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Nurturing You: 7 Empowering Daily Practices for Teachers to Manage Burnout

You got into teaching because you wanted to ignite young minds & make a positive impact in the world. However, let's face it – the path you've chosen isn't always smooth sailing, & the & challenges can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re just starting out in your teaching career or are managing an increased workload during ‘unprecedented’ times.

The good news is that there are simple tools you can use & weave into your everyday to manage stress, improve focus & productivity, shift your mindset & contribute to a happier, healthier work-life balance. Let’s take a deep dive into seven empowering practices that can make a big impact on how you feel & how you show up in the classroom - & in life.

1. Morning Mindfulness: Start Your Day with Presence

Each morning, take a few mindful moments to connect with yourself & your surroundings. Try a short grounding meditation, such as the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique. This technique helps anchor you in the present moment by engaging your senses.

Here’s how:

  • Find a spot to sit for a few moments - in the car before stepping onto school grounds is our favourite. Take a few full, expansive breaths.

  • Name 5 Things You Can See: Look around your environment & identify five things you can see. They can be objects, people, patterns, colours or anything within your visual field. Verbally or mentally acknowledge each of these five things.

  • Acknowledge 4 Things You Can Touch: Pay attention to four things you can physically touch. It might be the firm support of the chair you’re sitting on, the fabric of your clothing, or an item you're holding. Focus on the tactile sensations of each of these four things.

  • Recognise 3 Things You Can Hear: Tune in to three sounds you can hear. It could be distant noises, like traffic or birds singing, nearby conversations, or even the sound of your stomach rumbling. Take a moment to fully perceive these auditory sensations.

  • Identify 2 Things You Can Smell: Notice two scents or smells around you. This could be the aroma of your surroundings, objects nearby, or even your own scent. Bring your attention to the olfactory experiences of these two scents.

  • Notice 1 Thing You Can Taste: If possible, focus on one taste you can perceive. You don’t have to be eating or drinking anything - you could simply note the residual flavour in your mouth. Take a moment to fully experience this taste.

2. Express Gratitude: Find Joy in Small Moments

Amid the busyness, take a moment to reflect on what has gone well for you so far today. Acknowledge even the smallest victories – a student's smile, a successful lesson or a moment of connection. Any experiences or interactions that brought a sense of joy or satisfaction are worth taking note of. Expressing gratitude shifts your focus from stressors or challenges to the positive aspects of your day. More than this, gratitude encompasses the willingness to be expansive with your attention so that you perceive more the goodness that life has to offer. Practicing gratitude has been linked to improved mental & emotional well-being, reduced stress & increased feelings of happiness.

Try the "3 Small Things" gratitude practice:

  • Reflection Time: Set aside a few minutes at the end of each day for reflection.

  • Identify Three Things: Think about three small things that brought a smile to your face, made you feel grateful, or gave you a sense of contentment during the day. These can be minor accomplishments, pleasant interactions, moments of beauty or even acts of kindness.

  • Write Them Down: In a journal or a digital note, jot down the three things you're grateful for. Create a mental list if that's more convenient.

  • Savour the Moments: Allow yourself to fully experience the positive feelings associated with these small things. Relish the gratitude & joy they bring.

  • Consistency: Make the "3 Small Things" practice a daily habit

The ‘3 Small Things’ practice doesn't require grand gestures or significant events; it's about finding joy in the everyday moments that often go unnoticed. By acknowledging & appreciating these small moments, you're training your mind to recognise the positive aspects of your life, even during challenging times. If a journaling practice doesn’t appeal to you, try the Breathe2B Gratitude Meditation - no paper required!

3. Mini-Moments of Self-Care: Nurture & Nourish Yourself

Sick of saying, “But I don’t have time for self-care!”? Looking after yourself doesn’t necessary mean booking spa days or trips away… although those things are lovely! Make the most of mundane moments to recharge & reconnect. Enjoy a few deep breaths, savour a cup of tea or take a brisk walk around your classroom. These small acts of self-kindness offer a reprieve from the hustle & bustle & create a buffer against burnout.

A Mindful Eating practice is something you can do every day, without much extra effort. Paying deliberate attention to what you’re eating, savouring each bite & being fully present during meals gives you a greater appreciation for the nourishment your meals provide (it also supports proper digestion & helps you to make healthier food choices).

Here's how practice mindful eating:

  • Engage Your Senses: Before you start eating, take pause & notice the appearance, smell, & texture of your food. Engaging your senses prepares your mind for the eating experience.

  • Slow Down: Eat at a slower pace, taking your time with each bite. Put your utensils down between bites & chew your food thoroughly.

