Aug 19, 2023

How Teachers Overcome Isolation in Burnout Recovery with Chrissy Nichols

In the pursuit of self-improvement and personal growth, it is not uncommon to experience moments of isolation, which can prove to be formidable obstacles on the path to recovery from burnout. As we focus on bettering ourselves, it is essential to recognize that the journey can often be solitary, leaving us feeling disconnected from others and the support we might need. The very process of introspection and self-work that empowers us to grow can inadvertently distance us from our social circles, making the road to teacher burnout recovery more challenging. In this discussion, we will explore how to navigate this sense of isolation, seeking ways to forge meaningful connections and draw upon invaluable resources, ultimately fostering a stronger foundation for our rejuvenation and well-being.

In this episode, I’m chatting with Chrissy Nichols and we’re talking about the power of time management and the art of setting boundaries. We’ll explore how making conscious choices about how we spend our time can lead to greater efficiency and fulfillment in our lives.

Through this discussion, we aim to equip you with the tools to flourish in every aspect of your life, even as your school year is getting started. So, whether you've worked on yourself throughout the summer or are just beginning this journey now, embrace the knowledge and insights shared here to embrace a life of purpose and fulfillment.

Here’s our conversation:

Chrissy: Hello, everyone! Welcome to Teacher Talk. I'm Christy Nichols, and today we have a fantastic conversation in store for you as I'm joined by the incredible coach, Amber Harper. Amber, it's truly a pleasure to have you here with us.

Amber: It's wonderful to see you in person again, Chrissy! I'm Amber Harper, founder of Burned-In Teacher and the host of the Burned-In Teacher Podcast. Today, Chrissy and I have an exciting surprise for you all. This episode will be featured on both of our podcasts. Chrissy, could you kindly remind our listeners of the name of your amazing podcast?

Chrissy: Yes, absolutely! My podcast is called "Teacher Talk with Christine Nichols," and you can find me at The Chrissy Concept. As a life coach for teachers, my mission is to support educators like all of you who may not be familiar with me yet. I'm thrilled about today's conversation because it will not only be featured on my podcast and Amber's podcast but also on our YouTube channels and snippets on our Instagram accounts. This way, we can reach as many educators as possible and explore a fascinating topic together.

Now, let's dive into a cool topic we want to discuss today—the isolation of growth. But before we delve into that, I'd like to introduce my amazing guest, Amber Harper. Amber is not just a coach, but she's also an incredible kindergarten teacher who continues to inspire her students to this day. Amber, could you give us a brief overview of your journey, how you became a kindergarten teacher, and what led you to your current work and passion?

Amber: Absolutely! I've been teaching kindergarten for 15 years now, but I've experienced burnout twice, and that's where my story takes a significant turn. I realized that burnout could be an opportunity for growth rather than a dead end. Thus, Burned-In Teacher was born in 2016, inspired by my decision to become a Google trainer. It grew from blogging to podcasting, speaking engagements, and eventually writing a book called "Hacking Teacher Burnout,"  along with creating a course to empower teachers to find fulfillment both in the classroom and in life.

Throughout the first eight years of my career, I found myself disempowered and letting others dictate my happiness. However, my rock-bottom moment in 2014 made me realize that I needed to become my own hero and take charge of my life. That's when I embarked on a journey of self-help and personal development, leading to the creation of Burned-In Teacher in 2016, with the domain and podcast following in 2018.

Today, Chrissy and I are excited to discuss how you can take back control of your life, especially with the new school year approaching. As we delve into time management, Chrissy will guide you on setting boundaries around your thoughts and beliefs. For some, summer has been a time of self-improvement, while others might not have had the opportunity yet – and that's alright. When we return to school, we may face negativity in various forms, whether it's a negative work culture, colleagues, or other factors.

Chrissy will provide you with practical strategies to navigate these challenges, empowering you to create thought boundaries even in the face of negativity. By taking control of your time, actions, habits, and boundaries, you can transform your teaching experience and find fulfillment in your profession. Let's dive into these powerful insights and make this upcoming school year one of growth and positivity.

Chrissy: Absolutely, and I love that. As educators, it's essential to lay out what listeners will be learning in this podcast and how to overcome the isolationism that can affect our hearts, minds, and spirits. Navigating through those moments in the faculty room or around the lunch table where we might feel disconnected from our old selves can be challenging, but it's crucial to address.

