How to Avoid Teacher Burnout: Tips for Achieving a Healthy Work-Life Balance  


Inside: Find balance and avoid teacher burnout with practical tips for maintaining teacher work life balance. Learn essential strategies for every educator.

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The blare of my alarm jolted me awake, and I groaned, pulling the covers over my head. I felt the familiar knot of dread in my stomach. 

Just the thought of facing another chaotic, exhausting day at school made me want to hide here in the dark forever. How had teaching become something I dreaded? I used to be so passionate about inspiring young minds, but now? 

I could barely drag myself out of bed.

I missed the eagerness I used to have, facing each school day with optimism and purpose. I always believed that teaching was my calling, not something to endure. 

I had to find a way to get back to that place. My students deserved better, and I deserved better.

With seemingly endless tasks and responsibilities, avoiding teacher burnout and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be incredibly challenging. But having balance is crucial for your mental and physical health. Let’s get into some tips to avoid burnout.

a teacher is sleeping on her desk and the text reads, "How to Avoid Teacher Burnout: Tips for Achieving a Health Work-Life Balance"

Master the Art of Saying “No”

When I started teaching, I often said “yes” to everything – the committees, extra duties, school events, and more. A a teacher, work life balance is hard to maintain. We want to help. But this tendency to overload ourselves inevitably leads to burnout.

So, an essential step to avoid teacher burnout is learning to say “no” – even when it feels uncomfortable. Refrain from feeling pressured to agree on the spot when asked to take on a new task. Take time to honestly consider whether you can reasonably handle it.

a woman is holding up her hand to say "no"

If your plate is already full, politely decline the request. Express appreciation for being considered. With practice, saying no gets easier. The world will not end! Protect your time and energy by turning down non-essential duties.

As teachers, our priority must be taking care of ourselves. Then, we can fully show up for our students. Prioritize the most important tasks and let go of the rest. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Give yourself permission to say no.

Plan Your Time with Intent

After getting comfortable saying no, focus your limited time on the most essential weekly tasks. It’s easy to get bogged down in low-priority details as teachers. We only have so many hours in the day, so we must spend them wisely. (Says the person who would spend far too much time color-coding my lesson plans and then wonder why I never could get home at a reasonable time).

a binder with the text "I have a plan" on the cover

Take 15-30 minutes at the start of each week to make a realistic to-do list. Identify your absolute must-do responsibilities and priorities. Block off time on your calendar to tackle those crucial items first.

Resist the urge to obsess over less critical tasks. Those can wait. Stay focused on your weekly priorities using planners, calendars, and timers. Move the needle on your big goals, and stay focused.

Spending precious time on important tasks will maximize your productivity and prevent teacher burnout. You’ll finish each week energized, not completely exhausted, by working smart on what truly matters most.

Leave Work AT Work

This is one of the most challenging but essential boundaries for avoiding teacher burnout. In my early teaching years, I would lug my heavy teacher bag home every. single. day.

Did I always work on school stuff at home? No

Did that bag make me feel guilty and inadequate (reminding me of everything I thought I should be doing but didn’t)? Absolutely.

a teacher bag filled with textbooks

Instead of fully recharging with family and friends, I devoted evenings to working or worrying about work. That bag was the problem – a constant symbol pulling my mind back to school when I needed to detach.

To prevent burnout, leave work at work as much as you can. Maximize your in-school time by arriving early and staying late enough to complete essential tasks. Set reasonable “office hours” for yourself. Don’t get sucked into after-contract-time gab sessions! (I mean, sure, they’re fun- but they aren’t helping you). 

When it’s time to leave for the day, resist the urge to grab your teacher bag. Disconnect for the evening and protect your personal time. Set a firm time limit if you must do some work in the evenings. Protect your personal time to unwind and re-energize.

a woman sitting with her feet up at home and holding a cup

Leaving work at work maintains balance and perspective, preventing fatigue. Establish boundaries to gain back your evenings and weekends. You need that time to be your best self in the classroom.

