Teacher Team Talk

7 steps to beat burnout

Ray Langan:[00:00:02]
Hey, everybody. Welcome to the teacher Team talk. It's Ray here. And I am so excited because today in this presentation, we've got seven steps to beat burnout. A big issue with teachers today is obviously stress, anxiety. A lot of teachers ask me, well, what about us? What about our well-being? And today I'm joined with an amazing teacher wellbeing and mindfulness coach Mary Bradley, who's in Loreto. Loreto, Letterkenny and Mary has seven steps to help be burn out. Mary, why are teachers today feeling so stressed, anxious and heading towards or feeling that bit burnt out? What's happening?

Mary Bradley:[00:00:44]
Well, I think a big thing in the news at the minute is job security. I think it's here all over the news now. It's a major issue trying to recruit and retain teachers, especially younger teachers. And I think it's because we have a really complex working environment we're working with. We're working with students, management staff. We're dealing with parents. We often have to deal with our communities as well and I think it's just a very complex environment and we have to be in moments, we have to be everything to everybody, and that's a very heavy load to carry at times. And there's a huge workload as well. So when you go home in the evening, we find a lot of teachers are going to be spending hours correcting or planning or even just staying around school to carry out their extracurricular, whether it's sports or clubs or committees. So there's a heavy workload. Also, while we're trying to move our students forward academically and trying to, you know, follow the curriculum, get them to their exams, we also now have to be very in tune with their wellbeing. And there's so much information and training coming all the time from the department about student wellbeing. And there's been so many changes in the curriculum over the last couple of years and Covid and everything. I think it's just all become very complex and very heavy. And um, I think in teaching there's this almost like this culture of that it's glorified to be doing everything for everybody and it can be just really hard to mind ourselves in all of that, that, um, we don't take on too much.

Ray Langan:[00:02:36]
And I know last year my teacher teamtalk a book that I was heavily or I'm heavily inspired by is Essentialism. And it's about saying no, the ability to be able to say no because as teachers, as carers and a lot of people who are empathetic or can be empathetic or want to help, obviously people with teaching because they want to empower and teach young people. And we we want to please people. And people are afraid to say no sometimes. So that's part of it too, isn't it?

Mary Bradley:[00:03:10]
Absolutely. And like as teachers, we often, you know, we go above and beyond every day in so many cases. And it's just, you know, being careful of ourselves and amongst all of that so that we can be the best versions of ourselves whenever we're in school and at home.

Ray Langan:[00:03:29]
The other day when we were talking, you said something really interesting. So you were talking about, um, when we start off. So when you started out as a teacher, how enthusiastic you were and how much you were into it and you wanted to volunteer and help and do all these amazing things, and then suddenly you're five, six, seven years into your career and things start to change. Um, just can you talk us through that journey? Because it's this being worn down kind of feeling, isn't it?

Mary Bradley:[00:03:57]
Yeah. And it is like whenever, whenever you're young, you do have more energy. And whenever you're brand new into a career, you're passionate and you're enthusiastic. And that kind of energy can be hard to maintain. And especially with younger teachers, I think the younger teachers are under a lot of pressure to be involved in everything that's going so that they can have it on their CV so that they can be a really attractive applicant whenever they're applying for their their permanent permission or their permanent contract. So I think you kind of get to a point then where you just can't sustain that. And, you know, especially after Covid, after Covid, I realized how much I was doing in school. And when I look back on it now, I'm like, how? How did I do that? Like, I was in for hours doing things after school or you'd be giving up your free classes to do things. And as you get older and maybe you. You start to see life in a different way. You realize that that's just not sustainable and that you have to have like a rich, a rich life outside of work if you're going to maintain your enthusiasm and if you are going to be the best version of yourself at home and in school.

Ray Langan:[00:05:13]
That's an interesting word, sustainable. And I suppose the purpose of this teacher team talk, we're going to go through seven steps. We have about 20 odd minutes to run through this. So, you know, this is really to give teachers seven steps to help them, you know, maintain that enthusiasm, to sustain them, to give, you know, teachers and anyone watching this a little bit of inspiration and motivation to help help them manage the school year. So what's your first tip to teachers out there, Mary?

