How to Identify and Prevent Teacher Burnout at School

Rachel Kauffman
May 24, 2023
Blog, Mental Health & Wellness
4 Minute Read

How to Identify and Prevent Teacher Burnout at School

As if being an educator wasn’t hard enough, burnout is on the rise. Research shows that K-12 teachers and staff have the highest rate of burnout compared to other professions in the U.S. An alarming 4 out of 10 teachers say they ‘always’ or ‘very often’ feel burned out. 

Teacher burnout is one of the biggest challenges the education system faces. It threatens the well-being of teachers, school staff, and the quality of education given to students. Odds are, even the most polished-looking teachers and professionals have experienced burnout at one point. 

A school that supports mental health not only helps students but supports its teachers and school nurses on their own wellness journeys. Here’s how you can identify the symptoms of burnout for teachers and staff and how to combat it when it does inevitably come around. 

What is Burnout? 

Burnout is a specific type of stress that comes from work. It results from the inability to manage chronic workplace stress successfully. This prolonged stress results in physical and mental exhaustion and a great sense of detachment from your work. 

For anyone in the education system, being a helper puts you at tremendous risk for burnout. It’s essential to recognize the teacher burnout symptoms before it progresses into something more serious such as anxiety or depression. 

Teacher burnout symptoms include: 

  • Lower energy levels 
  • Reduced efficacy 
  • Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness 
  • Increased mental distancing from job 
  • Feelings of lack of accomplishment 
  • Changes in sleep or appetite 

Identify Your Stressors 

Nowadays, we live in an era where being a workaholic is celebrated. From #girlboss to hustle culture, overworking oneself is often glamorized. But promoting this lifestyle isn’t healthy; it’s a one-way ticket straight to burnout. 

Since teacher burnout comes from experiencing chronic stress, it’s important to know your points of stress. A stressor can be an external issue or an internal problem. The first step is to identify your stressors and make an action plan to face them.  

Can you get rid of these stressors? Maybe your classroom doesn’t have to be as cute as the teacher’s next door, or you can use SHR software to streamline health office workflows and parent communication. Find ways to reduce or eliminate the stressors in your life so you can sit back and relax. 

Complete the Stress Cycle 

The reality is that we can’t always get rid of these stressors. A student may interrupt you when you’re grading last week’s quizzes or finally sitting down to have lunch. Instead, we need to learn how to manage that stress and complete the stress response cycle. 

When you feel stress creeping in, start by taking some deep breaths. Inhale for 3, then exhale for 6. Allow your body to sink in and relax. 

You can also help yourself let the stress evaporate through physical activity. Turn on your favorite song and have a mini dance party. Or go for a walk and take a few laps around the schoolyard. 

Laughter is always the best medicine. Call up your funny friend for a quick chat or watch a video on YouTube to get a good belly laugh in. 

All in all, avoid letting the stress sink in and take a few moments to regroup before returning to work. 

Tips for Preventing Teacher Burnout 

Managing stress is important but preventing it from happening in the first place is even better. Here’s how to combat burnout altogether: 

  • Sleep hygiene. Make sleep a priority with a regular sleep routine. A sleep routine signals to your body that it’s time to wind down. This can include reading, practicing meditation, creating a no screen-zone, or drinking a warm cup of (decaffeinated) tea. 
  • Remember your why. Why are you a teacher or a school nurse? Write down what brought you to the profession and keep it somewhere you can see it. 
  • Practice STOP. When you feel stressed, try using this acronym to move beyond the anxiety:
    Stop. Take a step back. Observe what is actually going on. Perceive mindfully by being in the here and now. 
  • Put your mask on first. As a helper, you’re not being selfish by putting your needs first. This is about survival! You’ll also be an excellent role model for your students in how to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, nap, or do whatever you need to feel good. 
  • Be intentional with your time off. Reclaim the weekends and evenings, and make sure you make time for yourself. Don’t let your job turn into your life. Make time for hobbies, family and friends, relaxation, and other facets of your life. 

The important thing to remember is that mental health is a journey. Don’t let one bad day get you down. By continuing to prioritize your mental health day after day, you’ll be able to show up at school as your best self — and encourage others to do the same. For more information on managing and avoiding burnout, watch our on-demand webinar with D&G Wellness Consulting.