Get Your Rest

Easier said than done, but quality sleep is vital for a teacher’s physical and mental health. 

If you want to be the best version of yourself, you must prioritize good sleep.

Here are tips to optimize rest:

a dog sleeping under a sheet and snuggling a teddy bear

Proper rest increases focus, patience, energy, and mood. While challenging, it’s a game changer for effectiveness and well-being.

And while you’re at it- make sure you drink enough water during the day, too!

The Power of Taking Time Off

Listen to your body’s signals. If you’re not feeling well physically or mentally, it’s a message to slow down and prioritize self-care. Do not feel guilty about taking sick days or personal time as needed for your well-being. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

a teacher with her feet up, wearing her pajamas. There is a sign next to her that reads, "Day Off"

Also, fully unplug during long weekends and school breaks to completely recharge. Time away allows you to destress and regain perspective. Overcoming the fear of missing work is essential to taking necessary breaks. Your health must come first to be your best professionally. Give yourself permission to take time off when exhausted. You’ll return refreshed and ready to inspire students.

Delegation for the Win

One of the most effective ways to avoid teacher burnout is to delegate more classroom tasks and responsibilities to your students. Build opportunities for students to take ownership of important jobs that need to be done in the classroom each day.

Simple routines like passing out papers, cleaning up materials, organizing bookshelves, and tidying up learning centers may seem minor. However, these small tasks can quickly consume precious time during the busy school day. Empower students to shoulder some of the workload by assigning classroom jobs and roles.

a child is watering a plant

You’ll be amazed at how well students handle jobs when given the chance. Children develop valuable life skills like teamwork, initiative, independence, and diligence. And you regain time to focus on high-priority instruction and planning.

By handing over classroom jobs to capable students, you prevent teacher burnout while cultivating student leadership. Let your learners share the workload and take pride in their contributions. You’ll be energized by their readiness to help.

Give Yourself a Quick Reset

Your kids aren’t the only ones who need a brain break. Make time each day to incorporate simple mindfulness practices that lower stress and keep you mentally centered. Even taking just 5-10 minutes for breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or other mindful activities can make a big difference in your energy and focus.

a woman is practicing mindfulness in nature

Try setting a reminder to take a “brain break” at various points during your workday – especially when you notice tension rising. Find a quiet space free from distractions. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Start by taking a few deep breaths: breathe slowly through your nose, feeling your belly expand. Exhale slowly through your mouth.

Making mindfulness part of your daily work routine trains your mind to stay calm and centered even when stress rises. Practices like mindful breathing quickly lower levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. Your heart rate decreases. Your muscles relax.

Commit to your well-being. Like your students, you deserve brain breaks that provide soothing relief and a chance to recharge. The benefits of regular mindfulness will spill over into your classroom and help you achieve that teacher work life balance we’re all after!

Prioritize Your Well-being to Avoid Teacher Burnout

Avoiding teacher burnout is possible with intentional changes like setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and practicing mindfulness. There are also tons of resources that can help you save time and energy- like my back-to-school template bundle. It has everything you need to prepare for back to school, like desk name plates, name tags, binder/folder covers, etc.

a set of back to school resources like folder covers, name tags, name plates, certificates, supply wish lists, and survey

Approach each school year with a plan to conserve energy, take regular breaks, and stay balanced. With self-care as a priority, you’ll be refreshed and ready to inspire your students while avoiding teacher burnout. This year can be your best, yet if you refuse to let stress deplete your reserves. You’ve got this!

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Melissa Glenn

I’m a teacher, a certified Reading Specialist, and the author behind "Real Life in the Classroom". I love to create classroom resources and share ideas to help real teachers in real classrooms easily plan and implement instruction that they can feel great about.

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Hi, I'm Melissa!

I’m Melissa Glenn of Real Life in the Classroom. I live in New Jersey with my husband, Tom, our two children, and our dog, Klaus. I taught first grade for 12 years and I also have a certificate in Reading Specialization. I love spending time with my family, all things tech, [online] shopping, and new books!