By Kristen Stevenson

It is Blursday of the 21st month of the Covid-19 pandemic and…We. Are. Over. It. We are deep in the midst of burnout, the “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). We keep thinking that the pandemic is almost over when…nope! Not yet. It reminds me of childhood road trips in which, between naps and the occasional backseat brawl with my younger brother, we would incessantly ask, “Are we there yet?”

Standish Stewart (2021) outlined six tips for combating and preventing burnout.  We know that we should be taking care of ourselves during this time. We know that we should help our students cope with this craziness by providing an accessible course, flexible due dates, and an approachable, student-focused demeanor. This is all easier said than done, though. So, from one overachiever to another, let’s start small and pick something that you can add today to help you feel better.

  • Set Boundaries with Yourself. Find small things that you can let go of that will make your life easier. It may be as simple as telling your students that you will respond to emails sent after 8 pm the following morning on most days (unless a major project is due). In your own work, you may be able to renegotiate a deadline or delegate a task to someone else. These things add up.
  • Carve Out a Few Minutes Each Day for Reflection. Slow down the constant motion for five minutes to yourself, even if it just means locking the bathroom door and standing in the shower a little longer. Pause in the stillness to bring clarity to your life.
  • Define What “Balance” Means to You. Find your happy place to find your balance, which may be very different from your partner, children, friends, or colleagues. If you need to go for a run, practice yoga, read, create a craft…you get the idea. Do what makes you happy. Finding balance in your life is not frivolous.
  • Integrate Things That You Love to Do with Things That You Have to Do Every Day. If you are an extrovert, you need that time with other people to energize you. Likewise, introverts, do not feel guilty for needing downtime. Schedule your meetings and to-do list accordingly to nourish you.
  • Give Yourself Permission to Go More Slowly at Times. When the world shut down in March 2020, many people hoped that life would return to the way it was by early summer. What we thought was going to be a sprint has turned into a marathon.  Give yourself permission to slow down before your stressed-out body forces you to take a break.
  • Work in 5-Minute Increments During Times of Chaos. Dedicate just five minutes to a task that feels overwhelming in the chaos. If you feel good afterwards, schedule five more. If you have reached your limit, well done! Take a break.

It is good to keep in mind that taking care of ourselves makes us better humans in all aspects of our lives, including in the classroom. While we may have the perspective of how to nurture ourselves, many of our students may not have insights yet. So, as a bonus round, below are listed 10 happiness practices a doctor prescribes to his patients. The article Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center describes the science behind why these tricks work!

  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • Call an old friend.
  • Give someone a hug.
  • Help a friend in need.
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Sing in the shower…or anywhere.
  • Dance to your favorite song.
  • Go for a walk in a beautiful place.
  • Forgive someone.
  • Talk to yourself in a kinder voice.

Just for today, pick just one thing that you can do to make your life a little easier. You may even want to do these with your students in a #SEL moment as a face-to-face or online discussion. We are in this together.