5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself and Avoid Burnout

Image of water and trees


Art Education and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Art teacher burnout is a very real thing. We love our jobs, and we love to work with our students, but the dramatic change to our daily routine has taken its toll! The weight of adjusting to teaching online can feel overwhelming. As educators, we often put our students’ needs well before our own and don’t take proper care of ourselves. After having to switch to online learning so quickly, things have moved at a rapid pace. Needless to say, self-care has not been our top priority.

You may have heard a flight attendant explain, “You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help somebody else.” If we apply this advice to teaching, we need to make sure that we are the best version of ourselves to effectively meet the needs of our students. To do so, we need to avoid teacher burnout at all times by practicing self-care, mindfulness and keeping your spirits high as much as possible.

Sometimes the best way to avoid burnout is to retreat from your work and spend the evening or weekend doing something for yourself. Here are a few suggestions of things to do to give yourself a break.

5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself and Avoid Burnout

1. Take a hike.

Fresh air, scenery, and physical activity can be a great change of pace for your mind, body, and spirit. You’ve probably spent the winter inside your classroom, sitting at your desk looking over lesson plans and stressing over the challenges of the day. More recently, you’ve been in front of a computer screen, hosting online meetings, and answering student emails around the clock.

nature view

The next chance you get, take a hike outdoors. This doesn’t have to be a grueling or strenuous hike, but could simply be a stroll around your block or a nearby scenic area. Take time to craft the perfect playlist of positive music. If you’re going for a leisurely walk, keep the song selection to mellow and calming tempos. For those of you who are looking to pick up the pace, be sure to select upbeat, motivational songs to keep pushing yourself.

If your home is currently in a state of chaos and nonstop noise, then maybe a playlist isn’t necessary. Sometimes a hike alone can be the best time to let your mind work through all that you have on your plate. Leave the headphones at home and just walk in silence with your thoughts. You may be surprised at how much better you feel. We tend to carry along a lot in our minds without ever taking the time to listen. These are the thoughts that keep us up at night. A hike alone may just mean a better night’s sleep!

2. Visit a museum.

You probably became an educator because you love learning! Escaping teacher burnout does not mean you need to stray away from all things art and/or educational. These things still bring you joy. Several museums have elevated their online content to serve the public in new and interesting ways.

The Shedd Aquarium has recently been posting field trips, where animals like penguins roam the facility and visit other animals and habitats. The videos are heart-warming, calming, and often amusing as you watch animals out of their ordinary setting and exploring. These video clips are a welcome alternative to twenty-four-hour news programming. It’s important to be informed, but a cute penguin video is good for you, too!

Enjoy exploring different museums online for yourself. Your mind needs the pure joy of discovering new and interesting things. You may find an exhibit or activity you can share with students through eLearning, but save those thoughts for later. Be mindful of the time you are spending for yourself and have fun!

For more virtual museum tours, check out the American Alliance of Museums.

3. Virtually meet with friends.

Hiking and virtual museum tours are great opportunities for us to think, explore, and reset. While those are important for self-care, it’s also necessary for us to stay connected with loved ones. As time goes by, we may feel more and more isolated from those outside our home.

Reach out to friends and family and make an effort to set a time to meet. You may have different schedules or even live in different time zones, but chances are, there are at least a few minutes in the day, where you could share a cup of coffee together online.

zoom meeting

Ask your loved one when is a good time, and what virtual service they are most comfortable with. In education, many of us are using Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts for our students’ eLearning. Your friends may be more comfortable taking a video call over Facebook Messenger, Skype, or FaceTime. Find out what they already know how to use, and try to make that work.

If this week is busy, pick a day for the following week. Send an e-invite. Put it on your calendar, and ask them to do the same. Make this part of self-care a priority. You need an outlet to express how you are feeling with friends and family, beyond just those who you are quarantined with. Plan something fun but simple. Have a beverage, watch a show, play a game, or just vent for a few minutes. Talking and seeing your loved one will help put your mind at ease.

4. Log on to a concert.

Live music is a great option to escape reality for a while. You can forget about the classroom, school challenges, and any work you have to do. In the moment, you’re enjoying one of your favorite bands, groups, or singers.

Unfortunately, attending a live concert in person is not going to be our reality any time soon. However, many musical acts are taking to social media to perform live from their homes. These concerts can be a real treat for fans as they get to see and hear their favorite performers in a more intimate setting.

Tiny Desk Image

Check out your favorite musical acts on social media or at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series. Chances are some of them are planning special online content for fans. Grammy award winner, H.E.R., has launched a weekly Instagram Live series called, “Girls with Guitars.” Each week, the artist performs her own music, as well as covers, and highlights other women guitarists and performances and conversation.

Live music can be a great escape. You can enjoy reminiscing, singing along, and forgetting about work for a while! While watching on a screen is certainly not the same as being in a concert venue, you can enjoy watching and listening with other fans all over the world.

5. Binge a new series.

While we’re in this new reality of working from home, sometimes your work spreads into the time that’s normally reserved for ourselves and our families. Be sure to set boundaries for when you’re going to focus on school work and eLearning. It’s important to leave time for your personal needs as well.

Instead of obsessing over eLearning, set aside one afternoon or evening where you can sit on the couch, relax, and watch something on TV by yourself, or as a family. Stream a new series or movie, or watch one of your old favorites. Introduce your loved ones to a show that always made you laugh. Try to pick content that will be a positive escape from reality and lift your spirits.

Let your mind take in a bit of junk for a while! Escapism in moderation is good for you. Hopefully, you will return to your schoolwork feeling a bit more rested and not as stressed.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be our best for our students. Now more than ever, we may be feeling a bit worn down. Take the time to invest in your own peace and happiness. In doing so, you’ll be more positive for your students and that energy will hopefully comfort them in this uncertain time. The world needs great art educators, so please take care of yourselves!

How are you practicing self-care in this new reality?

What activities help you feel refreshed?

What show or movie always cheers you up when you’re feeling stressed?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jordan DeWilde

Jordan DeWilde, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. He aims to encourage students’ individual creativity through a diverse and inclusive curriculum.

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