Teacher Burn Out and Stress Management

By: Shaifali Rachna Puri and Sneh Lata

A teacher is an instrument that gives shape to the raw material provided to her/ him in the form of pupils. A teacher is the pivot around which the society and its functioning revolves. It is an accepted fact that it is in the hands of the teacher to give appropriate design to her students. A teacher can produce a friend as well as a foe of the society with the help of the guidance provided to the pupils. There are various facts concerning the teachers that can have a positive as well as negative impact on the personality of a teacher who has to play such an important role for the society. These factors cannot be avoided at any cost, rather should be treated with full attention. Major factors in this regard are Stress and Teacher Burnout.
Teacher’s Stress: Teacher stress is a much talked of phenomenon, however there is little consensus between different professional groups regarding its etiology, or how to tackle it. Based on a review of international research, it is concluded that teacher stress is a real phenomenon and that high levels are reliably associated with a range of causal factors, including those intrinsic to teaching, individual vulnerability and systemic influences.
Causes: There are unquestionably a number of causal factors in teacher stress. Although stress always involves a transaction between the individual and their environment, inability of the individual to adjust in the environment around etc. For general reference we can divide causal factors in teacher stress into three broad areas; factors intrinsic to teaching, cognitive factors affecting the individual vulnerability of teachers and systemic factors operating at the institutional and political level. The main causes of teacher stress are insecurity in job, overwork, less appreciation, over commitment to job and being under salaried. A factor related to workload is role overload, which takes place when an employee has to cope with a number of competing roles within their job. Classroom discipline is also a significant source of stress. An analysis in 1999 was made regarding teachers’ estimations of stress arising from being unable to discipline pupils in the way they would prefer. Overall, maintaining discipline emerged as a stressor, with those worst affected being teachers who placed particular emphasis on pupil empowerment. Changes in the work environment and a feeling of lack of control over work also are major causes of the unrelieved stress. Evaluation is a process that gives an estimate of the grasp of the learner but several times it becomes a source of stress and tension. When asked the student teachers, it was found that of all the sources of stress for student teachers, evaluation was the greatest, they were found to be most afraid of the discussion lessons, although this fear declined following teaching practice, suggesting that it is reduced by exposure and positive experiences of observation feedback. People with tendencies to place too-high expectations on themselves also may be more prone to stress. When carried too far, compulsiveness, perfectionism, and inflated self-confidence can have detrimental impacts on one’s professional and personal life. Setting unrealistic goals, thinking anything is possible with the right amount of work, and taking on more than one know one can handle will leave the person striving to maintain an intensity that simply cannot be sustained over time and will lead to stress.

Teacher Burn Out: When the body and mind are relentlessly strained, one is bound to develop emotional and physical fatigue. Burnout is a physical, mental, and emotional response to constant levels of high stress. Burnout produces feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, cynicism, resentment and failure—as well as stagnation and reduced productivity. These stress reactions can result in levels of depression or unhappiness that eventually threatens one’s job, relationships and health. Burnout is associated with situations in which a person feels:
• Overworked
• Under appreciated
• Confused about expectations and priorities
• Concerned about job security
• Over committed with responsibilities
• Resentful about duties that are not commensurate with pay etc etc.
Burnout can occur when one feels that one is unable to meet constant demands, and becomes increasingly overwhelmed and depleted of energy. Debilitating sadness, anger or indifference can set in this situation. One begins to lose the interest or motivation that led one to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout is not simply excessive stress. Rather, it is a complex human reaction to ongoing stress, and it relates to feeling that one’s inner resources are inadequate for managing the tasks and situations presented. The signs and symptoms of burnout are similar to those of stress, but burnout includes an emotional exhaustion and an increasingly negative attitude towards work and, perhaps, one’s life too.
Burnout has been found to proceed in stages that blend into one another so smoothly that one might not realize what is happening until one is in a state of despair and physical and emotional breakdown. One might begin a new job with boundless energy. Yet soon finds himself in a state of disillusionment and disappointment. One might feel confused and can’t quite put finger on what’s wrong. Feelings of frustration and irritability eventually give way to full-scale exhaustion and fatigue.
Some people experiencing burnout will feel as if their jobs are no longer interesting or enjoyable. They become indecisive, their productivity drops, and their work deteriorates. They may not even care about doing a good job and often perform tasks by rote. These people feel bored and put-upon, they may dread going to work in the morning, and they may feel envious of others who are happy with their work.
Effect: It leads to development of negative attitude towards life and work. It leads to loss of interest and motivation in working area. When stressed, body begins to show signs of psychological illness, headache, high blood pressure, stokes, heart attacks, fatigue and indigestion etc. In stress person is frustrated, powerless and detached from people and things around. Stress is very clearly seen to affect personal relation ships and leads to sadness and depression.
Since burnout is not an overnight occurrence, it’s important to recognize its early signs and to act before the problem becomes severe. In a chronic state of stress, the body will begin to show the following physical signs of stress overload:
• Psychosomatic illnesses (psychological/emotional problems which manifest themselves physically)
• Digestive problems
• Headaches
• High blood pressure
• Heart attacks
• Strokes
• Teeth grinding
• Fatigue
When one is on the verge of burnout, one may feel:
• Powerless
• Drained
• Like a candle burning at both ends
• Frustrated
• Detached from people and things around.
• Bored
• Resentment for having too much to do.
• Stuck in a situation from which one cannot extricate oneself.
• Unsure about choice of job or career.
• Withdrawn, isolated from coworkers and friends
• Insecure about own competence and abilities
• Cynical
• Irritable
• Anxious 

