Practicing Mindfulness to Prevent Teacher Burnout
October 1, 2020
5 min read
When WB Yeats wrote, “education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire”, he probably did not imagine that the 21st-century teacher would come to epitomize, quite literally, the idiomatic candle that lights the path for the students.
Today, teaching is essentially about balance. A teaching role in the present education ecosystem comes with the challenge of balancing multidimensional responsibilities. It becomes even more daunting when you have to align your professional obligations with your personal life. This is what induces the symptoms of burnout.
Despite being a common experience amid working professionals, many remain ignorant about the concept of burnout.
Simply put, burnout is a state of dysfunction wherein you lose all meaning for the work you perform. It is the ultimate level of exhaustion, both psychological and physical. A constant lack of motivation, pessimism, low energy, and dwindling productivity are some of the key symptoms of burnout.
If reading this brings to mind an experience involving such symptoms, then you are not alone. Teacher burnout is more widespread and frequent than you would imagine. As per a report by Indian researchers, the teacher burnout rate in the country stands at a whopping 86%.
The pandemic-induced work-from-home setup that abruptly forced teachers to take up e-learning has done more harm than good. While in the long run, this digital shift will create benefits for the entire education system at large, it has only inflicted more pressure on teachers in the short run.
While teachers learn their way around the modalities of online teaching, their quintessential balance is wrecked.
These months of lockdown have probably brought hundreds of teachers to a level of burnout. After all, in between taking classes, making lesson plans, checking notebooks, maintaining records and so much more, there remains little time to deal with one’s mental health.
However, preventing teacher burnout is not impossible. The most effective remedy to deal with this is mindfulness. Michelle Berry, a mindfulness coach and consultant for workplace wellness, recommends the practices of mindfulness to predict and prevent a burnout situation. She believes in the power of cultivating a conscious body to perform with greater productivity while keeping your mind happy and healthy.
Mindfulness presents the perfect antidote for de-stressing your mind. In simplest terms, it is the practice of recognizing your internal and external feelings through deep focus.
Gaining greater awareness about your body and mind while taking control of your emotions empowers you to deal with highly stressful situations. This practice can carve out a healthy trajectory for your journey ahead. Besides, it is not only a great solution for stress but also helpful in leading a more composed and happy lifestyle.
Discussed below are a few practices that you can include in your routine to get started with mindfulness. These activities will go a long way in helping you avoid a possible burnout situation.
Gratitude is one of the most potent feelings to become mindful. Teacher burnout is essentially a trap of negativity that holds you down to inefficiency and doubt. Cherishing the good things and people in your life is important to free yourself from these shackles.
One of the best ways to make this a daily practice is through a gratitude journal. Keep a record of all that you are grateful for. Make this a daily or weekly exercise. Cultivating gratitude in your workplace can fill you with positivity and divert your focus from the bad to the good.
You can choose from an array of apps like Journify, Grateful, Happier, Presently, and Reflectly to journal your gratitude on-the-go. While expressing gratitude, also focus on appreciating the things and people around you to nurture a constructive attitude.
Mindfulness is an escape from the compulsive need to do something. It is about taking a break to do nothing and focus on yourself. In the process, you can take out the time to introspect and communicate with your mind and body. More than anybody else, focus on checking on your thoughts and emotions through mindful introspection.
A good way to go about this is to simply enjoy some me-time. Engage in a chat with yourself, asking questions about your wellbeing. This is a basic thinking activity to recognize your needs and feelings that might go unnoticed in the middle of a busy teaching schedule. It is important to be honest instead of deluding yourself with false promises and assurances.
One of the foremost principles of mindfulness is to cultivate an awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Paying close attention to your internal feelings and external environment can equip you with greater clarity of mind. Besides, practicing present-moment awareness at different points of the day can potentially make you calmer and more confident about the future.
Teachers can perform a simple activity called ‘two feet one breath’ to practice purposeful awareness on a busy school day. This is a five-second exercise. You have to simply feel your feet while taking one conscious breath every five seconds.
In case you are unable to build focus, you can chant ‘two feet one breath’ as well. Apps like Stop, Breathe & Think are also useful in practicing this. Try doing this activity before a class or a meeting to compose yourself both mentally and physically.
The essence of mindfulness is to nurture emotional and physical happiness. The practice focuses on building confidence and resilience, both psychological and physical. By becoming conscious of your needs, you will be able to adjust your behavior more fittingly.
There is probably no better way to take care of your well being than meditation. Meditating opens a gateway to your conscience. While many teachers may not find the time to meditate, it holds the promise of bringing unparalleled peace.
A human mind is undoubtedly a place of clutter. To let this chaotic bundle of thoughts control your actions would mean endless imbalance and stress. Practicing mindfulness is a piecemeal process of taking control over your mind and decluttering it. This is the best way to get rid of the burden of emotional baggage you are carrying and cultivate a more rational outlook.
The first and most crucial step to declutter your mind is to accept that change doesn't happen overnight. With this understanding, you can set some short-term goals for yourself, plan your week’s work, and make to-do lists.
Automating your workflow is another great solution to build focus and take control of your life. Apps like Zapier, Airflow, Notion, and Classcard provide useful tools to create a hassle-free and methodical approach for your daily teaching routine. With an automated setup in place, you can optimally utilize your time and efforts.
In simple terms, self-restraint means putting a check on your emotions and avoiding spontaneity in reacting to any situation. It is a process of inculcating discipline, patience, and a reflective mindset. To be able to deal with teacher burnout, you must have the ability to keep your impulses under control.
An actionable way to cultivate restraint in your lifestyle is with the ‘why and how’ approach. This simple activity encourages you to ask a few questions before responding to any situation or feeling. It helps you delve into the details and create an informed perspective.
At the end of such a discussion, you will be able to restrain yourself from engaging in activities that harm your mental or physical wellbeing.
Teacher burnout is as real and widely prevalent as ever today. The strenuous routine of a teacher’s life has become the driving force for a mental and physical drain. If you or someone you know has been dragged to the level of burnout, then there is one sure solution – mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness through the actionable ideas detailed above will certainly create avenues for preventing teacher burnout. Include these activities in your routine to make a regular regime for mindfulness.