Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mindfulness over burnout

Yesterday when I arrived home from work my mind was not in a positive place.  The hustle and bustle of the week at school triggered an inability to turn off my brain and relax.  This stemmed from an overwhelming schedule and a realization that it’s not getting any easier.  My previous post "Where do you teach?" discussed some of the pros and cons that come along with being a full-time teacher working in multiple schools.  I kept that post positive and upbeat, but the truth is, working in education can be extremely stressful.  Educators are consistently being asked to do more with less.

Have you ever seen one of those images that states “I’m a teacher, what’s your superpower?”  I see them all the time on Twitter.  While there are similarities between the two and I can appreciate the analogy, teachers have one fundamental flaw... we have no superpowers.  We are human and must be “mindful” of our own limitations.  They do exist.  
As a dedicated professional I always give 100%.  For me, this includes staying hours past my contractual workday, bringing work home on weekends, and going that extra mile for my students.  As a connected educator, I know for a fact there are thousands of professionals with a similar work ethic.  It’s a beautiful thing and our kids deserve it.  However, we all need to slow down sometimes in order to avoid burnout.

Like I said, yesterday I hit a wall.  I was stressed to the point which I distanced myself from my family and temporarily ceased to feel any joy.  I know that sounds bad; it was.  I'd like to use this post to share how I cleared my head and hopefully, help others.  The secret is mindful meditation.  

This past year I’ve begun practicing mindfulness.  The simple definition of mindfulness is “being aware of what is happening in the present moment.”  It means showing up for life, being conscious as it unfolds, and not just going through the motions on “auto-pilot”.  Here's a link to an incredible resource that explains and defines the term in greater detail.  The owner of this website is Long Island native and mindfulness guru Cory Muscara.

Practicing mindfulness is something I do regularly to avoid burnout.  On difficult days (like yesterday) I use meditation.  There is a great free app called Headspace that contains ten-minute guided meditations.  I always feel better after meditating.  It’s not that I become stress-free in just ten minutes, but, I do always feel better than I did ten minutes earlier.  Meditation is not for everyone, but mindfulness can be.  The ability to live in the moment and get rid of the excess noise (your thoughts) in your head is empowering.   

Mindfulness can take many forms.  Here are three simple tasks you can try to help you become more present:

  • Turn your phone off for an hour and unplug.   
  • Take a brief 10 minute walk outdoors. Feel your feet touch the ground. 
  • Take a few deep breaths in the middle of a long day.  Breath in through the nose for 8 seconds, then out through the mouth for 8 more.

What do you do regularly to avoid teacher burnout?