I want to emphasize the significance of this discussion, whether you've gone through Amber's incredible course, which I highly recommend, or if you're doing self-work in other areas like relationships. Many of my clients seek help in healing their relationships with themselves, family, friends, or partners, or even finding body balance. I can relate to your story of burnout; I experienced it during my 22nd year of teaching, and it left me in a confusing and isolated space.

Coaching and self-discovery work brought about a transformative change, and that's why I'm thrilled to discuss these strategies today. The thought strategy we'll explore is versatile and applicable not only to time management but also to various aspects of our lives, such as finding body balance or improving relationships. The knowledge we gain is always transferable, just like what we teach our students – we apply it to different areas of our lives, creating positive changes that resonate with our desires and aspirations.

So, whether you're working on improving your time management or focusing on any other aspect of your life, the insights we share today can serve as a valuable tool for growth and development. Let's dive in and explore how these powerful strategies can enrich our lives and bring positive changes across various domains of our existence.

Amber: Oh, and this is incredibly significant too. When you decide to shift your beliefs and actions regarding how you spend your time, it becomes noticeable to others. They'll observe that you are now in different places and spaces, or you're not frequenting the same spots and people you used to. You no longer prioritize certain activities, instead, make time for what truly matters to you and the individuals at school who support and encourage your growth. This change empowers you to move forward, breaking free from the cycle of chaos, overwhelm, frustration, and negativity.

It's important to highlight that while I'll be teaching you about building time boundaries, the impact goes beyond that. It sets in motion a ripple effect of change, which can feel daunting at times. Transforming yourself while others stay the same can make you feel like a moving target. But don't worry, we'll navigate through it together.

So, if you're ready, Chrissy, let's delve into the ways we can start building these time boundaries. As we progress, we can also address any hesitations or fears you might have about making significant changes in your schedule, your social circle, and how you spend your time at school.

Chrissy: That sounds good. 

Amber: Okay, first of all, let me share that Chrissy and I had a short conversation before we started recording, and we both believe that how we use our time is a choice. It doesn't matter if you're a classroom teacher, special ed teacher, music teacher, administrator, counselor, coach, or any other role in education; we all choose to be in that position. We also have the power to choose not to be in it if we wish, though it may be easier for some than others due to various factors.

The choice is a privilege, and with that privilege, we can prioritize what matters most to us. So, before diving into the nitty-gritty of hours and productivity, it's essential to imagine how we want to feel at the end of each week and who we want to spend time with. What activities do we value the most, both within our educational roles and in our personal lives? Whether we are moms, single individuals, or anything else, we all have incredible lives beyond our professions.

Sometimes, when school starts, we tend to lose touch with those other aspects of ourselves, thinking we can't fully embrace them while being teachers. But that's not true. We can strike a balance and continue doing what we love outside of teaching. I'm a living example of this; I teach full-time, run Burnden teacher, lift weights, run, spend time with my husband, and attend my daughter's football games without bringing work to grade.

To achieve this balance, we must take back our power and make conscious decisions about how we want to live. Life is unpredictable, and there are no guarantees about next summer or Christmas break. Hence, we should use every minute intentionally and with discipline. It all starts with having a vision and a plan, which we've already begun by identifying how we want to feel and what we want to do both in and outside of school.

Now, let's talk about creating a "time allowance." Just like when we received a weekly allowance as kids, we can allocate a specific number of hours we are willing to work each week. For instance, my contract hours are 40, and I usually set a time allowance of 40 to 45 hours a week. This boundary reminds me that I only have that much time to work.

It's like having a project deadline – we tend to meet it because we know we have to. The same applies to getting certifications or completing a master's degree. When I got my ma at the Sorbonne in literature, I knew exactly when I had to be ready to defend it to my professors. This principle, beautifully explained by James Clear, is that everything takes the amount of time we give it.

So, setting a time allowance ahead of time using our prefrontal cortex is a brilliant approach to managing our time effectively.

Chrissy: I want to take a moment to encourage everyone who's listening to consider pursuing certifications and accreditations, and for many of us, perhaps even a master's degree. I remember when I earned my Master of Arts at the Sorbonne in literature, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to defend my thesis to my professors. It was a crucial moment, and I knew I had to be well-prepared.

Reflecting on that experience, I realized a beautiful thought, which might be inspired by James Clear: 'Everything will take the amount of time we give it.' This insight led me to the idea of giving ourselves a time allowance, using our prefrontal cortex to plan ahead wisely. This approach is brilliant and can be a crucial step in achieving our goals.