Mary Bradley:[00:05:44]
My first tip is it's very, very simple, but it's take your breaks. So most of us will get two breaks in the day or we break and our lunch time and take it like I know it's very tempting to do a few corrections or you do your photocopying and, and there will be days where you just have to do that just to keep on top of yourself. But ultimately you need to take your breaks. Those breaks are there so that you can, you know, rebuild your energy so that you can, you know, even just get something to eat, get some water, get your coffee, whatever. And it's just, you know, minding your energy, just kind of rebooting, taking a breather. And even if it's only your 15 minutes or you're half an hour or 40 minutes, that needs to be a part of your day. And and I just think it's invaluable. And it's a great time as well to kind of connect with your colleagues and, you know, to hear about all the other things that are happening in the school. The staffroom is an incredible place where you can connect with your colleagues and your the management.

Mary Bradley:[00:06:51]
Everything's going on in the staff room and it's just really, really important that you take those breaks in the day. And likewise, take your weekend if you can avoid it. Don't be taking home stacks of corrections if you can avoid it. You know, midterm Easter, Christmas, take that break Teachers like. I feel like every Christmas, every Easter break, everybody comes back saying, Jeez, I was dosed with the flu for the whole of Christmas. I was dosed with the flu for the whole of Easter. And I think it's because our nervous systems are so excited throughout the year and the moment that we have time to breathe and feel safe, that's when our body can be like, okay, it's safe to be sick now. So it's you have to take your breaks, otherwise you're going to be saw a thing recently. If you don't take your breaks, you're going to be forced to take it at a very inconvenient time. So whether it's your summer holidays, your. Your 15 minutes, your Easter. Whatever it is, take it. And the long run it will help.

Ray Langan:[00:07:55]
That's great advice. And even if you have your cup of tea on the small break and for a lot of teachers, they could be out doing yard duty and, you know, doing a bit of stuff or talking to a student at the door or whatever it is. But getting that 5 or 10 minutes is crucial. It's a reset. What's the next bit of advice you give teachers? Uh, Mary.

Mary Bradley:[00:08:15]
Um, my next tip is know your why. So whenever. Whenever we all began teaching, we all knew why we wanted to get into teaching. And for me, I love working with young people. And I think. With everything between administrational work, between all these changes that are happening in the education system, between dealing with parents and colleagues and management and everything that's going on, it can be really easy to forget why you're there in the first place and what attracted you to that job. So like I remember it was a friend of mine said it, you know, if you're having difficulty making a decision or standing up for something or, you know, trying to decide what to do in a moment, bring yourself back to your why, Why are you in teaching? And ultimately, it's all for the good of our students. So that's what that's what I bring myself back to in situations where I don't know what to do and like, well, what's the best thing for my students here? And it might be different for other people. But on those days where everything just seems to be in on top of you and you think the system is out of whack and you know this, the day is out like everything is just getting on top of you. It's just bring yourself back. Well, why did I get myself into teaching in the first place and just ground yourself in that and just remember, like, don't have to be on top of everything every single day. But just as long as I'm kind of living and teaching in line with why I'm here in the first place, then I'm doing okay.

Ray Langan:[00:09:45]
That's really interesting because, you know, as you were talking about that and I just had to look up the Malcolm X quote, If you if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I love that. And it is going back to basics and kind of thinking back, well, why did I get into all of this? What's my why? Huge. And Simon Sinek has an amazing book. Start with Why and if no one has seen the TEDx Talk with Simon Sinek. Sinek That's a fantastic TEDx talk. And what what what would you say next?

