Learn to deal with stress in a healthy way.
By Rachel Gleeson
Before I experienced teacher burnout I did not understand why flight attendants always said to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. My first year as a teacher, I did little besides teaching, grading, planning, a little sleeping and sometimes eating. I was constantly emptying myself and stressing about how I could not do enough. With that mentality and schedule, burnout was not long to follow.
When it comes to teaching, or any service-oriented profession, burnout is a reality. We push ourselves and give our all to help others. It is a beautiful and loving life. As Catholic teachers, there may be a feeling of a special responsibility to do our best for the students God has entrusted to us. Teaching is a vocation. We love our students and want to see them succeed. We want to do everything we can for them. However, this does not mean not taking care of ourselves and becoming burned out.
Many teachers, I find, encounter burnout. Dealing with stress in a healthy way is a learning process. Here are a few steps to get you started and help you avoid teacher burnout so that you can be the teacher God is calling you to be.
Take Care of the Necessities
While it may seem obvious, one of the most effective things to do is to prioritize your needs for rest and healthy eating. While staying up an extra hour may mean getting through that stack of grading, it is not always worth it. Sacrifice will happen. However, it cannot be a constant. While you may be willing to do everything for your students, if you stretch yourself too thin, you will not be able to do anything for them.
My second year of teaching, I told my students and their parents that I would not be answering emails on Sundays or in the evenings after 8 pm. It was a small thing but it helped a lot. I did not want work to be the first thing I did every morning and the last thing I did at night. Setting boundaries between work and the rest of your life is important. Like any healthy relationship, your relationship with teaching needs to have its limits.
Life Beyond Work
We all need balance. For teachers, this includes having activities and friends outside of school. Hobbies, social events, and time with friends who are not teachers can all help balance our lives and help us not be consumed by teaching. It is important to schedule these things into your week so that they do not become something you can put off or ignore easily. Teaching may be your vocation but that does not mean it is the only part of your life. Having things you do outside of school can help you appreciate the joys you have there.
One of the most important ways we can take care of ourselves, is by maintaining a consistent prayer life. We have to be willing to recognize God’s role in our life and in our teaching. One of the most difficult but most helpful things for me was trusting God would provide for my students even if I could not. This lifted a burden off my shoulders and gave me permission to take care of myself and other people around me. I knew that my students were not just mine, they are His.
Through prayer, I was able to rest with God and be assured of his support.
It is important that as Catholic teachers we take seriously the beautiful responsibility that God has given us: our calling. Part of being our best means taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to serve others. God calls us to love and may even, sometimes, ask for sacrifices from us. However, He does not ask that we ignore our own needs. Like so many things in our life, teaching requires balance and God wants us to find that.
Rachel Gleeson is a campus minister in Colorado.
Image credit: Pixabay
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