Amber: Yes, Thank you.

So you have your time allowance of 40 to 45 hours for work, and it's essential not to exceed that limit. However, I also want to emphasize the importance of showing yourself grace if you've been accustomed to working 60 hours or more per week. It's a process, and any progress is worth acknowledging.

For instance, maybe you start with 55 hours in the first week, and then gradually reduce it to 50 in the next week. This approach allows us to learn and adapt while raising self-awareness about how we spend our time each day. Breaking free from the hamster wheel requires setting timeouts and being mindful of our time allocation.

In my case, I've set my limit at 40 to 45 hours as an example. Now, the next step is to determine how much time I can allocate to school each day within that range.

Chrissy: I just love that. I love how you can make that really granular per day.

Amber: Here's the edited transcript:

Let's break it down step by step and plan out our week, choosing either Monday through Friday or Monday through Sunday. I recall when my daughters were very young – now they're 20, almost 22, and 15 years old – I had to rush out of school right after to pick them up from daycare, especially our youngest. However, time has changed, and now I manage it differently. When I was younger, my husband and I were both teachers at the same school. We'd take turns going in on Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee to prepare for the following week. That system worked well for us back then. Now, though, you'd have to bribe and drag me to school on weekends because I prefer handling my tasks before or after school. There's no judgment here; you need to find what works best for you.

What's essential is recognizing that we have a set number of hours, say 45, to spend. Contract hours, usually between 7:30 AM and 3:30 PM, account for eight hours, leaving us with 37 more hours to manage. You can choose when to start and end your school day within those limits. For example, you might decide to arrive at 7:00 AM and leave at 3:30 PM or arrive at 7:15 AM and leave at 4:00 PM.

Now, let's create an ideal workweek plan. On Mondays, you could arrive at 6:45 AM and have 45 minutes of uninterrupted work time before students arrive at 7:45 AM. Then you have the eight-hour contract time, totaling nine hours of work. Subtracting nine hours from the 45-hour limit leaves you with 36 hours to allocate.

You'll outline a detailed plan for each day of the week, considering the remaining 36 hours. This plan will help you manage your time effectively and maximize productivity. Whether you opt for Monday through Friday or Monday through Sunday, identify which hours you'll use for work and when. With this structured approach, you can confidently move ahead and make the most of your time.

Chrissy: I must admit Amber, I was initially avoiding thinking about the math aspect, but I realize now the significance of that hour you mentioned – the serene and dedicated time before the chaos of the day commences. It's like reclaiming that hour as one of the nine precious hours available. As you speak, I can feel the motivation to utilize that hour fully. No more indulging in casual chats with neighbors who stroll in eight minutes later; instead, I'll head straight to the copy machine, make sure it's warmed up, and get things going with determination and focus. That's the discipline and tension you were referring to, and I'm ready to embrace it.

Amber:  Absolutely, after implementing this approach for some time and gaining insights into our habits, we no longer find ourselves rushing to the copy machine on Monday mornings. By using our time intentionally, we can come in on Mondays with our entire week planned and prepped. This way, we can focus on grading, entering grades, and addressing those small tasks that tend to accumulate.

The next step involves blocking and batching tasks that naturally go together. For instance, grading, entering grades, and data entry can be grouped into a block of time during the day. You can allocate this time during your prep hour, before or after school, or whenever suits you best. Additionally, you can apply the concept of the three P's (planning, prepping, and printing) and do them together for each subject, efficiently streamlining your workflow.

Since we all have different ways of structuring time and processing information, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. The only time we truly go wrong is when we leave our time open for anyone to take, disempowering us and taking away our sense of control. Establishing these time boundaries is the foundation for building a more fulfilling schedule, allowing us to prioritize the things we love outside of work.

As we implement these changes, there might be resistance from both ourselves and others. Learning to say no becomes essential as we prioritize our well-being and personal time. It's crucial to have a concrete thought plan in place for addressing these situations when they arise. Setting boundaries, both physical and time-related, requires tact and confidence in our decision-making.

This process is about taking ownership of our time and building beautiful boundaries, which is empowering and essential for achieving a healthier work-life balance.

