Suggestions and resources on dealing with stress, burnout and compassion fatigue – both at work and in your life:
In the Moment — Temporary: Short activities that give you some space. Dopamine and serotonin are released during the relaxing or enjoyable activity. Examples of temporary self-care:
- Go out to dinner with a friend.
- Get a massage.
- Swim, run or take a hike.
- Practice yoga.
- Say no to a new responsibility.
- Straighten your desk.
Enduring Practices: Long-term practices and habits that permanently strengthen neurological functioning. Examples of enduring self-care:
- Build in time to make your favorite tea or coffee drink for the commute to work.
- Get more sleep.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Make a weekly appointment to meet with a friend and talk about nonwork items.
- Make time every day to do something for yourself.
- Have a peer support group.
Source: Melissa Holland, CSU Sacramento
Build Your Resiliency
An ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.
The everyday difficulties of the job take a toll on every educator. The demands of ensuring students learn the state standards while also supporting their physical and emotional needs — especially those who have suffered from trauma — can be an especially heavy load for educators to carry.
Resiliency allows us to thrive rather than just survive. Tips for increasing your resiliency:
- Set realistic short-term to long-term goals. Examine your expectations.
- Be flexible.
- Practice positivity. Don’t fall into the trap of believing negative thinking is necessary for success.
- Engage in self-care. Make a list of things you want to do for yourself.
- Use humor and practice kindness with yourself.
- Build acceptance around the hard parts of your job.
Source: Melissa Holland, CSU Sacramento
Commonalities of Compassion Fatigue and Burnout
- Emotional exhaustion.
- Reduced sense of personal accomplishment or meaning in work.
- Mental exhaustion.
- Decreased interactions with others (isolation).
- Depersonalization (feeling like you’re an outside observer, not in control of your life).
- Physical exhaustion.
When to Seek Help
- When you notice the signs of compassion fatigue or burnout.
- If you are experiencing depression.
- If you are isolating yourself more than usual.
- If you are feeling more tired or exhausted than typical.
- When you no longer want to go to work or you dread the workday.
- When you don’t enjoy things that you used to.
- When you feel excessively guilty or worried.
- If you have thoughts of hopelessness or suicide.
Source: American Institute of Stress
Where to Get Help
- Share how you are feeling with a trusted friend, relative or colleague.
- Talk to a leader in your local association about how you are feeling and what resources are available.
- Ask a co-worker who specializes in mental and emotional health (such as a school psychologist or counselor) for support or a referral to additional services.
- Contact your school district’s Employee Assistance Program to identify mental and emotional health resources.
- Locate a therapist or other support services through your health insurance provider.
- Crisis text line: Text “HOME” to 741741 to be connected with a live crisis counselor.
Mindfulness: Accentuate the Positive
There is a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) rule that for every one negative interaction with a student, five positive interactions are needed to balance it out. Use that same framework to give yourself some space and acknowledge the positive in your world with this quick self-care practice from The Teaching Well (theteachingwell.org).
- Begin by focusing on your natural breath.
- Take five deep breaths, elongating your exhales. Imagine that you are blowing up a balloon.
- When you feel ready, slowly start to look around the room, letting your eyes softly linger on students, on the walls of your classroom, and on any neutral or positive energy in the space.
- When your eyes find that neutral or positive energy, acknowledge it by giving gratitude for the situation in your head. Example: “I am thankful that two students are using communication and community to work on an assignment” or “I am thankful that I took the time to hang student work on the wall.”
- Find at least five places in your classroom that you feel grateful for.
- End by focusing again on your natural breath.
Special Report: Teaching Through Trauma
This is part of our series that looks at how educators are handling students with trauma. Read more:
- Teaching Students with Trauma: Practices that work
- A Culture of Compassion: What trauma-sensitive schools look like
- Phoenix Rising: Healing after natural disasters
- Crisis in Our Classrooms: Frightened, anxious immigrant students try to focus on education
- How COVID-19 Impacts the Undocumented
- Returning to Children’s Community Charter School in Paradise
- No Such Thing as a Bad Kid: Youth-care expert Charles D. Appelstein
- Taking Care of You, Too: Educator self-care is critical
- In Their Own Words: Helping students tell what they’ve lived