Burnout is a reality for many educators and it all comes back to managing levels of stress. Most of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of projects they must manage. Family. Work. Personal. All of our responsibilities and commitments can mount pretty quickly. The result? A never ending feeling of being too busy and overwhelmed. But don’t lose hope! There are things you can do right now that will help overcome your stress at work.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
There are simple things you can do get around this feeling. I have actively looked for real world solutions to these feelings for some time now. I recently read a book called the The Power of Full Engagement. I love trying to maximize my productivity. But this book took a slightly different angle on productivity. It proposed that we can better focus and achieve stress free results by managing better energy levels.
Energy management is just one important piece of reducing stress at work. I don’t have 1 solution to managing stress. I did try to boil things down to one piece of advice. Each of our situations is unique and so I compiled a list of 5 things that I think could work for most of us.
Here is my list of 5 things that you can start doing right now that will help you overcome your stress at work.
5 Simple Ways To Overcome Your Stress At Work
#1 Be Aware
A lot of our stress comes from a feeling of being out of control. Now, being in a classroom of uncooperative students will certainly provoke this feeling. But, beware. This feeling triggers the stress hormone, wearing down your focus and confidence. By being more aware of this you can be aware of all of the choices before you. Take control of the situation in the ways you can. This will help you overcome your stress at work.
#2 Blow Up Your To Do List
Sometimes, you just need to look at your commitments and say no. We experience stress when we overcommit ourselves and then can’t fulfill those commitments. Us humans are just really bad at determining how long something is going to take. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I have made an agreement with myself to get something corrected by a certain day of the week. Often times that day passes without me even looking at the assignments.
There are three ways to deal with these commitments that haunt us. 1) Don’t make them. 2) Don’t fulfill them. 3) Renegotiate them. Whatever you decide to do, you are still making the choice and by doing so, you are recapturing control of the situation. If you want help with this, I highly recommend the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
#3 Go For Easy Wins
In education, we often don’t celebrate our wins. As soon as we have finished one activity, we quickly have to dive into the next task. We go from teaching to planning, to teaching, to grading, to staff meetings, to family needs, to late night planning, and at the end of the day we are exhausted, get some quick sleep, and then the cycle starts again. Take some time at the start or end of the day to appreciate the tasks you completed today.
If you keep a to-do list, look it over, and appreciate the progress you are making everyday. By keeping a sense of progression and control, you will can overcome your stress at work.
#4 Manage Your Energy
Here is where the book The Power of Full Engagement outlines the basics of energy management to reduce stress. The two authors were performance psychologists who originally worked athletes. Their goal was to help athletes expand their potential for greater achievements. As discussed in the book, energy is the key to achieving more while reducing stress. They suggest simple changes like reducing caffeine, drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of sleep. More importantly, they suggest establishing positive rituals for energy renewal.
Education is a profession with specific periods of high energy and stress. Take a moment between classes or meetings to go through the same habit of 90 seconds of deep breathing or renewing your focus. They use the example of top tennis players taking ritualized breaks between points. It was the key to managing stress and to regain focus. This is just a hint of the awesome advice that the book offered to help you overcome your stress at work. I would also recommend you check it out; The Power of Full Engagement.
#5 Connect With Others
Spending time with people that mean the most to you can serve to reduce your stress. Everyone realizes this. But connecting with others that have similar struggles can be a way to validate that what you are feeling is real. My non-educator friends don’t understand the stress of the job. My coworkers who live it everyday “get it”. It doesn’t need to be a coworker though.
When I was most stressed, I would often connect with educators on social media. Their seemingly never ending energy was a source of renewal. It is tough when your coworkers are also feeling stressed. At that point, connecting with others who express positive energy can also be away to overcome your stress at work.
I know how challenging working in education can be. Wins feel few and far between. Educators are always under pressure to ensure student learning. None of this is easy. Yet, burnout doesn’t have to be the fate of every educator. Focusing a little bit each day on yourself can help with the day to day grind.
Overcoming stress at work isn’t something that can be done in a day. I know that for me, it took months to recover from burnout. I only overcame it after I decided to recommit myself to teaching. Everyone will be different because everyone’s situation is different. I hope this list gave you some strategies that are helpful to you.
This is Part 2 or 2 on Burnout. Click the link to read Part 1: 5 Simple Warning Signs That You Are Burning Out.
Question: What is your biggest stress at work right now?