Burnout: recognising the signs and protecting yourself
Our Director of Programmes, Faye McGuinness, looks at how you can recognise the symptoms of burnout and shares tips to help you beat it.
Articles / 3 mins read
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 that has not been successfully managed.’ In our fast-paced world, intensified by the pandemic and its digital demands, it 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 said 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 ongoing stress can seriously damage our health.
recently told us they are stressed from work.
that the pressure on their mental health and wellbeing has caused them to consider leaving.
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 are:
- 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.
"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."
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 during the pandemic, 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’
It might be a hobby, seeing or chatting with friends and family, or 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?
"Connecting with how we feel, and noticing our stress levels can help us to manage symptoms and find solutions."
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.
- Definition of burnout: Christina Maslach and Wilmar Schaufeli, ‘Historical and Conceptual Development of Burnout’, in Professional Burnout: Recent Developments in Theory and Research, ed. Wilmar Schaufeli, Christina Maslach, and Tadeausz Marek (Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis, 1993), pp. 1–16.
- World Health Organization, Burn-out an 'occupational phenomenon', FAQs.
Our confidential grants service is here to help you manage money worries.
Everyone occasionally needs help. Our friendly, experienced team is here to support you.