Weeks into the summer holiday, many teachers are still experiencing the stressful fallout of last term. For some, this is the exhaustion of burnout. For others, worries about the upcoming school year are already on the horizon. But there are simple steps you can take to build a positive mindset, strengthen your stamina and approach the new year with less anxiety and greater expectations of success.
The approaches I offer here come from my background as a neurologist and teacher. The methods I suggest have been helpful for my own students in overcoming exam and work stress, and they are useful for teachers who face similar challenges.
Don’t waste mental energy on blame
Teachers often hold themselves responsible for problematic student behaviour, failure to cover every required topic in depth or not adapting instruction to suit the needs of individual students. If you feel this way, know that you are not alone but part of a growing number of dedicated and resourceful educators who feel oppressed by increasing pressure and dwindling resources.
Teachers who question their ability to fulfil excessive demands are often those who hold themselves to the highest standards. But when circumstances limit one’s ability to be in control, self-doubt builds, confidence drops and burnout can emerge. Start rebooting your positive mindset by recognising that these concerns are not a reflection of your teaching skill.
Understand your brain’s stress mode
The brain has a system that strengthens the memories and emotions that are most frequently used or experienced. The term for this, neuroplasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change or adapt in response to thoughts and experiences.
A little background on neuroplasticity: all memory is held in the brain’s neurons and each neuron only holds a tiny bit of a memory. But when connections form among neurons holding the information, it becomes a brain circuit holding a retrievable idea.