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Avoiding Academic Burnout: A primer on Self-Care

Posted on Monday December 23rd 2013

When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.  This an important rule for ensuring survival, if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask. The airlines have a point–we need to take care of yourselves as a step in being able to help others.

This rule is true in most facets of life, especially when we work with students. Think about the skills you use every day with students and co-workers…patience, problem-solving, communication, the list goes on and on. When we are tired and run-down, we are less likely to communicate clearly, use our innate sense of humor or telegraph enthusiasm for our work.

Working with students is often an endurance event with high potential for burnout. We need to be in great shape physically, emotionally and intellectually to do our best work. The end of the semester is the ideal time to take stock and recharge. Distance yourself from distressing events, forgive the unmet challenges, observe the lessons learned and most of all, plan for the future. Create a plan for self-care that can move us successfully through the semester and beyond.

Avoiding burnout should be a long term goal. The steps you take today make a difference tomorrow, especially When Teaching Grows Tired—a Wake-up Call for Faculty.

Consider these 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout, they can help you regain your teaching passion and capture that enthusiasm that brought you to the classroom in the first place. Creating a long re-charging to-do list is not the point. Look at self-care resources for teachers and be mindful of how each of these suggestions might improve your health, well-being and ability to do your work.  Treat these suggestions as a buffet, take what appeals and leave the rest

Mary McKinney, PhD argues that part of being a successful academic is taking steps to avoid burnout. Her website offers ideas about self-care, stress management and balancing the demands of work and a well-lived life. 


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