Over the past decade, the number of special education teachers has dropped by more than 17% nationally.
With a higher burnout rate than other professions in education, if you're teaching special education it's vital that you prioritize taking care of yourself.
It's completely normal to feel stressed when taking on such a difficult role.
Here are five ways to reduce your stress levels as a special education educator.
1. Get Regular Exercise
Getting regular exercise is a great way to lower your stress levels.
The great thing about exercise is that you have a lot of options. Whether you love going for runs, riding your bike, taking brisk walks, swimming laps in the pool, or taking an aerobics class at the gym, there's a type of exercise that works for everyone.
Exercise can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. It directly combats stress by producing endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain.
Getting exercise can also be meditative, while instead of being pulled in every direction at once, you're attention is focused on one specific task.
If exercising is new to you, you don't need to start out by running a marathon. Start slow and consult with your doctor about a good exercise plan for you. Going for walks around your neighborhood can be a great place to start.
If you're already a gym rat, consider mixing up your exercise routine if you feel like it's just another chore. By playing tennis with a friend or shooting hoops with your kids, you can rediscover the joy that exercise can bring.
2. Find a Meditative Practice That Works for You
This is another surefire stress management technique to help avoid special education burnout.
Taking yoga classes, practicing mindfulness meditation, or using breathing practices can have a huge impact on lowering anxiety and stress levels.
Even as little as ten minutes a day can have a huge impact on your health and well-being. Using breathing practices during the school day can also be incredibly beneficial if you feel your stress levels rising. While you can't be in control of everything that happens during the day, you can control how you manage your response.
3. Don't Take Your Work Home
Sure, it's easier said than done, but creating a defined line between your work life and your home life can help avoid special education teacher burnout.
If you find that you're left with more work to do at the end of the day, you might consider getting to work early or staying a bit late to make sure everything gets done for the day. This way when you leave for the day you can leave your work at the door.
Having a home life that isn't intruded upon by your work is valuable in any field of work.
4. Make Time With Your Spouse/Partner/Friends
You'll be your best when you're at work and at home if you're whole life isn't consumed by work.
Life is busy and it's easy to let the weeks go by without spending any substantial time with those you love. Do yourself a favor and plan regular date nights with your spouse or partner, and make time for outings and hangouts with your close friends.
While it can be good to talk about the stresses of work with those you love, make sure you aren't spending the whole time venting and processing. Spending time with your friends and loved ones is a great way to remember that there's more to life than work. Make a point to avoid using this time as a therapy session and instead enjoy participating in activities and conversation topics that expand beyond your day to day work life.
5. Make Time to Spend With Yourself, Too!
All day at work you're caring for others, and likely at home you're caring for others, too.
You'll have the most of yourself to give to others if you take some time alone as well. It's easy when we finally have alone time to get absorbed into a TV show, movie, or video game. While that's all fine and good occasionally, don't forget to seek some quality solitude as well.
There are a lot of benefits to spending time alone, particularly in our fast-paced modern world today.
Spending time alone can help you get to know yourself better and allow time to think deeply. It can also improve concentration, increase productivity, make you a better problem solver, and improve your relationships with others.
Remember, it's not selfish to take care of yourself! It's a necessity. If you start scheduling a little time to be alone, you'll probably start to notice that you're more able to care for others.
The Reasons Behind Special Education Burnout
As a special education educator, you're playing a crucial role in partnership with the parents of special needs children.
Teaching special education is a noble profession that people undertake in the hopes of making a difference in the lives of special needs children. There are several reasons that special education burnout is common, such as endless paperwork, low pay for difficult work, lack of staff for support, and lack of funding for support.
Largely, though, unexpected events and children that need full-time supervision can cause rising stress levels in even the calmest of souls. Managing your stress is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the children in your classroom.
Be the Best Special Education Teacher You Can Be: Take Care of Yourself!
You probably put a lot of time into finding the best special education teaching strategies. Now it's time to incorporate self care into your special education strategies.
Learning how to lower your stress level can help you avoid burnout as a special education educator. Do it for your students, your family, and for yourself!
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