As we are coming to the end of another school year, I am noticing that June is filled with bleary eyed educators collapsing at the finish line.
We end up looking more like the owl on the right than we expect.
What is it about a full school year that leaves everyone — students, teachers and administrators — exhausted and weary and struggling to finish the year with energy? So often, educators are givers. We give so much of ourselves, our time, our energy that by the time we get to the end of the year we have nothing left.
This June I have met with more and more educators who are burnt out to the point of not being able to finish the year. We push and give so much, without an awareness of how we are depleting ourselves, that we crash instead of cruising into the end of the year.
Many of us are balancing busy work lives with raising families, caring for parents and managing our personal lives amongst these already full days. So, how do we finish a year without completing burning out? We are told self-care is the answer but finding the time and capacity for the self care (i.e. exercise, a massage, time to ourselves) seems so out of reach.
Emma Seppala, science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and the author of The Happiness Track (HarperOne, 2016) suggests that we need more than self-care to ensure our well-being.
In her article How to Give to Others without Burning Out she suggests that focusing on the following may help with our levels of burnout :
- SELF-COMPASSION. Self-compassion is treating yourself as you would a friend—with kindness rather than self-judgment—especially at times when you fail. Self-compassion is remembering that we all make mistakes, instead of beating ourselves up. And it means being mindful of emotions and thoughts without getting overly immersed in them.
- SOCIAL CONNECTION. Caring for ourselves also means seeking social connections, finding people can provide practical and emotional support when we’re struggling.
- EMPATHY and COMPASSION. It might seem counterintuitive that empathy—which includes attending to others’ struggles—would help us with our own, particularly for caregivers. One potential explanation for this finding is that, by developing feelings like compassion and empathy, we are protected from feeling distressed or overwhelmed in the face of suffering. When you truly connect with another person who is suffering, you can actually feel empowered and energized because you are inspired to uplift that person.
I believe that self-compassion, social connection and empathy are great practices to add to our self-care routines. If, as educators, we can practice both self-care and these concepts of giving, then perhaps we can slow the burn out in June and roll into the summer with our bodies, minds and hearts in tact.
Want to know more about educator well-being and self-care? Stay tuned for a big announcement coming soon!
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