Published 8th November 2019

International Stress Awareness Week: How to Avoid Burnout as a TEFL Teacher

November 4 to November 8, 2019 is International Stress Awareness Week. In this day and age we are all aware of stress and we all have those days (or weeks or months!) when we’re more stressed than usual. A little bit of stress in our lives is not necessarily a bad thing and can push us to be more productive or make necessary changes to our daily lives. However there comes a point when stress becomes a very negative force in our lives and it is essential that we know when this point is and we know how to deal with it. In this piece we will look at some ways to avoid burnout as a TEFL teacher.

Even better, we need to know before this point so we can avoid total meltdown altogether. Being a TEFL teacher can at times be a dream job. Generally speaking you should be enjoying every day at work and looking forward to walking into your classroom. With so many amazing travelling opportunities and cultural experiences on your doorstep, how could a TEFL teacher be stressed, right? 

Wrong. Being a teacher can be stressful in itself but add on the experience of living in a new country and you’ve got a recipe for burnout. In honour of stress awareness week, here are five signs you might be too stressed and a few tips on how to cope. 

5 Signs you’re on the verge of burnout:

You’re grumpy. 

All. The. Time. We all have moods but when you find that you’re in a bad space every day from the moment you wake up, then it’s time to consider whether something in your life needs to change.

You can’t sleep, or you can’t wake up.

Stress affects our sleep in different ways. Some people can’t fall asleep when they’re stressed or they keep waking up during the night. Other people will be tired all the time and will have problems getting out of bed. Any change in sleep patterns should be considered a possible indication of stress.

You’re hormotional.

Men as well as women can be more emotional than usual then they’re stressed, and this is only exacerbated by sleep problems. If you feel like your hormones are out of whack or you’re prone to emotional outbursts with little provocation, you can thank stress for that. 

You can’t seem to shake that bug.

When we’re run down and stressed we get sick more easily but we also find it harder to get well again. So you’re not feeling great because you’re, well, not feeling great.

Our diets go out the window.

Stress can make us eat and drink more than usual. Many of us eat for comfort and drink to relax, so when we’re stressed we make ourselves feel better by having that piece of chocolate cake or pouring ourselves another glass of wine – which is totally fine, just not every day.

International Stress Awareness Week: How to Avoid Burnout as a TEFL Teacher

How to deal with stress as a TEFL teacher

If you are experiencing a few of these symptoms then chances are that you are stressed. In the TEFL world we refer to this as burnout. It often happens as a result of working too many hours or working hard but playing hard too. In other words, you are so caught up in life that you don’t have the time or energy to look after yourself. 

But it’s essential that you do, so here are a few things you can do to keep your stress levels in check:

Clear your calendar. 

If you find yourself doing something every minute of every day, this will prevent you from taking the time to just be. We’re not saying you need to meditate or stand on your head or anything, but you should make some time every day to do something you enjoy that’s not related to work. Read a book, have a bath, go for a walk, watch Netflix – anything, as long as it’s what you want to do.

Be mindful of what you eat.

Easier said than done, we know, but it makes such a big difference. We’re not saying you need to survive on lettuce leaves and kombucha, but try not overindulge every day. Be good at least 80% of the time and allow yourself a few treats here and there, but pizza should not be your go-to dinner.

Talk about it. 

Stress multiplies when you don’t talk about it. Chatting to someone about your heavy workload, your relationship problems or your difficult students will make the issue more bearable. It will also give you ideas on what you could do about the situation.

Being stressed is a slippery slope – once you become stressed it can be difficult to control and it can blow up into something much more serious. Taking care of yourself should always be a priority to make sure you are living the best life. 

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