Are you burned out? Three questions to ask yourself + the tools you need for support.

kaitlyn rapai looking out her kitchen window

Are you? I really don’t know, only you can answer that.

But I do know the patterns I’ve seen over and over in myself and in my colleagues right before they jumped ship.

And I know the tools that supported me and many others to shift out of burnout.

Question #1: Do you dread waking up and going to work in the morning?

The Sunday Scaries were real life for me for years. I had panic attacks every Sunday night about starting another week.

I wouldn’t sleep, ruminating on all of the meetings I had to go to with parents and admin that were a nightmare. I would try to anticipate all of the scenarios that might happen and how I could best deal with them. I worried about every upcoming interaction and how it would affect other people’s perception of me as a teacher and an employee.

Talk about trying to control the universe. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

No one wants to feel dread every day. On the spectrum of emotions, it’s one of the most negative available. If you’re feeling dread every morning before going to work, it totally makes sense that you would feel burned out.

Burnout support: Practice with this thoughtwork tool

If you are currently feeling dread, think about why. Your thought model might look something like this:

Circumstance: I currently work as a teacher at ___school and go to work at ___am

Thought: ?? (mine was “I can’t handle another day of this”)

Feeling: Dread

Actions: ?? (mine were spinning in my head, making up scenarios, and not sleeping)

Result: ?? (I failed to appropriately handle my days)

Once you come up with your own thought, action and result (you can borrow mine if they fit your situation), ask yourself, “If the whole spectrum of emotions was available at work, which emotion would I choose?” Then continue to fill in the rest of the model.

Circumstance: I currently work as a teacher at ___school and go to work at ___am

Thought: ?? (think of a thought that would bring up your chosen feeling)

Feeling: ?? (the new one you choose)

Actions: ?? (your new thought and feeling will cause you to take different action)

Result: ?? (your actions will lead to a different result, one that proves your thought true)

Question #2: Do you think of all the ways people acting differently would make your job easier?

If my principal didn’t ask for 7 page lesson plans every week. If we didn’t have to post all of our standards and learning targets for every lesson. If the parents would just read and understand the very clear email that I wrote about our holiday party instead of asking me 5,000 questions and calling me 20 times about whether they can bring Reese’s to our peanut free classroom. If my coworker would learn how to use her Smartboard instead of asking me for help every single day. So the thing about this is, thinking about all of the ways we would like people to act differently when we can’t really do anything to make them act differently, generally causes emotions like frustration, rage, anger, annoyance etc. Experiencing those emotions while being at work trying to teach small people to be better humans is usually not a great combo.

Burnout support: Thoughts and feelings that can serve you better

I had to spend some time (ok it was a lot of time over a long period and I am still working on it) thinking about how I wanted to show up at work each day, whether people acted the way I would prefer them to or not.

My favorite emotion to lean on in these situations is curiosity, and it looks something like this:

  • If I have to do a 7 page lesson plan every week, how can I use this to make myself and my teaching more effective?
  • How can the standards and learning targets I have to post actually be useful for my students?
  • How can I clearly communicate the parameters of the holiday party to my parents in the least amount of time to keep all of my students safe?
  • What could I do to spend less time helping my colleague with her Smartboard? Do I need to teach her and write down instructions instead of doing it for her every day?

Question #3: Do you criticize and negatively perceive yourself, your coworkers, admin, and students?

I don’t know about you, but my unexamined brain is a mean girl.

It’s mostly mean to me, but it can also do a pretty good job ripping apart the people around me. It’s especially good at letting me know exactly how other people should live their lives and a detailed account of what they are currently doing “wrong.” And also letting me know I should say those “suggestions” out loud to be “helpful.”So… judgy… my brain can be super judgy. Do you relate?

Burnout support: Shhhhh!

The number one thing I try to do (sometimes very unsuccessfully) is… shut up.

I know… let me explain. Our brains are programmed to protect us. That is our brain’s number one job. It wants to point out every little thing that might go wrong and how we should avoid it and so should our friend or colleague.

It is programmed to judge and evaluate and pick every little thing apart, but we don’t have to let it run wild. Since my brain can be especially judgy, I have to literally in my head tell it “stop,” “shut up,” or “that’s not helpful,” and saying these “suggested” thoughts out loud to my friend, colleague, student or their parents won’t be helpful either.

I’m constantly working on shifting my own thoughts. I have no business criticizing others who didn’t ask for my perspective, in my head or otherwise, and it also feels terrible. When I catch myself thinking something snarky, my next thought is that I’m a terrible person, and I feel shame. Shame is another super fun emotion on the spectrum of emotional choices.

So I just shut up, with my mouth and inside my head, until I have time to sit down and work on my thoughts. The idea is to be who I consciously choose to be instead of my default self.

If you want more info on how to recover from burnout and stop living as the default version of yourself, schedule a free intro call. I’d love to chat.