Three Steps to Prevent Burnout
I grew up an hour outside of New York City and was raised in a community where rest is something one earns.
Does that narrative sound familiar to anyone else?
As a social entrepreneur, I took that narrative to heart. I graduated from college, fundraised my heart out, built a team I feel blessed to work with, and grew an idea into a nonprofit that serves thousands of students across the country.
I had "earned" my rest, so I allowed myself to pencil in some classic self-care strategies to my calendar. I practiced yoga. I ate the kale. I did the meditations.
In reflection, I never engaged in these activities to actually rest or press pause on the chaos. I engaged in them because they gave me extra energy to pack even more work into my day.
For example, I attended yoga not only because it calmed me in the moment, but it gave me more energy to sneak in a couple of extra hours of work at night. Yoga was supposed to prevent burnout, not feed the flame.
Here’s what I’ve learned: we have to be intentional about how we prevent burnout, and we have to stop feeling guilty when we feel burned out. Self-care is not selfish. It is not something we earn because we worked hard. We cannot treat self-care as a mechanism to work harder. None of us should feel guilt about taking care of ourselves because when we do, we fail to gain the benefits.
Here are three steps I find helpful in preventing burnout
1. Scheduling time to enjoy the calm. I do not schedule anything work-related after my evening workouts or dinner. I want to savor my self-care practices - the time spent with friends, the post-workout bliss, or my yummy meal - to really reap the benefits of relaxation.
2. Incorporating quick stress-reducing practices into my work day. Though I may not be able to pause a prospective funder meeting when I feel overwhelmed, I can always focus my attention on my breath when I need a quick reset. You can't always stop teaching, but you can walk to the back of your classroom and take a mindful sip of coffee.
3. Being intentional about activities that cultivate calm. Yoga is the form of exercise where I bliss-out. But as I mentioned, I’ve been using it to get ahead and it’s zapped the joy out of the practice for me. When I go to yoga from now on, it’s going to be intentional that this is my time to rest and take care of myself.
About the Author
Tessa Zimmerman grew up experiencing severe anxiety in the classroom. It wasn’t until she received a full scholarship to a private high school that she learned the tools to cope with stress and anxiety. Tessa founded ASSET to bring equity to education and make sure all teachers have the tools to help their students cope with stress and anxiety. She has been recognized by Forbes as a “wildly successful millennial with an untraditional education.” In 2017, Tessa’s first book, I Am Tessa, was published by One Idea Press. As the single and childless member of the team, Tessa enjoys her free time, hot yoga practice, and cooking with friends.