Data collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed 58% of Australian teachers expressed high levels of stress and burnout. As a result of the pandemic, these already high levels of stress were further exacerbated by harsh lockdown measures, homeschooling and the additional pressures of organising virtual learning sessions.
Teachers internationally have been identified as a profession vulnerable to increasing levels of burnout in the workplace, due to the emotional and high-responsibility elements of their role. Stress and burnout are two different things, but can often get confused.
Burnout can be defined as, “ a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” Burnout begins as stress, which is a natural human response to challenging and dangerous situations.
The problem arises when this constant level of stress leads to burnout, and places unnecessary strain on the limbic and adrenal system, making us mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. If not addressed, burnout can lead to severe depression and anxiety.
A way to help tackle these early stages of stress, and the long term damaging effects, is the practice of Mindfulness. Teachers in a Midwestern town in the United States took part in a study looking at the relationship between Mindfulness practice and burnout.
Out of the participants who trialed the Smiling Mind program, 76.5% reported that the length of time was ‘just right' to kick start their Mindfulness journey. The participants also agreed that using the Smiling Mind mobile app was a positive way to introduce mindful meditation into their lives. 66.1% found it to be an effective, efficient, and affordable way to practice Mindfulness.
Key findings from the study divulged that the varying lengths of the programs , the soothing voices used and the convenience of the app was a real plus point for the participants. The study proved that Mindfulness had a positive effect on teachers stress, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Whilst the study revealed that burnout was not exclusively an Australian problem, Smiling Mind offers Australian teachers the tools to help tackle burnout through preventative mental health strategies.
For some further tips on how to tackle burnout see below:
- Get some fresh air at lunchtime
- Talk to your colleagues and friends about how you’re feeling
- Learn to say no when you need to
- Slow down and take a moment to notice the rhythm of your breath
The Regional and Rural Schools Program is funded by the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Health, and provides a whole-school approach to supporting students' mental health and wellbeing. Our Schools Program provides training, resources and support to help schools implement and sustain meaningful and impactful change.
More information on the program, and the application form, is available here.