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How Little Issues Become Catastrophic When We're Burned Out

I got married to my husband in 2015. I was still working full-time in the classroom at that time, and was also working on my PhD. I honestly don't even know how I had time to date anyone, much less decide to get married!! I swear half our dates were like "hey come over and help me cut out all this stuff I laminated" or "wanna go to the PTA carnival with me (and get put to work haha). He was definitely my teacher side-kick.


Everything went awesome until our honeymoon. By the fifth day, I was in tears, had gone out for solo coffee, and was on the phone with my best friend Carri, who also happens to be an expert in counseling.  


After the conversation, I took a picture because I wanted to remember the moment. Noteworthy as I look back is the wait staff at the hotel assuming my husband was coming with me and setting two places. 

 The conversation went something like this:

Me: Carri, I can't do this! Like...I think I've made a mistake. I had no idea it would be this bad. I can't sleep at all. I just lay there every night thinking, "how am I gonna do this for the rest of my life!"

Carri: Whoaaaaa....slow down. Take a deeeeeep breath. What has you so rattled??

Me: I can't sleep Carri!!!! I haven't slept in days! I'm freaking exhausted and there's no relief in sight!

Carri: Why do you think you can't sleep?


Carri: LOL. scared me to death. I thought it was something serious!

Me: It IS serious!!!!

Carri: Just go get some ear plugs at Walgreens. Problem solved.

Me: Oh...I hadn't thought about that.

Carri: You were thinking about throwing in the towel on a five day marriage over snoring. 

Me: It's not funny! I was legit freaking out.

Carri: Well...glad you got away for a bit and called instead of filing for divorce.

Me: Thanks girl.

True story y'all, and so relevant to how emotional issues feel magnified when you're experiencing burnout. Teaching summer school + getting married + doing PhD coursework without a burnout prevention plan was kicking my butt.

I wonder if you might be experiencing situations that feel GINORMOUS (like sleep deprivation so bad you want a divorce), but with a bit of detachment from the situation (a solo coffee), and a little input from a supportive professional or community (a call with Carri), you could see the situation so much more clearly (just buy some earplugs, girlfriend!).

When I look back on my stressful moments in the classroom, most of them involved fear of judgment, things outside my control, and situations that I just couldn't see clearly because I was so dang stressed out.

If you think this sounds like you, I want to give you three strategies to help you clear up some of that confusion you sometimes feel:
1) Take time to be by yourself in a comfy place and write about what you're experiencing. The process of thinking and writing helps our brains process, and it's often really enlightening to go back a day later and read what you wrote.

2) Reach out to a supportive community that understands what it's like to be a teacher. The Teacher Care Network Support Community is a great, free resource for that, or find a teacher bestie who isn't on your campus. Sometimes teacher besties that share a campus can't see the issue clearly because they're in the same environment as you.

3) Find a professional or program that can help you further develop boundaries, strategies, and a recovery plan for emotional burnout.  

Regardless of where you find those connections, set them up before you get into a situation where you're ready to divorce instead of purchasing some earplugs. You'll thank yourself, and might dodge a little issue before it turns into a BIG problem. 

Take care of YOU friends,

Dr. Jen Johnson


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