Before holiday break began, I was overworked, irritable, and physically exhausted! I was enthusiastically counting down the number of “wake-ups” I had left. I was mourning the loss of a fellow colleague. I was frustrated with student performance. I was not enjoying my work. I was stressed. After further thought, I began to wonder, was I in a state of being worn out or burned out?
Dealing with several students daily and engaging them in learning with my song and dance can be tiresome. I discovered that being worn out is temporary and easily remedied; it produces physical exhaustion as well as mental fatigue. Additionally, it can sometimes produce a feeling of being overwhelmed, while growth still takes place and one’s overall performance is not hindered. I was definitely feeling overworked and unrested, but I could still manage my life and the goings on. After some time off, I would be ready to get back at it. BUT…what happens to those of us in the teaching profession who feel more burned out versus worn out?
According to Psychology Today, burn out is a state of chronic stress. It creates both physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and a feeling of being ineffective or lacking accomplishment. First, if one is experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion, the following is likely to occur: fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, illness, anxiety, depression, a decrease in decision making and problem solving, and the mental ability to cope is diminished. Second, when cynicism and detachment occur, one can experience a feeling of isolation, detachment, pessimism, and a loss of enjoyment. Finally, burn out can also create a feeling of apathy and an increase in irritability.
Why are teachers burning out? What is causing teachers to feel the way they do? Burn out can be caused by a variety of factors, nonetheless, here are some ways we can control our own responses to being worn out versus burned out:
- Try to decrease your stress levels.
- Take something off of your plate. You don’t have to volunteer for every committee.
- Take breaks when you are able. Meditate or try deep breathing.
- Leave your grading at school. Do all you can while you are still at school.
- Work to create a positive and equal work/life balance.
- What are you passionate about? Rediscover your passions and why you got into teaching in the first place.
- What motivates you? How are you motivated? What parts of teaching motivated you in the beginning? Is that still true?
Where do you fall on this spectrum? Be willing to take charge of your work/life balance and create priorities that allow you to experience the life you are passionate about!