Mary Bradley:[00:10:19]
I think sleep. Sleep is a major one. And it's so important for our mood, our immune system, our creativity, our productivity, our overall standard of life and overall health. Sleep is incredibly important. And I suppose there's so much information out there and we already know so much of it. You know, it's don't be looking at your screens. No caffeine or alcohol before bed. There's such stimulants, but just some other things that I find really helpful and I am definitely guilty of doing in the past and things like doing your corrections, sitting up in bed or doing your planning, sitting up in bed. Your brain is such an associative device that your brain is going to start to recognize that space as This is where I work. This is where my brain is active. This is where I'm stimulated and avoid. So avoid that. It's the same as avoiding your screens, any kind of screens, because it's all about that, you know, really stimulates you. It makes your brain really attentive. So avoiding that, any kind of work. So making sure that all you're doing in bed is resting and relaxing so that your brain recognizes those cues. Okay, I'm in bed. This is time to rest. Relax. This is not time to work. So your brain will start to recognize those cues. It will become, you know, to create that pattern. And another one that. And I think living in the climate that we live in, I think we're all very used to like walking up the heat and sleeping in a cool dark room is vital for a good night's sleep. Um, and especially, um, if you can, to sort of dim the lights around your house in the evening so that your body starts to kind of gradually recognize it's nighttime, your melatonin starts to kick in a bit more.

Mary Bradley:[00:12:15]
And like, I know it's, I know it's been said a million times, but that blue light on your screen, it sort of puts a block on your melatonin, which you need to sleep. And so keeping your those screens, keeping them out out of the bedtime routine altogether. Um, and again like that our minds especially as well, you know, as teachers I feel like I'm running through my whole day, that day and the next day in bed and, you know, that can make you start to feel a little bit anxious and worried. And when you have those feelings of anxiety creeping in, your your body and your brain are recognizing danger or fear and whether it's real or perceived, your body's going to react to that. So if your body thinks that there's something to be afraid of, it's going to protect you, it's going to keep you awake, it's not going to let you fall asleep. So it's just maybe doing a mind dump or some maybe meditation or mindfulness where you can start to manage those thoughts and start to get your body and mind into a really nice, calm place. And I know meditation and mindfulness isn't for everybody, but the data, the research is there. It's so, so strong that it's so good for getting your body and mind into that safe, relaxed place so that you can fall asleep and know a lot of us then as well, and are waking up in the middle of the night.

Mary Bradley:[00:13:40]
And especially if you're feeling anxious, your sleep can be quite fractured. So if you wake up in the middle of the night, try not to lie in bed any longer than half an hour, if you can get up and maybe again, avoid the screens if you can, but if you maybe do some stretching, if you put on a podcast and you might do a little meditation, something like that, that can just, again, you know, start to de-excite your nervous system. Because if you're lying in bed for over half an hour and you're starting to get, you know, you're watching the clock, I've only this amount of time, you know, your body is going to start to become tense and worried. And even a meditation if I know, again, going back to, you know, it's cold in the middle of the night and it's not maybe the most appealing thing to get up out of your bed, but a really nice thing you can do is just meditate. And if you don't want to lift your phone, a really nice thing to do is to be take yourself on a mental walk. So maybe it's a walk that you do day to day and just take yourself on that walk and notice all the little things, maybe a certain tree that you pass or a sign or whatever. So just it's your mind is kind of active and concentrated on something, but it's not too highly stimulated. So you should be able to kind of wind yourself back down into sleep then.

Ray Langan:[00:14:56]
That's a that's a great bit of advice because what's recognized now is the power of sleep, the importance of sleep. But so many people struggle with sleep. A couple of things that have helped me and you know, everyone, I have a really strong morning routine. But I started creating a night routine and one of the things put an alarm on my phone to actually go to bed. So this is not just to get up in the morning. It also is telling me it's time to wind down. So I put that alarm on for 1020 and I know when I'm on the road doing the seminars, I put in place a drink ban for, for a while. Um, and, and I find that very useful because, uh, probably the biggest thing that has an impact on my sleep anyway is, is, is alcohol. And I like my glass of wine and my beer like anyone else. Uh, but there's certain times where I just find because I'm so busy, I'm so active, I try to, uh, you know, go on a little, little, little, little spell with no alcohol. Um, and I know I went out with someone in the past who had a complete, total anxiety.

