Avoiding November Burnout

Ever had the experience of getting back into an exercise routine? Perhaps you’re pumped up? After all, it has been a while and it might have taken quite a bit of effort to psych yourself up. You don’t want to lose that energy and have to start over again.

If you don’t overdo it, this first period of getting back into the groove can be uncomfortable but ultimately satisfying as you find your stride. If you do over do it, however, you can find yourself hampered by those aching muscles, and the process of getting back into things can take even longer.

Training for the Long Game

The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. Although the first week or two in September can feel like we have to turn on the afterburners just to keep up, this should be only temporary. Getting back our stamina is a natural part of getting back into the swing of things.

However, after this initial period has passed it is important that we begin to settle into a groove. If we set a pace that is too quick we risk fading well before the finish line.

So here we are at the end of September. Ask yourself, “Am I settling into a sustainable pace?” “Am I overdoing it?” We know intuitively that attempting to sprint through 10 months is both unrealistic and ultimately unhelpful. A runner who collapses or has to drag themself across the finish line is not going to be much help to the people around them.

For some of us this may be enough: taking note of our pace and making adjustments. However, for many of us this could be a real challenge. “I couldn’t possibly slow down now, there is just too much to do.” Or, “I’ll just push myself for another few weeks, then things will lighten up.” But then report card season starts and all of a sudden we’re put back in the same position…

Asking Hard Questions

If we are able to bring ourselves to look objectively at our situation, we may find that we our state of affairs is unsustainable. We might be faced with the painful reality that something is going to have to give. The question then becomes, will it be your health that suffers? Your relationships with your loved-ones? The non-teaching pursuits that nurture you?

Saying “I don’t have the resources to take that on right now” doesn’t have to mean anything other than just this. For some reason there is a prevalent mental model among us that these statements mean we don’t really care about our students enough.

I would counter with this: does burning yourself out truly serve them any better?

Approach the year like a marathon rather than a sprint. Everyone around you will be served better by it and you might even get a chance to enjoy the scenery at the same time.

Your Thoughts

What are the barriers you find that challenge your attempts to find a sustainable pace in the fall? What are some things that have worked for you? How can we leverage those in our support network – at school, at home, and virtually – to help keep us in marathon mode?

About the Author

Christopher Lawley

Christopher empowers teachers to live healthier, more balanced and fulfilling lives. His teaching experience includes Grades 2 to 6 in Toronto's inner-city and Grades 7 to 12 at a private school in Tokyo, Japan. He loves yoga, meditation, movies, comic books and spending time with friends. He can be reached at chris@staffroomwellness.com.