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Your Well-being

Tackling burnout

New York Teacher

Educators have stressful jobs with long hours and a range of interpersonal challenges. Whether coping with difficult student behavior or competing demands from parents, administrators and colleagues, work can be tough. The ongoing pandemic adds another layer of stress, and it takes an emotional toll on everyone’s sense of well-being.

Whatever your profession, you may be feeling some degree of burnout. That’s the term for the physical and emotional exhaustion resulting from work-related stress.

People may also experience burnout from the emotional anguish they experience when they hear about the first-hand trauma experiences of someone from their work or personal lives, or from current events. Hearing about mass shootings in the news is an example of the kind of recurrent, traumatizing events that can exact a psychic toll. Secondary traumatic stress can cause people to shut down emotionally as a coping strategy.

Signs of burnout

  • Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
  • Experiencing physical and mental exhaustion.
  • Becoming irritable or impatient.
  • Isolating from others and withdrawing from activities you previously enjoyed.
  • Feeling disillusioned about your job or work identity.
  • Having trouble sleeping and experiencing headaches or other physical complaints.

Addressing burnout

  • Find time each day for yourself. Even short increments, like a five-minute guided meditation, can help.
  • Establish a good work-life balance. A strong boundary between work and personal life will help you recharge when you leave work.
  • Make time to see friends and family. Those who make you the happiest can provide a needed respite from work-related stress.
  • Make time to laugh. Try to incorporate humor into your work to lighten the mood for yourself and your students.
  • Try deep breathing, yoga, Zumba or another form of exercise you enjoy. Physical movement can change your mood in a positive way, acting as a stress reliever. It will boost your endorphins and distract from daily worries.
  • Get mental health support. A good place to start is the UFT Member Assistance Program for its free individual counseling, virtual workshops and support groups, which are offered on a continuing basis. MAP can also refer members to longer-term counseling and treatment offered by other providers.

Call the UFT Member Assistance Program at 212-701-9620 to speak with a licensed clinician or email