Are you feeling overwhelmed with “teacher tired” right now? If you're struggling to stay energized and motivated throughout the day, this episode was created specifically for you. In this Ask BIT session, I'll provide tips on how to overcome that dreaded teacher-tired feeling and take back control of your time. From nutrition advice to daily remembrance exercises, I'll give you all the tools you need to beat those mid-January blues!
If you're feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and simply drained as a teacher, it's important to recognize that everyone is different and what works for one teacher may not work for the next. Instead of trying to tackle too many things at once, start small by attempting just one thing from this episode. Once you've accomplished this goal, give yourself a pat on the back and listen to the episode again - there are sure to be some other great old tips in there for you to take away. Instead of sprinting towards burnout, focus on taking that marathon approach; every small step counts!
I’ve recently put out into the universe that I’m going to be running a marathon next November, so my favorite comfort movie right now is Brittany Runs a Marathon. If you’ve never watched the movie, I highly suggest it - I love a good transformational movie! It’s based on a real person from New York City who really changes and transforms her life, and her neighbor at one point in the movie says, It’s all about little goals. We don’t have to do everything all at once.
The Ask BIT question that I’m answering today was also recently asked in The Burned-In Teacher Podcast Facebook Community, so I knew that it was a great time to answer this question. The question that I’m answering in this episode is:
What advice do you have for any teacher who is so absorbed in their job that they don't have any desire or energy to do non-teaching activities like crafts and hanging out with friends at the end of the day?
Like I said before, I have a lot to say to answer this question, that’s why I prefaced with telling you to choose ONE thing, one small goal, at a time because you’re going to see a ripple effect that’s going to help you get to your next step and eventually, completely out of burnout.
You might know this about me, but I’m an overachiever - I like and want, to be the best in everything that I do. So, if you find yourself being a perfectionist, like me, you might be telling yourself the story that you have to do everything at once, but that’s not true. Focus on ONE thing, and perfect that, then move on to the next thing, because when everything is “important”, nothing is.
Also, your mindset is very important. You may not realize this, but what you focus on, you will feel. If you’re only focusing on tired you feel, how hard everything is, or how exhausting teaching is, then you’re not going to be able to raise your energy and you’re not going to feel like doing anything else because your body and your brain are so intensely focused on how exhausting everything is, which won’t leave you the space to focus on what to do about it. Remember, action is key to teacher burnout recovery.
Here are 5 ways that you can take back control of your energy to do the things that you want:
Set clear boundaries.
Prioritizing tasks is key to combatting teacher exhaustion. Finding ways to prioritize the most important tasks and leaving time for others is a great way to stay on course during your work day without becoming overwhelmed.
You have to set clear boundaries between work and personal time. You have to make a plan for when you will stop working and stick to it. I talk in-depth about this topic in my book Hacking Teacher Burnout, and I go more in-depth on this topic inside of Burned-In Teacher University. I also have a TpT product to help you budget your time as well as a bundle of resources all about managing your teacher overwhelmed. I highly encourage you to access any (or all) of these three resources to support yourself in creating healthy boundaries around your time.
But as I mentioned before, you have to make the choice of when you’re going to leave and stick with it. When you tell yourself you’re going to leave at 4:15, then leave at 4:15. And I get it, your brain is going to tell you that you have to do more, but you don’t.
Make time for self-care and relaxation.
I know “self-care” is a buzzword and I understand that it’s severely overused and it means different things to different people. But instead of focusing on the term “self-care” and what it means, I instead what you to focus on making the time to take care of yourself, whatever that may look like for you. For you, “self-care” could be exercising, meditation, reading - really anything that helps you unwind. But the point is, if crafting is your form of self-care, then you need to make time to do that.
But what if you’re too exhausted? Then my suggestion is that you need to be intentional and put it into your calendar. You need to prioritize and schedule time for those non-teaching activities that bring you joy. And to help you with that, I highly suggest creating a Saturday or Sunday ritual of all the things that you have coming up and/or would like to do in the upcoming week. I know for me, there’s nothing worse than things “sneaking up” on me later in the week because I forgot they were happening. It’s so exhausting to me to feel like I’ve been blindsided or forgotten something.
Build short breaks into your day.
Self-care is a vital component for dealing with teacher tiredness and overwhelm. Make sure to build in moments of rest, relaxation, and fun into your schedule - even if it’s just five minutes of silence or a few minutes browsing the internet. During these breaks, all I want you to do is stop, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths while you think about something that brings you joy. This could be something that you do during your prep time, right before your students come in, or even during your lunch break. It’s important to set boundaries and take breaks throughout the day so you can come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to go.
Then, at the end of the day, think about something good that happened during the day - end the day on a positive note.
All of these are tiny steps that can help you generate positive energy.
Reach out for support.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues or administrators. Teaching can be a lonely job so it's important to reach out when you need assistance. Between lesson planning, grading papers, and project management, there are a lot of hats that teachers have to wear throughout the day - and it’s okay to admit that you can’t do it alone.
Reach out for support - talk to your friends, talk with your family, or even a therapist about how you’re feeling. Sometimes, just talking about what is exhausting you and asking for help and ideas for how you could generate more energy is going to make you feel better because you are getting all of those feelings out of your brain. We can get so exhausted from our thoughts, so the more we talk about them and seek solutions, the better things are going to get.
If you are a person who has already asked these questions and started the conversation, the question I want to ask you is if you’ve taken action. You have to take action if you’re wanting to see results.
Take time off.
The last thing I’m going to suggest is that you take time off. Take a sick day. Take a personal day. I understand, sub plans suck, but they are worth just having a day for you. Don’t be afraid to take the day to sleep in, lay on the couch and watch t.v., maybe take a nap, or do some of the activities that bring you joy. You could also spend that time doing some deep diving and evaluating how you're spending your energy and what’s exhausting you. If you’re not going to give yourself the time to recharge yourself, you’re not going to be charged enough to do the things that you love.
Teaching can be an emotionally and physically exhausting job, with teachers often struggling to find time for themselves outside of the classroom. This can lead to feeling burned out, and what's been dubbed “Teacher Tired”. It's crucial then for teachers to ensure that they have a healthy work-life balance so that they can recover from burnout and continue enjoying the rewards of their profession. In order to combat fatigue, it is important for teachers to actively do things that bring them joy, like spending time outdoors, exercising, or engaging in creative activities. Doing these activities as if you were already energetic will help foster a joyful life and increase your energy levels.
A couple of weeks ago, I lead a Word-of-the-Year workshop, and my word-of-the-year for this year is BETTER. I turned 40 in November, and I want to feel better. I want to teach better. I want to have better energy and run better. And in order to do that, I know I have to do the things now that are going to help me feel better. I can’t wait for summer break for that to matter, we have to do those things now.
Teacher tiredness affects many and can come in different forms -whether it is first-day tiredness, week-long exhaustion, or end-of-the-year burnout. To help combat this, one should aim for intention and discipline to foster better habits. For further guidance and support, my book Hacking Teacher Burnout offers advice, and my course Burned-In Teacher University provides helpful resources. Perhaps even more important, though, is to prioritize oneself- focusing on feelings surrounding teacher burnout and taking small steps towards a happier lifestyle.