Stress Management: The aim of stress management is to help a person balance the various aspects of his life— work, relationships and leisure—and to balance the physical, intellectual and emotional aspects of life. People who effectively manage stress consider life a challenge rather than a series of irritations, and they feel they have control over their lives, even in the face of setbacks.
Stress can be managed if pin pointed at it’s on set. By this one gets control of the situation in which one gets stressed. Burn out builds up by and by and it is not overnight occurrence. Seeking doctor, having good diet, proper sleep and exercise, can prevent burnout. With self-suggestion, consulting therapist and time management one can avoid burn out. Person should know his or her mental and physical potential and choose carrier accordingly. By renewing body, spirit and mind one can enjoy a healthy and sustainable life. A person to avoid and prevent stress can adopt various methods:
1. Knowing what causes stress can help a person cope with it better and provide mental and emotional relief. There are many ways to plan for and avert stress. Recognizing one’s own specific triggers is one of the first steps in the process of stress management.
2. One may be experiencing stress because the life has become out of balance. One may be spending too much time and energy on work or on caring for others at the expense of one’s own health and well being.
3. One of the most effective things we can do when we are stressed is to talk from our heart to a friendly listener who remains calm and listens in a way that makes us feel understood. Studies show that people who are active socially are most capable of dealing with stressful situations and major illnesses.
4. A person’s attitude has a lot to do with whether events and occurrences produce a feeling of stress. Once we admit that we are not able to control everything, we will be better equipped to handle unexpected situations. Stress management comes down to finding ways to change our thinking and manage our expectations.
5. Taking care of body, mind and spirit can help reduce feelings of anxiety and frustration that often accompany stress. One might be surprised by how much stress relief a long bubble bath or a quick catnap will provide.
6. Try to take time everyday to slow down and do something enjoyable, even if it is just for a few minutes. Reading a magazine, playing with dog, reading child a book, or any other activity that helps forget the stresses of day.
7. Writing things down has a marvelous way of putting things in perspective. Putting one’s worries into words may help one see that one doesn’t really have that much to worry about, or it may help get organized and manage stress, rather than letting it manage oneself.


1. Will J. G. Evers “Burnout among Teachers” Department of Psychology, The Open University, Heerlen, the Netherlands
2. Admiraal WF, Korthagen FAJ & Wubbels T (2000) “Effects of Student Teachers’ Coping Behaviour”. British Journal of Educational Psychology 70, 33-52.
3. Matt Jarvis Stress News 2002 Vol. No
4. Lanier, J.and J.Little. “ Research on Teacher Education.” in Handbook of Research on Teaching, Third Edition, edited by M.Wittrock.New York: Macmillan, 1986
5. “Burnout: Signs, Symptoms and Prevention”. Help guide- Mental Health Issue. An online Journal
6. “Coping with Stress: Management and Reduction Techniques”. Help guide- Mental Health Issue. An online Journal.


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