Ever take a holiday break, then come back to work feeling even worse? It’s more common than you might think for teachers.
Nothing will remind you of all of the factors of your job that burn you out, more than not having to deal with them for a week or a few days. The break serves to create a clear contradiction between your exhausting work life and a completely relaxing one.
This can be especially harmful when teachers “live for the break.” Once you start counting down the days to holiday breaks, it puts massive pressure on that break to right all the wrongs of the school year and help you feel better. Whether you leave the break feeling better or not, it will again remind you of how difficult your job actually is.
So how do we bounce back from a break feeling refreshed rather than full of dread? Here are 3 tips:
Rest, but don’t Stop
There are plenty of burnout coaches who make tons of money off of educators by telling them to stop over breaks. They will say things like “eat all the ice cream, binge all the Netflix shows, cancel all the plans.”
Chasing the feel goods will set you up for failure when you return to work. It’s like gas mileage on a car… You will make it much further by coasting at slow speeds rather than slamming your brakes and slamming your gas pedals over and over again.
You should rest on breaks! But resting should not mean a complete stop. Sticking to healthy habits like exercising and positive sleep routines will make returning to work much easier. You do not need to work on lesson plans, but you should continue to enjoy your passions and learn more about the things that give you life. Reading books, taking digital courses, or learning from a mentor will not prevent you from also enjoying a Netflix binge.
Get to the Root of your Burnout Contributors
What has you dreading work, specifically? From that list, what do you have control over? What can you do about the things you do not have control over?
These questions should guide the reflections you make over break. We often talk about the “Sunday scaries” in education – the feeling teachers get when they realize the weekend is over and it is time to return to the classroom. We don’t often talk about why we feel it.
Address your Sunday scaries. Make it visible to yourself and understand the factors that make your job feel unbearable. Then, confront those factors. Fix what you can fix. Discuss with your school leadership the barriers to your success. Taking action, even if you cannot solve all of the very real problems you face, will at least have you moving forward with confidence rather than shirking away with dread.
Where can you find gratitude in teaching?
Find the sources of your gratitude. Pick out the things that make you feel good, blessed, and honored to be an educator.
This is a very important note so please do not skip this. Being grateful does not invalidate your negative feelings or the very real pressures you face as an educator.
However, coming off of a break, it is easy to focus on the negative and forget the gratitude. We must have balance to create a sense of stability in returning to work.
Try it. “I am grateful for…” and fill in the blank with as much as you possibly can. Allow that to claim headspace along with the fears and doubts you may hold. Balance will smooth over your return from break.