Symptoms of Educator Burnout

Welcome!  If you’ve found your way here, you are likely a teacher experiencing the inevitable burnout that comes with the job in our current economy.  


  1. the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
  2. physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

Read on to see if you are at risk of burnout, join the facebook group for support or sign up for more information here if you are ready to join a growing group of teachers that are ready to make changes!

(Our next Teachers in Transition group, open to only 6 motivated teachers begins on October 6.  Don’t miss out, fill out our application form here.)

A teacher today no longer seems to be respected by the community and therefore is no longer respected by the student. You pour your heart and soul into the job, spending your own time and money doing everything that you can to make your classroom the most inviting place for your children and to make sure the children have the school supplies they need.  You learn how to use the newest data collection system that your school has conjured up and diligently take individualized notes for each child in their personalized planners and portfolios.  You check that your students get to school on time, have the items they need, get to recess and lunch and classes on time, don’t hurt each other physically or emotionally, and that their backpacks have the correct homework when they head home.  For the children who need the extra help you do a daily planner note, a backpack check, you change their seating, you seek help from support staff, you write notes to the parents, have meetings, come up with a plan.  You provide comfort when children are in distress, you are a confidant when children are feeling bullied or harrassed.  You spend more time with them than their parents do.

And this is all above and beyond the basic non-stop job of creating lesson plans and the not so simple job of teaching the children material in preparation for tests, the next grade, and employment as an adult.

Are you experiencing the early signs of burnout: (original article here)

  • Feeling like not going to work or actually missing days

  • Difficulty in concentrating on tasks

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the workload and having a related sense of inadequacy to the tasks given to them

  • Withdrawing from colleagues or engaging in conflictual relationships with co-workers

  • Having a general feeling of irritation regarding school

  • Experiencing insomnia, digestive disorders, headaches, and heart palpitations

Or are you in the middle of full burnout:

Physical and emotional exhaustion:

  1. Chronic fatigue. In the early stages, you may feel a lack energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day.
  2. InsomniaIn the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week. In the latter stages, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal; as exhausted as you are, you can’t sleep.
  3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can’t get your work done and everything begins to pile up.
  4. Physical symptoms. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).
  5. Increased illness. Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.
  6. Loss of appetiteIn the early stages, you may not feel hungry and may skip a few meals. In the latter stages, you may lose your appetite all together and begin to lose a significant amount of weight.
  7. Anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.
  8. DepressionIn the early stages, you may feel mildly sad, occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel trapped, severely depressed, and think the world would be better off without you. (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately.)
  9. AngerAt first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or coworkers, seek immediate professional assistance.)

Cynicism and Detachment

  1. Loss of enjoyment. At first, loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave. Without intervention, loss of enjoyment may extend to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family and friends. At work, you may try to avoid projects and figure out ways to escape work all together.
  2. Pessimism. At first, this may present itself as negative self-talk and/or moving from a glass half-full to a glass half-empty attitude. At its worst, this may move beyond how you feel about yourself and extend to trust issues with coworkers and family members and a feeling that you can’t count on anyone.
  3. Isolation. In the early stages, this may seem like mild resistance to socializing (i.e., not wanting to go out to lunch; closing your door occasionally to keep others out). In the latter stages, you may become angry when someone speaks to you, or you may come in early or leave late to avoid interactions.
  4. Detachment. Detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment. It can take the form of the isolative behaviors described above, and result in removing yourself emotionally and physically from your job and other responsibilities. You may call in sick often, stop returning calls and emails, or regularly come in late.

Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment

  1. Feelings of apathy and hopelessness. This is similar to what is described in the depression and pessimism sections of this article. It presents as a general sense that nothing is going right or nothing matters. As the symptoms worsen, these feelings may become immobilizing, making it seems like “what’s the point?”
  2. Increased irritability. Irritability often stems from feeling ineffective, unimportant, useless, and an increasing sense that you’re not able to do things as efficiently or effectively as you once did. In the early stages, this can interfere in personal and professional relationships. At its worst, it can destroy relationships and careers.
  3. Lack of productivity and poor performance. Despite long hours, chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were, which often results in incomplete projects and an ever-growing to-do list. At times, it seems that as hard as you try, you can’t climb out from under the pile.

Does this sound like you?  Check out my upcoming group!  It starts on October 6, and is meant for you, to figure out how to ease the burnout short-term and to figure out if teaching is for you in the long term.  

Not ready to join the group?  Come check out the facebook support page we’ve got going!

Author: Mary Preston, LMFT

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach. Through dealing with my own anxiety and attention difficulties over the years I have discovered many useful practices and tools to help regain focus, shift my attention to what’s important and to stay organized enough to get the life that I want. In my practice I work primarily with women and children with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression and I share what I’ve learned to get them back on track to living a full, purpose filled life.

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