Burnout. It was a term I first heard in relation to diabetes when I was in college (type 1 since I was 6 months old). I’m sure all of you are much more familiar with the term, and don’t need a definition, but Google says that it’s a mental or physical breakdown due to stress or overwork. That sounds about right.
It can happen to anyone with anything. Parenting. Job. Marriage. Health. Finances. Anything can cause you to burnout. For some of us, it’s hard to see the signs until you’re shoulder deep in a tub of ice cream or crying your eyes out into the early morning.
My philosophy on basically every problem I run into is this: find a way to fix it, and if you can’t, find a (mostly) healthy way to deal.
Take Time Off
I get that this isn’t always an option, but especially with a flexible job like VIPKid, I highly recommend a day or two off. I personally can only handle 5 days a week. I need two days off. I take off on Sunday, and Thursday. I know other people take the weekend, or two back-to-back days during the week. I find that all those days in a row kill my motivation. Whatever works for you; take the time off.
Don’t be afraid to take a vacation, like you would at any other job. VIPKid doesn’t require notice (although I like to let them know and put it in my bio to alert parents if it’ll be more than a week). I usually take a week off twice a year. Sometimes I plan it, sometimes I just know I need a break.
Make sure that you’re enjoying your time off! If you spend your entire two days (or week, or month, or whatever you’ve decided) dreading returning to work, you’re never going to want to come back. Put VIPKid away! Don’t sit there and beat yourself up over the priority requests you’re not accepting. Don’t look for apples. Don’t even check your pay. It will all be there when you get back.
I’m just getting back from a few days off with my family, and I feel energized, and ready to see my students again. I will be a better teacher because I put it away for awhile.
Remember What You Love
I got very few days off when I was working for Disney World. I worked a ton trying to save money for my wedding. The weird hours and the high energy requirement created a perfect environment for burnout.
But without days off, I didn’t have a lot of time to recover. So on days when I wanted nothing more than to skip work entirely, I would go to work early. Instead of getting to work 20 minutes early, I would go in 2 hours early and walk the parks. I’d ride the Haunted Mansion or the People Mover. I would talk with a Princess or watch a parade. Anything to immerse myself in the magic, and remind myself what I was doing.
An incredible cream cheese filled pretzel was always really helpful too.
VIPKid doesn’t have a theme park (yet) but you can still find ways to immerse yourself in magic.
I love taking workshops when I’m tired. Most of the mentors I’ve taken workshops with have awesome, contagious energy. The new ideas help me rethink my teaching and remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. Even now, on my 4th contract, I still attend workshops.
Attend a meet-up or reach out to VIPKid teachers you know. Reach out to me on Facebook! Check out these posts where I gush about my love for this job.
Put yourself in a position to absorb the energy of others who aren’t experiencing burnout.
Cut Out the Negativity
Sometimes VIPKid teachers are not the most positive. I have a lot of theories about why it is sometimes hard to be positive about our awesome job… but that’s another post. I have noticed that things go in cycles through Facebook, the Hutong, any forum where VIPKid teachers reside. It starts off positive, and then something changes. People get freaked out and the negative nancies show their faces. It happens, I get it. Venting is fine.
But when you’re struggling with your own early-morning battles, it’s hard to read.
I have found a few groups where these cycles are less prevalent. This VIPKid Fitness group is always pretty positive. There isn’t as much discussion about VIPKid things, but if something big happens, it’s usually mentioned. This group is also fairly positive.
PSA! If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. There is so much trolling and fanning of flames when things happen. Just stop. Seriously? We’re adults. That’s all…
One of the things that I love about this job is that monotony is easily changed. These are my favorite things to adjust when I’m tired.
1. My Schedule: I really struggle with the early mornings. Like… my mom used to play the Beach Boys when she had to wake me up because I am… not wonderful in the morning. Even now with my kids, I’m 110% sure that my daughter wakes me up by yelling as loud as she can. I’ve been told that she’s actually fairly quiet when she comes in.
So when I’ve had enough, I work more evenings, or I shorten my mornings. Something to break up the routine.
2. My teaching style: I’m planning a post on this topic eventually because it has completely changed the way I think about teaching. Is it the end of the world for one class to be imperfect? Maybe I’m showing my lack of classroom experience, but at VIPKid it’s been my experience that as long as I’m trying my best, it’s okay if I’m a little off or something didn’t work for a student. If it really didn’t work, I try to explain my reasoning to the parent in feedback. Either they leave me feedback with ideas, or they don’t book me again. I don’t mean stop trying. Teach to the best of your ability, but if your reward system isn’t working, your pacing isn’t working, the student is bored with props that are usually well received at this level… whatever it was… CHANGE IT. Treat it like an experiment. Try to change one variable at a time so you really isolate what is or isn’t working.
Please don’t take this as permission to drop VIPKid requirements or teach less than your best because “Teacher Kristina” said so. I’m giving you permission to change your techniques, not to throw technique out the window.
It is so hard to work at a job you don’t love. Before you give up completely, try one of these ideas. What else have you done to combat burnout? Where have you experienced burnout outside of a job? I want all the ideas! 😀