Avoid Burnout: How to Check In With Your Mental Health When You Work From Home
That face. You know the one I’m talking about. The one you make as soon as the screen cuts out and you can relax. It’s part of teaching (or any job for that matter)- fake it till you make it, right? But what happens when that screen cuts out? Are you still feeling happy and energized or are you lost in a feeling of insecurity?
Working from home can be an amazing blessing but also a curse. All of a sudden, you can fill your hours and days with work. If you were working 8 hours/day in an office, or a brick and mortar classroom, why can’t you teach online for that long? Or at least half of that? I know that’s how I felt when I first started out. My first two months were spent filling my mornings with teaching. It was unhealthy and while the money was great, I quickly got burnt out. Since we are working remote, it’s hard to find someone to go vent to in this situation and I felt alone
Most of the posts in Facebook groups either talk about how great the job is or there are people who hate the job and are ready to quit. There’s very little representation of the average, in-between person, who loves their job but has a rough day here and there. For me, Signing into Facebook became slightly stressful because I would see posts from other VIPKid teachers raving about their mornings.. And since I was working from home, and solitary, this meant that that feeling wouldn’t really go away, either.
The routine was becoming mundane. Every morning I would sign in, teach my sweet kiddos, and sign out. Moving from one kid to the next, I was starting to lose that spark that had made me fall in love with teaching online originally. But I had to push on. I had to keep going… right? If it was a typical job, I wouldn’t have a choice, so I had to suck it up.
One day I was talking to my friend, Kelci. We both work from home and discuss our mental health frequently. I was explaining to her that even though my morning classes were going well, I still felt like a failure. I couldn’t explain it, but I just did not feel successful. She asked if I had taken a break from my work. Of course, I told her, “NO!” The thought had never even occurred to me. Why would I take a break? That would definitely be a failure. Especially since we can create our own schedule, I felt obligated to work as much as possible.
Taking a break, in my mind, was not an option. However, she reminded me that taking a mental health day is not selfish- sometimes it’s completely necessary. So you know what, I scheduled a day off (two weeks in advance). And when that morning came, I slept in, I drank coffee in bed, and watched Netflix. I treated myself to a mani/Pedi (with my hard-earned money!) and went out to a coffee shop and then spent my time reading. I did not feel guilty that I wasn’t creating props for my classroom in my free time or writing the perfect feedback. I also wasn’t napping because I was so exhausted from waking up early. I just enjoyed the day.
The next morning I finally felt refreshed and energized. I felt successful again. I felt rejuvenated. I was ready to step back into my classroom and teach with all my heart. And I’ll tell you what – I didn’t even notice that money I had “lost” during my day of not teaching.
Since that time, I’ve learned to start listening to my body and most importantly, my mind. If I need to take a step away from my computer, I no longer hesitate. I schedule frequent breaks and have even shortened my schedule on months where our finances allow. What makes working from home so different from other jobs is that we don’t often get feedback from other peers, and it makes it challenging to connect with others and know you’re not alone. But it also makes it more important to check in with yourself and how you’re doing. Right now, I challenge you to check in with yourself, using the graphic below. Wherever you’re at, know that it’s okay and that you are not alone. But make sure you don’t ignore it. Reevaluate, make some changes, and continue to check in with how you’re doing. We are our most important supporters.