The Five Year Burnout

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This is my fifth year as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Many studies have reported that nearly half of teachers quit by their fifth year.  I can see why.....

I am not going to lie, last year was rough. Being an SLP is not all sunshine and roses. Seriously.  I felt like I was on the verge of giving up on this profession. I felt I wasn't being listened to, I was overwhelmed, and taking far too much work home. I became Rachel the SLP at work and at home. SLP 24/7.  I stopped doing things I enjoyed on the weekend because I had to write reports. Even when I wasn't working, I was thinking out it. All. The. Time. Even with all the SLP media, facebook groups, TpT, and blogs. It's everywhere! I find it very hard to believe that being an SLP is on the top 10 LEAST stressful jobs, really? I beg to differ.

I lost sight of who I was as a person. I was in a struggle for regaining balance in my life. I am not just Rachel the SLP. I have a husband and an adorable puppy. I have friends and family. I have a life.  I love crafting, crocheting, painting, glitter, and creating. I actually like to exercise! I enjoy walks on the beautiful beach a few miles from my house, especially during the day, outside, getting fresh air. I love reformer Pilates, who knew!? I like to meditate to help me calm down, especially listening to visualization tapes.  I missed my friends! I enjoy baking. Many hobbies I left by the wayside because I was "too busy" or became too stressed and anxious. I was exhausted (and I still am sometimes).

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I think we all have to be nicer to ourselves, especially those of us working in the public schools. We are great at what we do, but that doesn't mean it has to become us. It also doesn't mean we have to take on the world and everything thrown our way.

Here are some things I have done that help:
  • Our work will never be done, so create boundaries.
  • Plan ahead so you don't have to work from home. I mean this, I really do. It will change your life.
  • Make time in your schedule to get things done at work, yep bigger therapy groups.
  • Ask for help!  
  • Breathe.
  • Don't feel defeated or like you are not good enough if the workload is too much. 
  • Change your perspective and negative thinking. This one is HARD for me. I get so stuck in my "twisted thinking".  Love this quote....
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  • Take your lunch and actually eat it, in peace. 
  • STOP feeling guilty. 
  • You are enough, you do enough and it will be okay. 
  • The work will still be there in the morning.
  • Disconnect from your computer for a while. 
  • Disconnect from everything SLP related for a while, including social media. 
  • Leave your laptop at school one night, it's freeing! 
  • Simplify! Are your reports too long? Could you make your life easier? How? Think about it and brainstorm ideas to make a change.
  • Take Breaks (check out all these great ways to take breaks)
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  • Talk to someone, yes therapy. It helps. 
  • Listen to good music. 
  • Talk to colleagues and share ideas. What are they doing that could help you? It also helps to commiserate and know you are not alone.
  • Take a mental health day if you need to, that is why they exist!
  • Use aromatherapy in your office (as your school allows), it helps bring me peace.
  • Consider a job change. I know I am...private practice? Clinical supervisor? Professor? New school? Who knows...there are options!
  • LOVE yourself, you are imperfect and a wonderful human anyway.
  • Write in a journal-nope not a blog. A real paper journal, a pretty one and write with fun colored pens. I found I really enjoy it. 
  • One of the best things I realized about our job is no matter how many students we have, WE are responsible for trying to make it work in a way that best works for us and the students we serve. If it's not working out, look over your schedule (I know it's hard), but maybe there is wiggle room you didn't see before.
  • Know that you are NOT stuck, you have options and you create your destiny.

My list will keep growing as I grow and learn. Having a career isn't always easy. I am grateful I have a fabulous job, great pay and time off to relax. However, I think we can get caught up without realizing it. You wake up one day and realize work has taken over.

Take this quote to heart and live it. 
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What do YOU do to help you maintain balance in your life? Do you have a favorite hobby or activity? What is it?

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29 Responses to “The Five Year Burnout ”

  1. This is such a good post! I truly believe that being a school-based SLP is much harder and more time-demanding than when I began (way back when!). You never really let go of being an SLP, and some years are harder than others. You have parents who are demanding, or kids that keep you up at night (wondering if you're doing the right thing & what you can do to help him). That's just a part of who we are! On those days when things are really rough, I grab my flute & play all of the stress away!
    Hang in there!

    1. Oh Mary! :) Thank you so much for sharing! I used to play the flute, but the moment I walked into graduate school I left my flute playing behind. It's been 7 years!! Sometimes I want to grab it back out and start playing again. I think the music, the breathing and being part of a band were so beneficial (the friendships!). Some years are harder than others, last spring was really tough. This year, it's been going better. However, I am still considering other options out in the great big world that may be better for me in the long run!! Can't hurt to explore.

