Break Time: Preventing Coach & Teacher Burnout

It’s the middle of half term, the roller-coaster Premier and Football League season has come to an end, as has the Heineken Cup and regular rugby season – for many coaches and teachers now seems a suitable period to have some well-deserved time off; put the feet up so to speak after weeks and months of hard work…….or does it?

When Manchester City clinched their second EPL title in three years on the final day of the Premier League season, I was drawn particularly to Manuel Pellegrini’s comments amid the jubilant celebrations:

“It is very important to celebrate but we will start working for the next season on Tuesday.”

Really? You’ve just managed to achieve something no other manager at the club has ever managed before under extreme pressure; all that planning; all those sacrifices; all those training sessions and board meetings and you’re going to have two days off before starting it all again? Give yourself a break Manuel! It’s no wonder many football managers experience health problems during their careers, whether from stress, depression or burnout – the long term exhaustion and/or diminished interest in work.

rodgers desk

Given that coaches at the elite level are perhaps an extreme example, in that they are working in an environment close to the pinnacle of world sport, it still raises the issue of burnout both for coaches and teachers. A recent survey concluded that over a third of teachers spend more than 50% of their half terms working; be it lesson planning, marking coursework and other assignments along with additional admin and bureaucracy that doesn’t directly impact their teaching. No doubt coaches would find themselves in a similar position – recruiting staff and squad building amongst many other administrative responsibilities. When it is then time to go ‘back’ to work, it is as though no time off has really been had. In essence, it’s been ‘work from home week’. So how can teachers and/or coaches best utilise some of their time off to their benefit? How can they come back to work, mentally refreshed and ready to go again? Having had the opportunity to work with many fine coaches and a live amongst a family of teachers, here are a few of the most frequently observed behaviours and actions, albeit simple ones some might find useful:

1.Engage in your Hobbies
For a lot of people, going away on holiday or travelling even for a few days can be the perfect way of spending their time off. Not for all however, as holidays can sometimes be the cause of even more stress and worry both logistically and financially. Even if you can’t get away, carry on with that book that you never got round to finishing, go for a walk, do something you’ve never done before if you like things of a spontaneous nature. Substantial research also shows how spending time with pets can have a significantly positive impact on your stress levels.

2.Spend Time Away From Work
PEOPLE – this might sound a strange one, and one that may not be relevant for everyone particularly if you are close with your work colleagues. For some people however, getting away from the work environment means spending time away from those in it.

PHONE/EMAIL – resist the temptation to constantly keep checking your work email. Understandably this is not easily done and sometimes not possible as urgent things may require your attention. Creating a holiday response message on your email account or voicemail is a good habit to get into though, as it means you do not have to get back to the recipient immediately, and they are not expecting you to.

SUBLIMINALS – just to clarify – they are stimuli or mental processes below the threshold of sensation or consciousness which might affect our mind without us being aware of it. So actually when you think you have your mind off work, there are things in our everyday setup that prevent us from switching off entirely. Little things like wearing work clothing or uniform. Coaches for example – wear some other sports kit rather than your club or institution’s when having time off….sounds daft but you may feel like you’re still in ‘work mode’ if you’re wearing your work clothes whilst at home. Similarly, change your phone wallpaper and background if it has something to do with work, try taking down or putting away any posters, textbooks or documents lying around the house that are do with work. You’d be surprised what a difference this could without being aware of it!

3. Work Hard, Play Harder!
You’ve worked really hard and now is the time to let your hair down and enjoy yourself. Reconnect with your social network; friends from home, spouses, catch up your family etc. Drinking and clubbing doesn’t have to be your thing, though it appears to be for many! Essentially though, it is your time to do what you wish. Sometimes trying to cram lots into a small break can be more draining and stressful than its worth. You know what relaxes you best though (the odd lie in for many!) and what things you enjoy so do them!

Remember that enjoyment of your job and profession is key to your wellbeing and ability to effectively carry out your role. With the ups and downs of the teaching and coaching professions it is almost impossible to enjoy it absolutely all of the time, so don’t feel guilty for having some time away from it. It will mean you can come back fresh, rested and raring to go again!

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