  • Focus on the Experience: Eliminate distractions during meals, such as phones or work. Instead, direct your attention to the flavours, textures, & the process of eating.

  • Notice Your Thoughts: Pay attention to any thoughts or judgments that arise while eating. Are you enjoying the food? Are there any emotions tied to your eating experience?

  • Practice Gratitude: Take a moment to appreciate the effort that went into preparing your meal. Express gratitude for the nourishment it provides.

Try the Breathe2B Raisin Meditation for more guidance with mindful eating.

4. Connect & Collaborate: Reach Out For Support

Make an effort to get out into the school community & connect with fellow educators. Having peers who understand the nuances of your role can provide emotional support, as well as a sense of camaraderie & solidarity. Sharing your experiences, triumphs & challenges with others who are on a similar journey can alleviate feelings of isolation & remind you that you're part of a supportive network.

Each educator brings a unique set of experiences, teaching methodologies & insights gained through their interactions with students. By exchanging thoughts, strategies & lessons learnt, you enrich your own pedagogical toolkit & are propelled toward greater efficiency & efficacy in your profession. This cross-pollination of ideas has the potential to invigorate your teaching methods & breathe new life into your approach to classroom dynamics, lesson planning, & student engagement.

5. Boost Efficiency: Master Productivity Techniques

With numerous tasks to juggle – from lesson planning & grading to classroom management & professional development – honing productivity skills is key to streamlining your workflow & achieving desired outcomes. Try techniques such as time time blocking, the Eisenhower Matrix or the Pomodoro method to manage time effectively & prevent feeling overwhelmed:

  • Time blocking: allocate specific blocks of time for different tasks or activities throughout your day, helping to maintain focus & prevent multitasking (yup, multitasking doesn’t work! When you attempt to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, your cognitive resources become divided, leading to reduced focus, slower performance & increased stress & overwhelm).

  • Eisenhower Matrix: categorise tasks into four quadrants based on their urgency & importance - Quadrant I: Urgent & Important | Quadrant II: Not Urgent but Important | Quadrant III: Urgent but Not Important | Quadrant IV: Not Urgent and Not Important. This provides a visual framework that helps you to identify tasks that can be delegated, eliminated or postponed to reduce time spent on less meaningful activities.

  • Pomodoro Technique: work in focused intervals - if possible, 25 minutes - followed by a short break. This enhances concentration while guarding against burnout.

And - of course - the good old to-do list is a sure winner for staying on top of your tasks. Checking off items on your list taps into your brain's reward system, lessons cognitive load & serves as a visual representation of progress. Nothing is more motivating & satisfying at the end of the day than a completed to-do list!

6. Move & Recharge: Energise Your Mind & Body

You may have heard of ‘Movement Snacks’ - short & intentional bursts of physical activity incorporated into your daily routine. These brief periods of movement offer a way to counteract a sedentary lifestyle. The exercises are designed to be quick & convenient, making it easier to integrate physical activity into your day, even in the midst of a busy schedule. Incorporating a variety of movement snacks throughout your work day can contribute to improved energy levels, focus & overall well-being.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Jumping jacks, chair squats, lunges or desk push-ups: short exercises to get your blood pumping & your heart rate up.

  • Desk yoga: ease out kinks & physical tension with neck & shoulder stretches, ankle circles, seated twists & sidebands & seated cat/cow.

  • Walk & talk: add some steps to your day by taking a brisk lap around the school yard with a colleague.

7. Unplug & Recharge: Respect Your Downtime

As the day winds down, disconnect from work-related matters. Allow yourself to recharge. Engage in activities that you enjoy, whether it's reading, hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or simply enjoying moments of solitude. Know the difference between ACTIVE & PASSIVE rest, & keep a balance between the two:

  • Active rest: restful activities that keep your mind engaged & alert, eg. mindfulness meditation, reading a book, journaling, engaging in creative hobbies. Active rest may also include light physical activity, such as gentle yoga or walking.

  • Passive rest: relaxation without active mental or physical engagement. It often involves activities that require minimal mental effort, for example, watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

Try the Breathe2B LAY DOWN BODY SCAN to help you relax & prepare for restful night’s sleep:

Burnout doesn't have to be a given in your teaching career. By integrating these practices into your daily routine, you’re taking time out for you, for your self-care & nourishment. This proactive approach empowers you to tackle challenges with heightened focus & a mindset that's better equipped to overcome them. Your well-being matters, not just for avoiding burnout, but for fostering a sustainable & purposeful path in education.

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