Two years into a global pandemic, you continue to navigate the challenges of a strained system while trying to maintain your own mental and physical health. Here’s a look into 2020 and 2021 with tips for a better 2022.
by Ali Gonzales
February 23, 2022
March of 2020 the world as you knew it shifted and overnight you took you’re in person curriculum that you knew front wards and backwards. You scaled that curriculum back but not too much because your students still needed some consistency they needed you to keep showing up and teaching from afar. You called students, families, and coworkers and worked tirelessly to bridge the equity gap so that every one of your students was given the same opportunities to continue learning. At the same time, your work life balance started to look different. You learned new levels of tired, and a new level of mental exhaustion began to sink in as that school year ended.
2020-2021 School Year
You could feel the exhaustion in your body. You knew the worry brought on by a global pandemic still lurked in your community. You watched the work start piling up as you navigate the new year of teaching in a new way. You may have noticed yourself snapping at your loved ones more. Your patience may have become much lower than it once was. Each day, you seemed to feel tired earlier and earlier in the day. Sadly, the fire you once had for the job began to fade.
2021-2022 School Year
When did you stop being heroes? What changed since March of 2020 when you were being hailed by the masses for your ability to navigate unprecedented times? While you once may have felt seen and heard, you may now wonder if anyone will listen. The pandemic is ongoing, but it seems that you’re expected to go back to the old normal at school–except it’s not the old normal because of more rules, less support, more paperwork, less substitutes, more laws, less humanity. More is being asked of you, and now you are feeling less like you. There is an explanation for how you feel.
There may be some behaviors or tendencies you have noticed in yourself or in your fellow teacher community which may could be indicative of burnout:
Burnout can include feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, mentally distancing yourself from the job or viewing your job negatively, and poorer work performance and effectiveness.
What to do now:
It’s time to reclaim your life and your joy. You can start by honestly answering these questions for yourself:
6 Steps to Take to Reclaim Your Joy
You didn’t get to burnout overnight and you won’t get through burnout overnight. In addition to a relationship with a counselor who understands you, here are some steps you can begin taking to reclaim your joy.
1. Take a walk.
We carry the weight of our experiences in our body and walking helps to relieve stress, decrease fatigue and depression, release endorphins, and improve mood. Walking outside also helps you soak in some vitamin D from the sun which also helps to regulate mood and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
2. Do something you enjoy.
When experiencing depression and fatigue, it can be difficult to find the motivation to do the things you love to do. While a hobby can be a great way to manage stress, you can start with smaller steps like reading a book or watching a movie you’ve been putting off. You help others every day, so it is important to find time to do something for just you to help battle compassion fatigue.
3. Seek community.
Many educators are feeling just like you are. If you don’t already have a network at your school, consider making a friend or joining an online group of other educators with similar backgrounds. For example, a group for teachers in your geographic area or grade level or with whom you share certain demographics. You can also join a therapeutic support group or space where you can be surrounded by others who see and understand you.
4. Reflect on your future in education.
Allow yourself to think about what your future in education looks like. Does this grade level and subject still fulfill you? Do you want to move into an administration role? Possibly return to school?
It’s also okay if you can’t see yourself in education for much longer.
5. Make a plan.
Begin taking steps toward the future you want. If your values, needs, and desires no longer align with the profession, you deserve to explore other options.
A great place to start may be in therapy. Focusing on your mental health may help you get back to feeling like you or even support your job hunt. Many therapists are trained in career counseling and can help you navigate a transition into something more fulfilling. Or, if you decide to stay in education, a counselor can also help you explore solutions and coping strategies.
6. Secure an accountability partner.
Whether your self-care plan is about unplugging from work at a certain time or updating your resume, changing your routine can be stressful in itself. Your therapist can help you monitor your progress toward your goals and develop stress management tools. Beyond the counseling space, it is helpful to find a person you trust to be your cheerleader and hold you accountable to your plan.
With just a few months left in the year, try not to postpone your self-care (and joy) to summer. You deserve to feel better now.
Share these tips with educators you love, and leave a tip in the comments on how you manage your stress
EDITED BY CORI HILL
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the above article is informational only and not a replacement for therapy or medical advice. You are encouraged to make decisions for your mental health in consultation with a licensed mental health professional.
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