Ray Langan:[00:16:07]
She had a complete anxiety around sleep. And I know for some people they will lie in bed at night. So if I don't get to bed at 11, if I don't get there by 12, I'm only going to have six, seven hours. So this is all going on in the brain. And something that helped me, especially because I do a lot of traveling with the seminars and all over the country is if I can't get to sleep at a particular time at 12 or 1:00 and I have to be up at five, and you're thinking, Oh God, I'm only going to have four hours of sleep. I tend to go, Well, I got eight hours of sleep or six hours sleep last night. I got seven the night before. So that's seven and six is 13, plus four is 17. So over three nights I'm there. I'm nearly I'm roughly around six hours a night. So I'm grand and I find that helps me. So sleep is brilliant one. That's great.

Mary Bradley:[00:16:54]
I'm not acceptance. Accepting the fact that maybe you're not going to get a good night's sleep tonight. Tonight's not my night accepting that. And you can just lie there and rest, listen to your podcast or whatever, and avoid looking at the clock as well, because then it kind of, you know, that worry of, Oh, God, what if I fall asleep now? I'll have this amount or whatever. So if you can avoid looking at the clock and just start to accept, okay, I'm just lying here now and I'm just going to rest. Even if I don't fall asleep, I'm going to rest.

Ray Langan:[00:17:24]
Sleep is brilliant. That's great. What's number four, Mary?

Mary Bradley:[00:17:27]
Um, one thing that I have started doing now is before I come into my home in the evening, I just have a little ritual in the car so that I can let go of the day, that I can just anchor myself into the evening and whatever kind of went on during the school day that I'm not bringing that energy into my home. So whether you're living on your own or with a partner or family or housemates or whatever, that you can go into your house and be present in your evening and be present with the people around you, or just be present with yourself and enjoy, you know, whether it's your meal or going to the gym or whatever. And one thing that I do is I just sit in the car and I just take a couple of breaths. Just some nice, easy, gentle breaths in and out. Other days I might just sit and finish listening to the song that's on the radio. And it might for everybody. It'll be different. And it's just creating that little moment where you decide, making that conscious decision, deciding, okay, that was work. Now I'm home and shutting that off, shutting off that brain, that busy work brain. That's you know, the students said that to me today or you know that test and go, well, that lesson didn't go well or such and such said this to me. And it's you know, it's easy to spiral and bring that into your evening. But just for even if it's just two minutes, just sitting in the car before you turn the key in the door, just and it might not work every time. This might not work for lots of people. And, you know, maybe you do need to go in and have a couple of minutes where you vent to whoever's there, but just making sure that that energy, whatever it is, doesn't carry the whole way in through your evening and through your night and into the next day. Try to cut it off if you can.

Ray Langan:[00:19:13]
That's fantastic, because that's literally it's the transition from your work day into your family and your home life. So I saw this with one dad who was always working and he was always working very busy executive. And what he realized was he wasn't spending enough time with his kids. He wasn't in dad mode. So he created a ritual or a thing that he was going to be home by whatever time, 6 or 7 p.m. But when he came into the house, he literally changed clothes, got into a different shirt, he put on a cap, and he turned into this, like, deadly dad. And now, now it was time to go into dad mode or, you know, go into a different mode. And that's one of the things I even talk to students about, you know, stay in your uniform up until you get your homework done and then change. So it's about this transition from work to home life that's fantastic. And it's that whole thing of and I think you said those magic words, letting go. So that's a big part of it, too. Great. What's what's next on the list?

Mary Bradley:[00:20:17]
And boundaries and think boundaries are so important in every element of our lives, whether it's, you know, family, relationships, anything, but especially when it comes to work and think, especially in teaching because there's so much happening and it can be really hard to say no to things because you think, well, the students need this or the school needs this, and you can often end up then spreading yourself far too thin. And you know, the things maybe that you are really passionate about, those things, maybe those extra curricular things are your subject. Those things end up kind of not getting the attention or they don't get the best of you. So and like I said before, it's this thing and teaching of going above and beyond all the time. And there is a place for that, of course. And I think as teachers we do. We do end up going above and beyond a lot, but just being careful, paying attention to what gives you energy and what drains your energy. Because I know I'm involved in a couple of things in school and they really excite me and I'm so energized by them and I'm really passionate and creative when it comes to those things. And then maybe over the years, there's other things that I've been involved in that I'm not so passionate about, and they end up draining me. And, you know, I very easily could have opted out of those things or said no to those things. But maybe in my kind of eagerness and my youth, I said yes to them. And I think if I had learned to say no a little bit earlier on in my career, maybe I could have avoided, you know, some of the stress maybe that I experienced.

