The past few weeks have been intense with midterms, advisement, and an open house.  These transient events, in addition to many other day-to-day responsibilities require us to tap into physical and emotional reserves.  If the reserves were low to begin with, then burnout is a risk.  Kottler and Zehm (2000) stated in their book, On Being a Teacher: The Human Dimension, that “Burnout was first identified by Freudenberger (1974) when he observed that those who work in professions that demand high degrees of dedication and commitment to people are most vulnerable to this condition.  Burnout is a form of occupational stress that is an inevitable struggle for all helping professionals who work with others, no matter how dedicated, committed, and skillful they may be” (p. 99).  I suspect many people throughout history would disagree with when burnout first was identified.  Regardless, it is important to take care of ourselves and others to reduce stress and prevent burnout.

With one more week of advisement ahead of us, it will be important to replenish reserves or, if your reserves are plentiful, to maintain momentum.  Replenishing reserves brings fourth images of a warm beach, the sound of the ocean, a peaceful hike in the mountains, or a number of things that may only take place in your imagination for now.  When activities such as these are not possible at the moment, we must rely on other ways of harnessing energy.  Eckhart Tolle would say that energy is found in the present moment.  He said that, “All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present.  Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much [focus on] the future, and not enough presence” (p. 61).  The present moment affords us the opportunity to find balance, to laugh, to listen to good music, to exercise, or to just be conscious of your breathing.  Short segments of time where you focus on activities such as these during the week will add to your reserves, but you must remember to make the moments happen for yourself and others; give yourself and others this gift.

Kottler and Zehm discussed the importance momentum to reduce stress and avoid burnout.  They provided a list of Teacher Strategies That Maintain Momentum (p. 117).

  • Have realistic expectations for what can be done
  • Find the best in people
  • Set limits
  • Nurture and nourish yourself throughout the day
  • Remember that it’s relationships, not content, that matter most
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Diversify interests and commitments
  • Don’t work excessively at home
  • Stop caring about things you can’t do anything about
  • Stop whining and complaining
  • See yourself through students’ eyes
  • Make it a priority to keep learning fun

If you fully embrace the present moment and find short segments of time throughout the day to replenish your reserves, then balance is possible and burnout can be avoided.  Here is a short video to give you the opportunity to take a mini-moment to relax your shoulders, breathe deeply, and look at some clouds with Buddhist meditation music in the background.  I wish you well as you bring your best self to the last week of advisement and the remainder of the semester. 

Freudenberger, H.J. (1974). Staff burnout. Journal of Social Issues, 30, 159-165.

Kotter, J.A., & Zehm, S.J. (2000). On being a teacher: The human dimension (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Tolle, E. (1999). The power of now. Novato, CA: New World Library.