Self care for teachers and stress management for teachers is a topic that could be stretched over many, many blog posts. 

Data from the Black Dog Institute in Australia found that of Aussie teachers

  • 70% report workloads that are unmanageable 
  • 52% report moderate to severe depressive symptoms (compared to 12% of the general population)
  • 46% report symptoms of anxiety (compared to 9% of the general population), and
  • 60% report stress (compared to 11% of the general population)

Data from this research in Australia shows that early career teachers, primary school teachers, and teachers in rural and remote areas are particularly vulnerable. And Google searches for terms such as “teacher stress” and “signs of burnout” have dramatically increased in the last year and a half.

The story is similar in the USA with 

And given the gender balance of teachers, 72% of teachers in Australia are female, and in the USA where 77% of teachers are female, many teachers have a second shift of unpaid, unacknowledged childcare and housework once they clock off from the classroom.

What causes teacher stress?

causes of teacher stress and burnout

Research suggests that the reasons for teacher stress and burnout is complex. But top among the research are themes such as

  • High teacher workloads
  • High administrative workloads
  • Lack of autonomy in the classroom with standardized or scripted curriculums
  • Lack of support from administration and/or colleagues
  • Lack of resources to adequately do the job
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Student behavior
  • Parental expectations
  • Poor employment conditions such as fear for physical safety or inability to eat lunch/use the restroom
  • Teaching students with special needs
  • Being an early-career teacher
  • Teaching in rural or remote areas
  • Being a teacher who is also a person of color

All the jobs

When I originally wrote this article, I had just had my second baby about seven months prior. My babies were not sleepers. Neither of them slept through the whole night until they were over a year old. Which equates to about three years of limited and broken sleep.

When I’d had a few rough nights in a row, I REALLY STRUGGLED to stay motivated and take care of myself. And I wasn’t in the classroom at the time.

Teaching (like parenting) is one of those jobs that can deplete you bit by bit, without you even noticing.

Your body is tired from being on your feet all day. Your brain is burnt out from being one step ahead of the kids all day. And your self-control is zapped trying not to be a cranky, shouty troll all day.

self care for teachers so you don't turn into a shouty troll

Then when you’re all done, you have to go home and do MORE. Exhausting.

Who has the motivation or energy to be a teacher, a mum, a friend, a partner, a meal planner, a grocery shopper, a cleaner, a cook, a launderer, a book reader, an event planner, a personal assistant, and an exerciser on three hours of broken sleep three nights in a row?

I don’t. Read on for my top three tips for self care for teachers.

Self care tips for teachers #1: Take a break

self care for teachers can mean taking a break

Self-care is my biggest tip for maintaining my sanity. It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you are depleted, have a never-ending to-do list, and feel frazzled about everything, you need to take a break and engage in self-care.

Take it easy. Put a frozen pizza on for dinner. Skip the park play date. Forgo the errand to Kmart. Play a video in class. Go to bed early.

All of the jobs will still be there tomorrow. And if you take care of yourself now, you’ll have more chance of being able to get to some of them once you’re rested.

When your motivation is lacking and everything seems too hard, spend a few days practicing self-care. Have a hot bath or watch Netflix. (Anyone else see Working Moms? Or The Letdown? Hands up!).

Watch videos from YouTubers who motivate you, can teach you to organize your time more effectively, or share all the life hacks and shortcuts to help you out. I like Jordan Page at Fun, Cheap or Free and Kallie from But first, coffee for organization tips and life hacks. And Christine from FitFrugalMom (I wish I had her energy!) has lots of ideas for fast, easy, and cheap meals.

Self care for teachers tip #2: Take care of your body

Taking care of your body will mean different things at different times. Sometimes it’ll mean cranking out the reps with the barbell. Sometimes it’ll mean going for a slow, gentle walk. Sometimes it will mean stretching out the stress with yoga. Sometimes it’ll mean eating a tub of ice cream in front of the TV.

The key is balance and listening to your body.

If you have physical (but not mental) energy, do some free yoga videos or other exercise videos. I LOVE Fitness Blender and do them in the hopes that the endorphins will stop me from being a cranky, shouty troll to my toddler. See the previous pic for a refresher.

I have learned that, for me, movement increases my mood and gives me the motivation to do other things. But when I am so tired my bones feel heavy, I read or listen to music and rest.

Tip #3: Keep perspective

The third self care for teachers tip is to keep perspective. All the baby and parenting blogs say it, but this too shall pass.

Sleepless nights and tantrums won’t last forever. Nappy changes and accidents will disappear. Your body will one day be your own (and not the dominion of tiny tyrants). 

When you do these three self care techniques for teachers, (and have a half-decent night’s sleep), motivation and sanity slowly trickle back.

Sometimes you just need a reminder to slow down and carve out some time for self-care so you have the motivation to keep all of the balls in the air.

Exhausted and still in the classroom?

Now, I have to say I was very privileged when I had my babies. Where I teach, mums can take maternity leave and extended unpaid leave to raise their babies into toddlers (if they can afford it). 

This in itself was the single biggest factor in my ability to weather the baby-and-toddler storm. Without it, I suspect I would have had a total meltdown

But, I know this isn’t the case elsewhere, and I can’t even imagine having to go back to work six, eight, or twelve weeks after having a baby. Not only are you feeding around the clock, your body has only just begun to heal from birthing your baby. 

Those of you who have managed to do this are superheroes with my undying admiration.

So, for you superhero mama-teachers, what else can you do to keep on going?

superhero-mama-teachers

In the classroom…

  • Watch a movie in class, don’t feel guilty. There are plenty of educational videos suited to whatever content you have to cover: CrashCourse, Khan Academy, and CollegeInfoGeek all have great videos on content-specific topics and general academic skills.
  • If you have sick leave saved up, use it strategically. Use it to mark work and keep ahead of planning, grading, and reporting.
  • If you have a mountain of marking and are struggling to finish it, do yourself a deal. For every five papers you mark, you can have a treat (read a chapter of your book, listen to your favorite song, watch a short YouTube video, eat a square of chocolate, whatever works for you).
  • Share tasks with your colleagues – take turns planning units of work and creating teaching resources, sling each other worksheets, chat about the things you’re struggling with and get advice, or find out what their students enjoyed in class and try it on yours. Positive collegial relationships are one of the research-based ways that teachers can not only survive but thrive.
  • If you can afford to and your school supports it, work part-time. Having an extra day or two a week to get housework done, run errands, and take some time for yourself can mean you might not only last longer in a stressful career but also be more effective and enjoy it more.

At home…

  • Outsource anything you can afford to. Get a meal delivery service, hire a cleaner, and pay for your child to attend a creche a few hours a week so you can get stuff done. Get on TPT and pay for resources that will save you time.
  • Share the load. Communicate with your partner about what they can do. Can they do school drop off or pick up, make lunches, and take the kids for a few hours on a Saturday so you can catch up on work or sleep?
  • Watch videos by Jordan Page at FunCheaporFree – this woman is a productivity powerhouse. She has a zillion kids and runs an ultra-successful business. But her productivity and motivation tips are easy and real-life doable.
  • Talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed. Venting can help, and so can having an outside observer help you make a plan to tackle the hard things. Your mental health is important – safeguard it to the best of your ability.
  • Learn more about effective time management – easy tips such as batching tasks, meal planning and meal prepping, and having effective routines can save you so much time, which you can then use to relax and recharge.

What are your top tips for self care for teachers?

What are your favorite tips for stress reduction for teachers? What’s the best motivation for teachers that all your teacher-friends swear by? What are your top stress relief for teachers ideas? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram.

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Updated 19/7/23

self care for teachers 3 tips