Mary Bradley:[00:21:51]
So I just feel like we're perfectly within our rights to say no. And when we say no, they'll find whoever it is, they'll find another solution. And it's just. If the the first couple of times you say no to things, it's hard. It is hard and it takes practice. But just being very aware of what you say yes to. Um, in school life and even, um, when it comes to the relationships maybe that you have in the staff room as well, you know, in every workplace and every walk of life, there are people who will sit in that negativity. And, you know, I'm not saying you avoid those people or anything, but just being aware of how, how you feel in certain conversations maybe, or in certain moments, things like that. So just being aware of your boundaries and you don't even have to go around saying, Well, this is my boundary, this is my boundary. You just make a decision in yourself and you decide, Well, that's something that I'm not comfortable talking about in the staff room and I just won't partake in that conversation. Or this year I'm going to give my energy to X and Y, and that means I'm going to have to say no to this. And I am not going to allow myself to work any longer than whatever in the evenings and on these evenings, I'm not going to work at all. Or maybe it might be not checking your work email beyond a certain time or whatever through the weekend and things like that. And they don't have to be these big things. It's just little things that you can do to just be careful of, again, just being careful of what you give your energy to.

Ray Langan:[00:23:28]
And I think just to clarify, when you say boundaries, are you talking specifically, you're talking about time, time boundaries. You're talking about people boundaries. You're talking about even with conversations, conversations with certain teams. So you're talking about. In your brain, in your mind, you've made a decision, I'm not going to get involved in that type of conversation. I'm going to cut off at this time. Could you just clarify what you mean, what exactly you mean by by boundaries?

Mary Bradley:[00:23:59]
Well, I think you kind of summed it up well. It's just deciding what it's like putting a wall up in front of yourself, like whether it's, you know, physical or emotional or whatever. It's just deciding what you're comfortable taking on. And it's maybe I might, like you said, am I comfortable taking on and being a part of that conversation? Am I comfortable giving all of my time to this? Is that going to end up being detrimental to my own well-being if I say yes to all of these things? So it's just yeah, boundaries is a it's a very it's a multifaceted, complex thing, but in its essence, it's really simple because you just you're just doing things that to mind yourself. And often it's having to say no to things or stepping away from maybe different conversations or people.

Ray Langan:[00:24:52]
And you're absolutely right, because I always ask myself this question, Is this giving me energy or is it taking my energy away? Is this person is this WhatsApp group giving me energy or taking my energy? Yeah.

Mary Bradley:[00:25:05]
And it could even be that turning off your notifications, things like that.

Ray Langan:[00:25:09]
Exactly. One things that I've done is take all the social media off the home screen of my phone, and I found that very useful and helpful as well. Yeah.

Mary Bradley:[00:25:22]
Um, so bouncing off that, I suppose that number six is the social support in school and like I work in a staff room and maybe 60, 70 people and um, I just find the social support in school is amazing that, you know, I know you're not going to get, you're not going to be best friends with everybody. You're not going to, you know, be, you know, have a close relationship with everybody. But having your people in school and knowing this is a person that can come and vent to that are a safe person, that can be excited with or, you know, can you have those relationships in school because you all have this common experience. And it's nice to have somebody who understands and who can listen. And, you know, when you come home in the evening and you're like, Oh, that my leaving search does not get Hamlet today. Like they just didn't do know what I did wrong. And my husband, they're trying to tell me what to do. And I'm like, I'm sorry. What do you know about Hamlet? It's and it's obviously it's coming from a very good place. But, you know, it's really nice.

