a button, teachers can assign lessons and activities to different groups of students, taking the guesswork out of careers education for learners and parents alike.

Xello also generates student-centred data, time-stamps student logins, and runs reports based on student engagement.

This information can help guide conversations in the future, either with students in classroom meetings, individually during one-to-one check-ins or with parents as a scheduled communication.

Communicate that you are there for your students, but not on call

Many educators are not only in charge of equipping parents with homeschooling help when needed, but now also feel responsible to monitor students’ emotional well-being, access to technology, and personal safety.

It’s a big weight to bear, especially when educators are also carrying their own feelings too. In such a compassionate profession, it’s hard not to constantly think about struggling families, students potentially falling through the cracks, or colleagues that may need additional support.

Remember: We may not be able to control everything that’s going on right now, but we are able to control how we respond to it. Creating boundaries is one of the best things you can do for your personal well being.

Some ways to set these boundaries are:

  • Set a time where you stop checking your work email and messages (and make sure you aren’t getting alerts on your mobile phone throughout the night!)
  • Choose a period of time that is just for you. Sit in silence. Ride your bike. Read a book. Call a friend. Take a bubble bath. Make sure that you’re investing in your own mental, emotional, and physical health.
  • Determine a protocol for when you’re busy and your student needs you. What can they do instead? Who else can they ask? What can you say to quickly redirect them?
  • Consider the consequences if boundary lines are blurred. This may mean having some hard discussions with students or parents. It may look like following through with punishment for your own children. Even though this may cause initial stress for those involved, people crave boundaries, and adhering to them will create a culture of care and respect.

Take breaks from the news and Covid-19 coverage

We all want to regain control, and the media has a way of tricking us into thinking we are preparing our minds and bodies for the nature of this pandemic.

Studies have shown that consuming news coverage for an extended period of time may actually increase our anxieties and raise cortisol levels.

By initiating our body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response, we are potentially setting ourselves up for digestive, sleep, and emotional regulation issues. Try to seek content from reputable sources and only for thirty minutes at a time.

The hard part for you may not be watching the news, but just getting away from the topic in general. Educator friends on Facebook may be posting activities or memes reminding you of the pandemic.

Wellness accounts are supplying consumers with self-care strategies and at-home workouts, which serves as a constant reminder that our normal lives are on hold.

While these are good resources, also know that it is totally okay to unfollow or silence accounts that are causing more harm than good to your mentality.

By following the tips above, you’ll be stronger and keep your mental health intact. Stay strong! You’ve got this.

If you’re a senior leader or careers leader, you won’t want to miss our thought-provoking and inspirational webinar!
Joined by our amazing guest speaker, Sara Milne Rowe of Coaching Impact and author of The SHED Method,
we’ll provide you with a few simple steps that you can practice to be your best self in the classroom with your students.
Make some time for you and reserve your space today!