Beating Burnout: How To Stay Mentally Strong For Your Students

Feb 27, 2017

By Judith Barass. Teaching, whatever the subject, can be wearing if your don’t look after yourself. You are putting yourself out there day after day. You put a smile on your face and you do your best to be understood, so your students can get the best out of what you are offering. But do you look after yourself?

Perhaps it’s time to invest in you. We are all happy to invest in training course, or in the latest gadget and so on, but your biggest asset is YOU. Some of the world’s greatest athletes don’t struggle with the physical element of the sport, but keeping themselves mentally strong throughout their gruelling training schedules.

If you get burnout then everybody suffers, home, family, students and more. The saying is ‘charity begins at home’ and that’s where to start with self care.

But how to start.

Don’t Go Overboard

It goes without saying to limit your classes. Remember for every class of an hour taught, there is three hours of prep.

Cutting back your lessons may not be financially practical for you. If possible, make the most out of the prep time, teach the same class as often as you can or use the same techniques.

But don’t stagnate. Perhaps you can change just part of your lesson; the music for dance teachers, the practical side of the theory lesson for others, just to breathe new life into something you know, and spice it up for you to teach.

Accept the Grind

What about the students themselves? It’s tough to admit, but they can be a drain on your energy especially if they have a negative attitude.

Now, it’s not our place to judge our students but, lets face it, some people thrive on negativity, some don’t even know they are doing it, and some may have something going on in their lives that we know nothing about, which is affecting their mood.

Don’t let this affect you. You have to stay positive for your students. It’s important — studies of college-age athletes found that the biggest burnout indicator was not physical exhaustion, but a negative attitude towards the sport (caring about it less or attributing negative qualities to it).

It’s hard to do but you have to build your own strategies for this. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Surround Yourself With Smiles

Surround yourself with things that make you happy, whether that’s friends, flowers or festivals. We all need down time and if it’s a few minutes listening to your favorite music between classes to recharge your batteries, then do it. If it’s a weekend off with no email access works for you, then make sure it is in your calendar.

I once hired a car that had black and white plaid seats, I don’t know why but that combination always made me smile as I climbed back in the car. That car would be great for me if I could drive it now between my classes.

It helps you be more resilient. In fact, a study found Olympic athletes with a sunny outlook find it easier to bounce back from defeat.

So, whatever brings a smile to your face and lifts you above all that’s come your way during a lesson, just do it.

Leave It All Behind

How about that when you get home leaving all you’ve picked up from class on the driveway? Or outside the back door?

This one takes practice but (if you master it) then it will benefit you. If it’s practical to do, leaving the energy-draining aspects of your day outside can help you to draw a line under a bad class or a negative experience and start afresh the next day.

Write It Down

I have started to write down all the positive comments I receive after a lesson. I don’t bother with the negative ones, it’s all too easy to dwell on those anyway and we need to move on from them so we can give our best at the next session.

You could even put all those nice comments in a jam jar and (if you’ve had a really bad day) — just pull out a few to remind you that you are a good teacher and the good times will come again.

Talk It Out

Sometimes do you come home and just want to have a good whinge? Talking through a difficult day is a great release — as long as you do it the right way.

When 17 national champion figure skaters were asked what coping strategies they use. More than three-quarters used “rational thinking and self-talk,” which is where the potential stressors are identified, you determine what you can control, and talk yourself through the problem rationally.

I’m not suggesting that you try all of these methods — unless you’re really at your wit’s end! But I hope there’s something in there that can help you.

And, whatever works for you, it’s important to keep your body and soul in a positive space to give the most to your students and your lessons. Positivity will breed positivity, and help you bring your A-game to every class.

Judith Barrass is a sports therapist with 30 years experience in the fitness industry, which includes health promotion and wellness.


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