Mary Bradley:[00:26:26]
Like having, like, the department that I work with, my school is amazing. They're so supportive and it's great to be able to bounce ideas off them. And then, you know, in other conversations, it could be just just having the crack. And it's just so important that in the heaviness of school life or in the kind of chaos, the hecticness of it, that you can have, you know, your fun, your lighthearted conversations, you can have the crack with your friends. And I just think it kind of goes back to that point of taking your breaks as well. That's where you build all those social connections and you might, you know, you might just have the people that you kind of sit with every day or it could be people in department, it could be something, you know, the people that you do your coaching with, you know, there's so many opportunities for connection in school. And as human beings, we thrive on connection. So I just think it's really important that we that you give yourself the time and space to foster those connections and make, you know, have make good friends on your staff.

Ray Langan:[00:27:26]
Now we've got one left. We've got about 60s. So okay, 60s are left. What is tip number seven?

Mary Bradley:[00:27:35]
It is pick one, pick one non-negotiable every single day. So with all the advice I've given you, all the wellbeing advice in the world out there, make sure there's one thing, one non-negotiable every day that you do for yourself.

Ray Langan:[00:27:49]
One that's brilliant.

Mary Bradley:[00:27:52]
Do five. But every day, at least one.

Ray Langan:[00:27:54]
Can you give me an example of one thing that you might do?

Mary Bradley:[00:27:58]
Um, well, for me, it's even if I have to do it just while I'm falling asleep, it's meditate. Um, like, ideally, what I'd love to be doing is get up and, you know, do a bit of yoga, read, meditate, have a nice breakfast. But that's not my reality. That's not how my life goes in the morning so often it'll be just ten minutes at bedtime and that's the only place I get it. And I think there's so much advice out there when it comes to minding your wellbeing and you can feel guilty that you're not doing all these things and it can be really overwhelming. And the thing is, we're all different. Different things are going to work for different people. We're all living in different circumstances, different realities and different interests, different priorities. So whatever it is, whether it's sitting and having your breakfast or going for a run, taking your dog for a walk, meditating for 5 to 10 minutes, having a cup of tea in a room on your own, whatever it is, it's just if you can even just manage one thing. Then you're doing well being conscious of that. There's a great.

Ray Langan:[00:28:57]
Book called The One Thing, and I know my one thing is bringing my dog Lulu for a walk every day. I have to be, yeah, in the mornings, in the evenings. But it's amazing having a pet or an animal or, you know, going for a little jog or run or whatever it is. Pick one thing. I love that. So, Mary, I just want to acknowledge you. I just want to say a huge thank you for all of those. They're fantastic.

Mary Bradley:[00:29:20]
Thanks for having me.

Ray Langan:[00:29:21]
Hope I hope all the teachers watching this teachers get a raw deal. I think they get a hard time. And I know it's it's as you said, it's a job that's become so complex, it's become so much expectations. The whole dynamic of teaching has changed. The whole dynamic of adolescence and teenagers has changed. There's so much pressure today. We live in this busy world, technology driven world. And, you know, people have been getting caught up in this cycle of busyness. So hopefully out of this conversation today, people have got a couple of nuggets. I just want to acknowledge you, Mary, and I want to acknowledge all the teachers out there, because it is a very difficult role today. But, you know, in this technology driven world, you always have to remember that for that 30, 40, 50, 60 minutes, you are that person's one good that that your students one good adult, you know. And we do have the power to empower, to influence, to inspire young people. It's a very privileged position. It's a very privileged situation. And I just want to acknowledge all the teachers out there for the tremendous work. I'm in schools all over the country in staff rooms, and I see what's happening out there and people work very hard and there are a lot of passionate people and a lot of inspirational people out there. So I just want to acknowledge everybody for the work you're doing. Hopefully this gives you a couple of little ideas to serve as some inspiration and motivation. So thanks, Mary. Thank you. For anyone who's watched this on that note, it is your job now to go and do your one thing for the day. So take care, salon, guys, and hopefully we'll see you somewhere down the track. Take care, Salon. Goodbye.