    2. Girl, dust off that flute! I quit playing for about 10 years while my boys were little. It's just like riding a get back on and pedal! :)

  2. Great read! I've been working for the same school district for 12 years and this year is just a killer! The "to do" list seems never-ending, the kids are more impacted, etc. Thank goodness for great coworkers and a sense of humor!!

    1. I agree! I have the best workload I have ever had, but it still feels like the same amount of work! Not sure how that happens, but I think it's just how our job is changing!

  3. I really needed to hear this. I have had a really difficult couple of years and it is so comforting in knowing I am not alone. I work with some SLP's whose life is work and I begin to feel I'm not doing enough. I do love what I do and I make a difference in kids lives...we all do! Thank you for the reminder that it is ok to have a life outside of being an SLP.

    1. So glad it helped to read this! :) Don't feel guilty! I felt like I had to be "on it" all the time, and the fact is the pace is just impossible. It's more important to be a balanced, happy, healthy, human being!!

  4. I love your blog posts, your Facebook comments, and your materials on TpT! It made me a bit sad to see your comment about changing jobs, that would be a big loss to the school system, but we all must find our own career path that is right for us. I think I live near you--I'm in North Orange County, and I think you are near San Diego--we should get together! Maybe would help re-energize both of us!

    1. Judy! Don't be sad, I think if I ever went another route I would be teaching future SLPs and getting them into the schools prepared and ready for work life! I love being an SLP, and it's fun to think of the possibilities. Although I think I would really really miss the kids. So for the future, I am not sure what it holds....I will keep you all informed!

    2. oh and I would love getting together! Are you going to CSHA???

    3. I want to join y'all when you get together! I'm not far from LAX. I think I'm going to CSHA - it is in Long Beach this spring, correct?

  5. Love this! I did a post the other day on staying positive... Our jobs can be so exhausting, demanding, and stressful that sometimes it's hard to keep a positive attitude. I started writing down at least 1 positive thing that happened each day (on pretty paper, of course!) and sticking it in a box to pull out and read on the tough days!

    1. Kari, I will have to go read your post right now! :) I love writing in my journal. It started out as positivity and gratefulness and then turned into more of a journal. It's a great outlet. Especially since I love doodling. What a great idea to keep them all in a box! Blogging is a great thing....we all get to share!!

  6. This is a great post! I even read it to my husband (who is a special education teacher in his third year teaching in a setting 3 EBD program). This is just what we both needed right now! Thanks for this blog post!

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  8. t's nearly 10:00 p.m. and I am just now getting a chance to check my email and catch up a bit and I came across this post. I love it as I just read an email from a parent that made my blood boil! I, too, am working hard to reclaim my life. Not easy, but certainly worth it!

  9. Great post, Rachel! I commend you for being so honest about the "toughness" of this job. We do so much as SLPs, so we also need to take care of ourselves. It's important to put down those reports, ignore that work email while at home, say "no" to some things, and feel ok about it :) Best of luck to you in whatever you do or wherever you go next!

  10. Totally agree! I need to do more of your suggestions!!

  11. I came across this post as I was googling "SLP burnout". I work in birth-3 and it feels SO much more demanding than even the schools were. It also doesn't help that I have to have a home office, either...the work is always there staring at me. :(

    That said, as this "new" year starts, I'm going to try to take some of these suggestions to heart. Thanks for writing this!

  12. Today it's Almost 2 years after your post, but just at the right for me. This spoke to me: our work will never be done, so set boundaries. Thank you!

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  14. I know that this post is a couple of years old but I could not have come across it at a better time. I have been in the field as a school speech therapist for just short of 5 years and am so unhappy. I am bringing so much work home and have totally lost my home work balance. I am not getting support, despite repeated pleas for help. Now that I know more and have more experience I am so frustrated when I am unable to do my best for my students because of the high caseloads, difficult parents and never ending reports to write and IEPs to attend. I like your advice that sometimes, groups need to be bigger and reports shorter. I am going to take some of your advice to try to make it through the year.

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  17. I totally identify. I wish what was addressed though was awful administrators. Unfortunately, an important lesson I learned after several years in my schools is that my professional opinion does NOT matter. The opinions of principals are what matters. Furthermore, one should never question anything an administrator wants. Ultimately, the administrators come first, not the kids. The lessons I have learned have taught me I should probably find another employer down the road; until then, I will do my best to placate my administrators.

  18. Thank you! Very much needed at a time when I'm ready to give it all up. Even in private practice (left schools long ago) the burnout is real. Exploring other options is what makes this profession great though...we teach, inspire, learn, grown, and move on. Thank you again, very much needed.

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