Burnout: Recognising the signs and protecting yourself | Education Support
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Teacher burnout

Burnout: Recognising the signs and protecting yourself

28th April 2021

Our Director of Programmes Faye McGuinness looks how you can recognise the symptoms of burnout and shares some tips to help you beat burnout.

The term burnout was originally coined in the 1970s to describe the consequences of ‘severe stress and high ideals’ among the helping professions. These are fields where many feel a high level of moral purpose, a dedication to making a difference and an urge to go above and beyond. This well-intentioned source of motivation can take its toll on a person. If you work in education, does this sound familiar?

The World Health Organisation has recently redefined burnout as a syndrome linked to chronic work stress. It describes it as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ In our fast-paced world, intensified by the pandemic and its digital demands, burnout has become a far more common risk.

Stress is incredibly high among teachers and education staff. Eight out of ten recently told us they are stressed from work.  Four in ten that the pressure on their mental health and wellbeing has caused them to consider leaving. Pressure does serve a very useful purpose for most of us, motivating and urging us to do our best but long-term, ongoing stress can seriously damage our health.

Our latest research shows that teachers and education staff are at risk of burnout. But would you be able to spot the signs in yourself or a colleague?

The main signs of burnout are:

  • Exhaustion
  • Mental detachment from your work
  • Problems with performance or relationships at work

Some people also mention physical symptoms like disrupted sleep or head and stomach aches. If suffering from depression, this can also be a precursor.

It is really important to be aware of the warning signs. If you do spot them, the good news is that you can recover from burnout. Here are our tips to help you prevent and beat burnout:

1. Take charge of your wellbeing

To look after your students, you need to look after yourself. As work and home boundaries have blurred more this year, ensure you have plenty of opportunities to properly relax and recharge. Make sure you factor in time to rest at weekends and during annual leave. Eat well, get enough sleep and get outside for fresh air.

2. Do things that make you feel like ‘you’

t might be a hobby, seeing or chatting with friends and family, making a meal. It’s important to remember that you are a person beyond your job. Engaging in our passions and making time for loved ones can energise us and help prevent burnout.

3. Be aware of your emotions, stress levels and mental health

Connecting with how we feel, and noticing our stress levels can help us to manage symptoms and find solutions. Can you use mindfulness techniques or journaling to feel calmer and let go of your worries?

4. Accept when you need to say ‘no’

Can it be delegated? Is it in line with your own professional priorities? Accept that you can’t do everything and there are times when it is better for you, your health and your students to say no.  

5. Get support

If you feel you’re heading for burnout, or experiencing it already, don’t suffer alone. Speak to colleagues, friends, family or call our free, confidential helpline, staffed by qualified counsellors and available 24/7 on 08000 562 561.

Managing stress infographic 

Download a pdf of this infographic to print.