Chrissy: Yes, absolutely! When we go through this process of change and growth, integrating those three steps becomes crucial. Amber, please correct me if I'm wrong, but understanding how we want to feel at the end of the week is truly essential. Identifying our core values and determining our time allowance requires realism and self-compassion, not using these tools to beat ourselves up. Remember, everyone, you're not allowed to use our work against yourself, let's make that clear right now.

The power of batching tasks, or what I like to call "chunking and chewing," can be game-changing. By blocking similar tasks together, such as planning, prepping, and printing, we create a more streamlined workflow. Amber and I were discussing how using these strategies will change your energy and presence in the faculty room. You'll exude a sense of calmness because you'll be ahead, even if it's just seven minutes ahead. You won't engage in negative conversations or be dragged into complaining. Your boundaries will shift, and your thoughts about school will come from a more rested and peaceful place.

As you grow and make these positive changes, you might encounter resistance or pushback from others. Every growth journey has its challenges, and that's where the tool "neutralize and normalize" comes in handy. The first step is to be aware of what you're feeling and just be with it. Identify any emotions, such as sadness or rejection, and give yourself permission to experience them without judgment.

Then, the second part involves normalizing the situation by seeing things for what they are without attaching judgment or personalization. When you observe people gathered around the table, talking about school, remind yourself that they are just humans having conversations. This practice allows you to step back from the story your brain might be creating about how others perceive you. It's a helpful way to calm your mind and create a sense of neutrality.

Remember, it's okay to let go of the past and embrace positive changes, even if it feels a bit lonely at first. You're creating new and healthier boundaries for yourself, and that's worth celebrating. Embrace this journey, and you'll find yourself in a more empowered and content state.

Amber: Yes, those stories we tell ourselves can be incredibly powerful, but they might not even be true. 

Chrissy: Absolutely. Let's normalize what's happening and maintain a neutral perspective about what we observe. When we see people gathered around a table talking and we choose not to engage, we can ask ourselves, "So what?" So what if I'm not partaking in those conversations? It means I'm sticking to my time allowance and core values. The old me might have joined in, possibly spreading gossip or negative discussions about colleagues, but now, I prioritize my well-being and time.

When doing a thought download at the beginning of the week, it's helpful to affirm our self-worth and prioritize what truly matters. We can remind ourselves that we are more valuable than any gossip or negative exchanges in the faculty space. Our time is better spent on activities that align with our core values, like enjoying quality moments with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or engaging in exercise classes.

By valuing our own well-being and setting boundaries, we can create a more positive and fulfilling environment for ourselves. Letting go of gossip or negative discussions allows us to focus on what truly enriches our lives and makes us feel good about ourselves. Embracing these changes helps us grow and evolve into the best versions of ourselves.

Amber: You've hit the nail on the head! Engaging in those endless conversations of venting and complaining without any productive action is simply a waste of time and energy. While venting can be healthy and cathartic, doing it every day around the lounge table without any resolution or action only adds to the negativity.

There's a significant difference between spending time engaging in unproductive conversations daily and occasionally having a good old-fashioned venting session. The latter can be therapeutic, allowing you to release pent-up emotions and frustrations. It's like a pressure valve, helping you let off steam and feel better afterward, so you can move on with a refreshed perspective.

By being mindful of how we use our time and energy, we can avoid getting caught in a cycle of continuous complaints and focus on constructive and positive endeavors that enrich our lives. So, it's okay to vent occasionally when necessary, but let's be conscious of not getting stuck in unproductive patterns that hinder our growth and happiness.

Chrissy: Our thoughts and emotions will always be a mix, a 50/50 statistic, as you mentioned. With around 60,000 thoughts per day, a significant 82% of them tend to be negative, and of those negatives, over half dominate our daily thinking. But this is entirely normal and human.

During this growth process, it's like navigating a "river of misery" at times. As we work on ourselves and identify areas we want to change, we might realize how we used to cope with things in unhealthy ways, like overeating, overdrinking, overworking, or other buffering behaviors. This newfound awareness might initially make us feel overwhelmed.

But remember, it's part of the process. Some days, Amber and Chrissy's work will feel absolutely amazing, and you'll want to share it with the world. On other days, it may feel challenging, lonely, frustrating, or even disheartening. The key is to be aware of this ebb and flow, almost like creating a lesson plan for your mind.

By acknowledging this 50/50 nature of our thoughts and emotions, we can approach both the highs and lows with a sense of understanding and acceptance. It's all part of the journey, and simply noticing these fluctuations and knowing that they will come and go can be incredibly helpful in navigating through the growth process.

