Depending on your role, you might assist with holiday parties, performances or philanthropic endeavors. Many educators also assume the physical and mental toll of helping their students cope with weighty family situations that make the holidays more taxing for some.
In the spirit of the season, here are five ways educators can cope with potential burnout during this busy period and start the new year fresh.
1. Adjust your schedule to make optimal use of times when you have the most energy.
Ah, the best-laid plans, right? You might do an excellent job crafting your to-do list for the next day, only to find it in shreds as you deal with fires that present themselves the moment you begin work. You might not have complete control over your schedule, but there are ways to make it more manageable.
First, build in buffer time between appointments. If a task takes longer than allotted or you get interrupted by an unexpected call or visitor, this padding makes it less likely that one delay will derail your whole day. And if you don’t need those extra few minutes, even better. Have a cup of tea and a moment for yourself.
As you set your daily schedule, consider when your energy levels are the highest and use those periods for work that requires more brain power or social interaction. Set aside lower-energy times for tedious but necessary tasks like paperwork or responding to emails. Turn on some soothing music — or try festive holiday tunes if they get you in the spirit — and dig in.
2. Say ‘no’ to tasks you don’t have the time (or desire) to do.
The year-end holidays often bring lots of demands on your time. After all, your schedule is already brimming every day, and that’s before the celebrations begin. Now is a great time to remind yourself that “no” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to make elaborate excuses for why you don’t want to do something — whether it’s organizing the teacher potluck or attending a neighborhood get-together (that also entails baking a few dozen seasonal treats).
Even if you’ve always been the one to lead a specific task or activity, such as helming the hallway decoration committee, it’s perfectly fine to decline to participate. You’ve done your stint. Think of it as giving someone else a chance to step up and lead.
3. Make time for things you do want to do.
Saying no to obligations you no longer can or want to perform gives you the gift of determining which activities are a priority for you. While the neighborhood cookie exchange might be too much for one person, someone else might find it the perfect way to reconnect with friends outside the workplace. Or, helping organize the school toy drive could be the highlight of your Thanksgiving as you revel in seeing your school community feel the joy of giving to others.
Take a few moments before saying yes to any invitation or event. First, check whether and how it fits within your larger schedule — too much activity during the week can seem chaotic, while a fun event on the weekend may offer something to look forward to. Then figure out what will “give” to make time; after all, with our finite 24 hours, saying “yes” to one thing might mean saying “no” to something else. Once you’ve committed, enjoy it wholeheartedly.
4. Build time for self-care into your weekly schedule.
We’ve all heard the adage about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others, so think about what refreshes you and serves as your “oxygen mask.” It could be a weekly massage, a holiday movie marathon or lunch with a good friend. Tips one, two and three on our list are all about scheduling. This tip is about where to prioritize putting “you” on the calendar.
Self-care can be as simple as doing small things throughout the day when you have a spare moment. Make a short list of five- to 10-minute pick-me-ups that you can intersperse into your daily obligations, such as completing a word puzzle, listening to upbeat music, checking social media or reading a few pages of a book you enjoy.
Remember: Healthy habits are a crucial form of self-care. That means prioritizing regular exercise such as a yoga session or brisk walk, adequate sleep and healthy meals to boost your energy.
5. Find ways to help students without adding extra work to your plate.
An educator’s job is to be a resource your students can depend on. But meeting their needs often requires extra effort on your part. Fortunately, you can tap into many tools for help offering the support and assistance your students need without draining your time and energy.
For example, mental health professionals know all too well the time and resource investment involved in robust mental health screening. However, they also realize a universal screening program is imperative to helping today’s student population and ensuring that vulnerable youth don’t slip through the cracks.
That’s where solutions like our digital platform, Q-interactive can help streamline the process by allowing professionals to administer performance-based tests via iPad. It’s just one of the digital tools that allow you to accomplish your goals while adding efficiency to your processes — and still leaving time for you.
As we head into winter break, now is the time to assess how you will finish the school year strong and make 2023 your best year yet. Visit Pearson’s Mental Health & Anxiety Resource Center for more ideas and tools to set you and your school up for success.