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Addressing burnout in teachers

As pressure on teachers increases, the shift is visible in their declining health and the prevalence of burnout, experts say.

To curb the issue of teacher burnout - and increase the likelihood of graduates staying in their jobs - Springfox (formerly The Resilience Institute Australia) was created to provide teachers across the country with resilience building and stress management programs.

Springfox chief knowledge officer Peta Sigley said there had been an "unequivocal" growth in demand for its programs over the last five years, as teachers take on more responsibility in their roles and face external pressure from funding cuts and changes to the education industry.

"The current length of service for teachers has dropped from five years to three years and we know that teachers now experience 1.6 times the stress of the general population," she said.

"Stress is the main element they find themselves in and this can lead to confusion, disengagement and leave them feeling flat and unfulfilled; but if they can learn to master stress they can greatly improve performance.

"Teachers often experience an inability to relax when they come off a day. It's common for those with burnout to 'numb out' by overeating, drinking or just sitting on Facebook, but this isn't the same as relaxing.

"Stressed people can also then become hyper-vigilant in looking for stress."

Sigley runs dozens of sessions across Australia each year, particularly looking at mindset, emotion, motivation, thinking style and causes of stress in teachers.

She hopes to develop practical skills and positive habits in teachers to improve their performance and keep them in the workforce.

"Teachers help students retrain all the time but sometimes they need to do that for themselves," Sigley said. "We look at making small incremental changes to reduce stress.

"As there's been a societal shift towards both parents working full time teachers are taking on more responsibility to parent students.

"Teachers do have a tendency to overcare and overburden themselves; it's not just a profession it's something they are passionate about and they give so much of themselves."

Key tips to manage stress

  1. Increase your level of self awareness - ask yourself questions such as "how am I actually tracking?"
  2. Develop trusting relationships; in the workforce you need honesty and confidentiality with colleagues
  3. Get more sleep and avoid too much caffeine, alcohol or food
  4. Ask: "Am I positive in my thinking and emotions? Am I realistic and optimistic?"
  5. Find your passion and motivation, look for progress as opposed to perfection and know the difference
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