Amber: Chrissy and I are excited to share some valuable resources with you that can help you embark on this journey. Whether this concept is brand new to you or you've heard about it before but haven't taken action, we strongly believe in the power of taking steps toward positive change. We don't want this to be just another piece of information gathering dust on a shelf; we want you to take action.

Remember, action breeds more action, and even a small step can create incredible ripple effects in your life. That's why we encourage you to delve into the process we discussed and implement it into your daily routines.

In my TPT store, you can find the Manage Your Teacher Overwhelm Bundle, where I guide you through creating your time allowance, crafting a time budget, and effectively blocking and batching your tasks. The bundle also includes a priority planner to help you build a weekly priority list, making it easier to integrate these practices into your school day and daily life.

By using these resources, you'll be equipped with the tools to take control of your time, set meaningful priorities, and create a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. Don't hesitate to take that first step; your journey toward positive change starts with one small action.

Chrissy: Thank you, Amber, for emphasizing the importance of finding these resources and making them work for you. It's about tailoring the work to suit your needs and actions. 

On my website, you can explore various freebies, including the "Neutralize and Normalize" resource, which guides you through a quick and easy process to help you on your journey.

Today's conversation has been truly beautiful, witnessing the overlaps and connections between our work, as well as embracing the differences. Your message and passion are inspiring, and I'm grateful for everything you offer to my listeners and the education community. Your mission to bring coaching into every school and to make managing our minds a basic human right is powerful. Well-regulated adults can be the positive role models that students need in their lives.

By investing in your own professional development through coaching, you'll not only benefit yourself but also your school community. People will notice the positive changes you're making and be curious about your transformation. Your happiness will become contagious, sparking curiosity in others and encouraging them to explore this transformative journey as well. Keep spreading the message, and I'm confident that more educators will embrace the power of coaching and create a ripple effect of positive change in the educational landscape.

Amber: Embracing these positive changes will attract like-minded individuals who seek similar transformations in their lives. On the other hand, it will naturally repel those who are not open to change or growth. This process of attraction and repulsion is essential because it ensures that you connect with the right people who support your journey and align with your values.

Chrissy, I'm incredibly grateful that you reached out and proposed this podcast collaboration. It's been an amazing experience, and I truly value your time and knowledge. We recognize that teaching can be challenging, and it takes a community of supportive individuals to help teachers navigate through these tough times.

We believe in the power of resources and support, whether it's through us or other avenues, to uplift and empower educators. No one has to remain trapped in a negative spiral of frustration and misery. We've both been there, and we know it's not a place to stay.

Through our work and the work of others, we want to offer you the help you need to move forward and create a more fulfilling and balanced life. Remember, you don't have to do it alone; there's a whole community of educators and resources out there waiting to support you on your journey. Embrace the change, attract the right people, and create a positive shift in your life and the lives of those around you.

Chrissy: I agree. And Amber, can you tell us one more time how to find you? 

Amber: Yes!  You can go to or find me @burnedinteacher on all social media platforms. 

Chrissy: That's fantastic! You can find me at [website]. Also, don't forget to tune in to my podcast, Teacher Talk.

I’m so grateful for having this inspiring conversation with you, Amber. We've had such an incredible discussion that I feel it's just the beginning of many more to come. Maybe we should do a series!

Everyone, take this inspiration with you, and have an amazing week ahead. Remember to take care of yourselves and embrace positive changes in your life.

Call to Action: Things You Can Do Tomorrow 

  1. Seek clarity about what you want by identifying how you want to FEEL by doing a “big-dreams-braindump”.
  2. Create a “time allowance” by determining how many hours you want to work (ideally) each week.  Use a “time budget” to determine how you’re going to use your weekly time allowance. 
  3. Create discipline and be intentional about how you use your time by batching and blocking tasks. 


Resources Mentioned in This Episode 


Find Chrissy


Chrissy’s Bio

Chrissy Nichols is a life coach for teachers. After more than 22 years in the classroom, Chrissy used the very tools she teaches to lose 26 pounds, meet the love of her life and fall back in love with teaching. Chrissy works one-on-one with teachers to help them in three main areas: time power, body balance, and relationships. Chrissy's tools and brain hacks help teachers see that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them--they just need to learn how to rewire their brain. Chrissy helps teachers find the joy in teaching again and get back to feeling like the best version of themselves. See how Chrissy’s thought concepts become your concepts over at 



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