Around here it seems that Back to School stuff is out in stores earlier and earlier every year. This year I think it was out at the beginning of July!! We just finish Fourth of July and then the stores throw out all the Back to School supplies. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I start to see it all, I begin to think about Back to School. So we haven’t even enjoyed an entire month of summer and we are being bombarded by thoughts of going back. Yes, Back to School is one of my favorite times of year, but it can also be one of the most stressful times too.
This whole time of year involves so much energy, so much thought, so much change, and so much money. All of these things can cause stress. The stress can then lead to burnout, sometimes even before the students arrive back at school. So what can we do as teachers and parents to prevent this Back to School Burnout from happening to us?
The old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure comes to mind. When we take the time to step back and objectively analyze how we operate at this time of year we can learn a lot about how to prevent burnout. I remember one summer my husband, who knows me better than anyone, finally worked up the courage to tell me that I am not really fun to be around the month before school starts and the month following; something needed to change. My initial instinct was to become defensive and start spewing all the reasons why and all the stress I was under. I don’t remember how I actually responded, but his comment did make me pause to think back on the previous few years. And as much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I became so focused on the promise of a new school year and what I was going to do differently this school year, that I would lose sight of what is truly most important, my family.
You see, I am a planner by nature and I truly enjoy scheduling and color coding and making everything fit into what appears to be a perfect plan. So when Back to School time rolls around, I was always happier than a kid on Christmas Day! I always had a new planner to fill out. I would spend hours on Pinterest searching for the perfect classroom theme or new lessons to add to my favorites because I knew that in the past year there had to be something better that came out. I would stay up late and then try to get up early. Everything else had to wait because I needed everything to be perfect for Back to School.
I would tell myself that once the school year started everything would go back to normal and I’d get into a rhythm. What I didn’t see is that I had already fallen into a rhythm, an unhealthy and unbalanced one. I had allowed Back to School to take over my life beginning at the end of the summer and by the time October rolled around I was exhausted. And I mean truly exhausted, needing a few days off and wishing I could run away and hide out somewhere.
I hope that you don’t identify with this part of the former me, but if you do, there is hope! There are steps you can take to ensure that you don’t fall victim to the Back to School Burnout.
First, assess how the end of your summer and beginning of your school year are. Ask around for truthful, honest answers from those closest to you. Your husband, family, close friends, colleague or teammate. Ask them to either tell you what they notice about you from the end of the summer through the first month of school. Make sure you are open to hearing what they have to say and that you just listen, don’t respond. You are gathering information not defending the past you!
Next, sit with what you’ve been told. Get quiet and maybe journal a little bit. How do you feel about what you were told? Do you see truth in their perspectives? Why do you think you are like that at this time of year? What do you think could help you change?
The answers to these questions and whatever else comes to you will help shape your personal Banish Burnout Plan. There are a few things I have learned over the years that help me the most. I’ll share them with you, but know that we are all different, so what works great for me may be the opposite for you. Just taking action will put you on a more positive path to help prevent burnout.
Personal Schedule – I live better on a schedule, but during the summers I tended to try to relax a bit. For me, this causes chaos when I try to get back on schedule at the end of the summer. Now I keep a schedule all summer long, albeit a different schedule from the school year, it’s a schedule nonetheless.
As part of this schedule, I get up before the kids. Just having that time before any demands or responsibilities take hold helps me set the tone for my day. During this time I get myself ready, do a quick meditation, say my affirmations, and do a yoga sun salutation sequence. If there is still time before everyone else is up I read a bit and journal. This time is sacred to me, and my kids know that if they wake up before I’m done, they just get to wait or join in next to me, but I will not stop unless it is a true emergency.
Sleep!!!! Make sure you know how much sleep you need to feel rested. For some it’s 8 hours, for others it’s 5, so figure out how much you personally need. I know that when I get 6-8 hours of sleep I’m good the next day. Any less than 4 and I have nothing to give, but more than 8 all I want to do in the morning is continue to stay in bed all day. How much sleep do you need?
Help – Asking for help is something many of us find hard to do for some reason. We all want to help others, but for some reason denying others that same opportunity is ok. I had to learn how to ask for help while including the caveat that it was ok to tell me no. Here’s an example of what that might look like: I need help getting my classroom ready because I have 3 small children who create a bigger mess and make more work for me when I bring them to school with me in the summer. I ask my family members who could possibly help me with this (not my husband who needs to be at work for set hours). I let them know what I’m needing to accomplish and what my road block is, then I ask if they could help in anyway or if this really isn’t a good time for them. I give them a choice and an easy out. I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to help or guilty for not being able to help, but there is no reason why I shouldn’t at least ask. You never know unless you ask!!
The other big thing that helped me shift out of Burnout was embracing Gratitude. I began a gratitude journal by writing down 10 things every morning that I was grateful for. Then every night I thought back on the 1 thing I was most grateful for before I fell asleep. Having gratitude will shift your focus and your perspective. I find that when I am grateful it is harder for me to feel mentally and emotionally exhausted because I am choosing to find the good in everything. I included the picture links to a few gratitude journals at the bottom of the post to give you a starting point. (Remember if you purchase through these links we earn a small commission to keep the blog running, so thank you!)
So, to help avoid Back to School Burnout make sure you ask those closest to you to be honest with you so that you have an accurate picture of yourself at this time of year. Then get quiet and ponder what they said so that you can help yourself shift. Create a personal schedule that works for you, and remember to give yourself grace with it. Include quiet time for yourself and adequate SLEEP in this schedule. Ask for help when you need it but be ok with not always receiving it exactly the way you want. And finally, be GRATEFUL for everything that you have. It is such a blessing to be able to teach young children, to help them be their best and to watch them blossom.
Don’t forget about yourself, dear one, you also are growing into your best self and you are blossoming also! I can’t wait to hear about how this year is different for you because you chose to steer away from Back to School Burnout! Comment below about your successes or your struggles so we can celebrate and support you!