And this year is without a doubt the worst it's ever been. So much so that early retirement rates are at an all time high and new educators are not sticking around either.
Even though I am not in the classroom anymore, I have most definitely been feeling the pangs of burnout lately, too. In fact, I had to do my own mini shutdown last weekend so I could gather myself. It wasn’t pretty. But I’ve been here enough times now to know how to get myself out of it and that is what I want to share with you today. My intention is to offer you a clear, four step process to dig yourself out before you decide it’s time to retire early, too.
Burnout is a loss of joy in what you once loved doing. Burnout is stress that feels neverending, like a heavy to-do list that has no end in sight. Burnout is pushing too hard for too long and now you’re dragging your feet to get from point A to point B (yes, even virtually) and having to seriously talk yourself into getting out of bed in the morning.
Burnout can impact your body in ways that can mimic depression, can leave you feeling sad, unmotivated or desireless, and oftentimes burnout manifests itself physically by showing up as illnesses, headaches and even nausea. In your physical space, everything feels like a chore, and it’s possible that your bed and the thought of sleeping in it is the only thing that brings you a semblance of joy.
How do I know?
I’ve experienced all of the above. Way too many times, to be honest. (You know I’m stubborn and learn things the hard way…). I’ve also watched people I love burnout so badly they’ve ended up in the hospital.
So all of this is coming to you with love, respect and a sincere desire to support you in avoiding the burnout bus.
With only 4ish months left on the academic calendar, how can we make it the best four months ever? Does that feel like mission impossible to you? Well, it’s not! And we will keep it super simple too to make it easy and keep you motivated! All it requires is a little bit of time, maybe 45ish minutes up front (depending on how organized you are with your calendar) and daily reminders that can happen while you are still in bed each morning! Didn’t I say it was simple?
Step one: Get clear on how you want to feel.
Right now, you are not living your best life because the burnout bus is running you over. So drag yourself over to the curb and take a seat. Just put a pause in everything else right now to take a moment and ask yourself one simple question: How do I WANT to feel?
And I don’t want you to rush through this and just take the first superficial answer that pops up and is probably coming from a place of obligation, guilt, judgment or shame. No-no, my love. It’ll just take a few minutes, but we gonna do this right.
Eliminate distractions if possible, and if not, let the distractions be part of the experience. Let them be what they are. Now, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. With your mind's eye, or energetically, just place all your stress and worries off to the side. For the next few minutes, they can stay where they are, sitting in a neat little pile next to you, letting you be you without them for a few minutes.
Eyes closed and hand on your heart, feel your breath leaving your headspace and sinking down into your heartspace, like chocolate fondue dripping from the top tier, or honey oozing off a spoon. Feel your heart lifting and filling with the breath of life - the thing that happens all day, every day without you even having to think about it. Feel gratitude for that and let it fill your beingness with love and light. Breath here for a few cycles, allowing your breath to get fuller and slower with each inhale and exhale.
Now imagine yourself on the last day of the school year, all your students have cleared their physical or virtual spaces, and you are there celebrating with your colleagues at the last staff gathering, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, congratulating each other for completing the toughest year in educational history. Be in that moment, let it be exactly how you want it to be. Let it be the dream of all dreams. Feel it in your body now and ask yourself:
How do you feel?
How does your best self feel on this last day of school?
How. Do. You. Feel?
Let the answer come from your heartspace. Let it come without judgment or ridicule. Hear the answer that is spoken and embrace that as your truth. Let it be a YES! It should feel like a “Yes YES!!” and like a breath of fresh air, a relief and a release, all at once.
What is the word? What is the feeling? Write it down in big block letters and move on to the next step.
Step two: Decide what it is going to take to make that happen.
And when I say decide on what it is going to take, I don’t mean creating a giant to-do list. No, sweetheart - I am talking about your way of being. What way of being do you get to be in order to feel the way you want to feel? Let me break down for ya like this:
If your word is excited, then what kind of person experiences excitement on a regular basis? What will it take from you to feel excited about life? What do you get to let go of and what do you get to bring in? What kinds of habits do you get to release or stack? What kinds of shifts get to happen with your internal conversations?
What will it take from you to go from feeling burnt out to feeling the way you truly want to feel?
Be honest, be truthful. But again, this is not a time for guilt, shame, blame and judgment. This is not a time to talk about what you NEED to do or stop doing - THIS my loves, is an opportunity. This is you CHOOSING who you get to be in order to feel the way you want to feel.
Write this out, journal about it, sketch it out on a whiteboard - whatever you feel called to do to process this, DO IT.
Step three: Create an inspired plan to bring that to life. There are loads of ways you can create a 90-120 day plan, many of which are just a few Google clicks away. I like to keep mine simple with a 4-columned flow chart:
So if you want to feel excited on the last day of school, write that word at the top of your plan. Now, each column flows and impacts the column to its right so consider one thing and then the next, all within the context and energy of excitement.
That means, you first consider the big events/important dates happening each month, and that influences your area of focus (ie. grades are due in March before spring break so an area of focus might be getting all grades inputted). Now, in the fourth column, you get to consider this: what do you get to do and who do you get to BE in order to bring excitement into your life given everything you’ve listed out in the first three columns? So, that could look like planning something fun and exciting for spring break! Woohoo!!
Step four: Be relentless.
90-day plans are all great, but they don’t mean shit if you don’t follow through.
This is YOUR life, your vision. So be relentless about it. Take little steps every single day to feel excited about life. Practice feeling that excitement in your body every single day. And it can be as simple as asking yourself the same question every single morning:
What can I do today to feel _____ (your big word)?
I just took a client of mine through this process last week. Burnout was making it hard for her to get off the couch. So I took her through this exact process and not only did her stress headache go away, but she also felt relieved and excited about the next few months, and she felt confidence in the guidance of an inspired action plan.
And if you’ve already been run over by the burnout bus and this does seem like mission impossible, let me help you. Click here for a free 30 minute session where we can get clear on this exact thing so you can end this year feeling your absolute best DESPITE everything that is happening. What I don’t want is for you to spend the next 4-5 months trudging to the end, just waiting to get to the finish line. No. Let’s celebrate your way through the finish line, every step of the way!!