Letting Go Of Control And Creating Healthy Habits To Beat Teacher Burnout

Being a perfectionist, people-pleasing, or a control freak has become the routine in some schools, and it’s almost a rite of passage to being a teacher.

Thanks to social media and search engines, you can find many ways to color code, label, and use a custom font for every file, drawer, and worksheet you’ll ever encounter. Saying yes immediately, before thinking about whether you have the time, skills, and desire to do what someone asked you to do, is often assumed and expected.

In Hacking Teacher Burnout, veteran classroom teacher, podcaster, and Google trainer Amber Harper shares 5 ways you can let go of control and nurture your habits and strengths to finally be free of teacher burnout.

Slowly but surely, you’ve been falling into those traps and building harmful habits based on what you think pleases other people and looks good on Instagram, rather than developing healthy habits that soothe your teacher soul and allow you to tap into your natural strengths and abilities.

Also, you may have adopted unhealthy habits based on your beliefs about your time and worthiness. They are impeding your ability to achieve the growth necessary to get out of burnout. Have you found yourself adopting the following habits as “just the way teaching is”?

  • Planning, prepping, and grading on nights and weekends
  • Putting everything and everyone ahead of your well-being
  • Spending time beating yourself up about your weaknesses instead of knowing or focusing on your strengths
  • Adopting the practices of other teachers (even though they’re inefficient and ineffective) because you don’t want to offend them

These beliefs and habits are keeping you stuck in a perpetual state of anxiety and burning you out. Of course, you won’t have time to do things differently if you’ve convinced yourself that these beliefs and habits are just the way things are and that you’re powerless to change them.

Letting Go Of Control

If you label yourself as a control freak without diving deeper into your personality and top strengths, you’ll stick with the unhealthy habits that perpetuate your Type A status. You’ll just keep on with that burnout.

Knowing the relationship between habits and strengths is essential to beating burnout. If you know your strengths yet don’t have healthy habits to help you nurture them, you may waste them.

If you have healthy habits, on the other hand, but don’t recognize your strengths or look for opportunities to use them, you run the risk of becoming frustrated and bored—leading to burnout.

Knowing our strengths and weaknesses is only the start. We also must pay attention and analyze our everyday habits—and I’m not talking about brushing your teeth or biting your nails.

I’m talking about habits that influence our ability (or inability) to take the time to focus on our strengths and weaknesses, reflect on our challenges, understand our teacher brand, and acknowledge how we got burned-out in the first place. To beat burnout, we must heighten our awareness of our current habits.

Changing Your Habits

An important step in changing your habits so you can nurture your strengths is to know what your strengths are and what habits can be changed. Habits are hard to break, and it takes intentional action to build new ones. The same is true of your strengths. If you want to spend more time doing the things that empower you, you must know what they are. Creating positive habits and nurturing strengths will get you out of burnout and turn you into a teaching powerhouse.

Step 1: Do a daily habit analysis for one week.

What do you notice about how you spend your time, how you fuel your body and mind, and how often you’re moving your body? Ask yourself

  • What do you do with your downtime? 
  • What are you eating and drinking regularly?
  • How often are you intentionally moving your body?
  • Is there a common theme to what you spend time on?
  • Have you left time for personal growth and joy?
  • Are you so worried about being productive that you’re now working on autopilot and not feeling anything?

Now that you have visible proof of your healthy or not-so-healthy habits, you can make room for learning more about yourself and your strengths.

Step 2: Make sleep, eating healthy, and intentionally moving your body everyday priorities.

We all know it’s essential to take care of ourselves. However, sometimes we confuse self-care with self-indulgence. While we may enjoy wine on Friday night and doughnuts on Saturday morning, it’s important to balance them with a mostly healthy diet and active lifestyle.

We all know old habits are hard to break, but if getting out of burnout is important to you, and I know it is, you will want to practice hourly and daily self-care by living a healthier lifestyle. A healthy life will strengthen your body and mind and help you nurture your strengths and find new ways to utilize them.

Step 3: Take the Gallup Clifton Strengths assessment.

The Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment asks you questions that help you determine your unique talent DNA. Read your results, print them, highlight phrases, circle words, and cross out irrelevant ideas. Ponder your results. Truly interact and come to understand them. 

  • What do you find as the most outstanding result?
  • Did anything surprise you?

We all have skills to work on and skills to let shine. We all add value to the world, and that’s why we explore your personality type and strengths to create habits that allow you the time to nurture your skills.

Step 4: Build healthier habits around your commitments.

You obviously can’t tell your school administrators no when they add new students to your already-packed classroom, and you can’t say no when a student with whom you’ve made tremendous progress moves away. But you can say no when asked to be part of something that doesn’t align with your core values, mission statement, who you want to serve the most, and your goals.

If you are going to start saying yes to yourself, you need to be comfortable saying no to others. No doesn’t have to be rude. It doesn’t have to be loud. It just has to be verbalized.

Step 5: Practice positivity.

You can practice daily activities and habits to bring happiness into your life and routine. They take practice and intention but are helpful ways to turn a bad day around so you can focus on the good, even when life feels chaotic.

  • Force a smile for fifteen seconds.
  • Take three deep breaths before starting each class.
  • Say, “I am happy, I am calm” or “I am confident, and I am taking action.”
  • Keep a note each day of funny or positive things to share with your partner, spouse, roommate, or mom on your way home from work or over dinner.

When you’re burned-out, it’s hard not to get sucked into negative beliefs and habits that drag you even deeper into burnout. So many options and temptations are out there to make you feel that you need to focus on the look of your lesson, rather than on whether the contents meet your students’ needs, and whether it reflects your strengths and values as a teacher.

Creating habits of returning to your objectives and purpose for using a lesson or the way you organize your classroom will allow you to use your strengths as an educator. It will help you engage your students and ensure that you are helping them succeed when they’re with you. 


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