You love what you do! Your passion to help students improve and the reward of seeing them achieve their goals brought you to Speech Language Pathology. But I know what you’re thinking….”if only I could focus on the meaningful work I love and avoid the all too familiar burnout from the “must dos” and endless tasks that come along with it.” We see you, SLP! In addition to actually working with your students, there is data collection, progress tracking, lesson planning, and IEP development to take care of. These go-along tasks can be time consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes it may even dim the incredible passion that brought you here in the first place.
Don’t lose hope! While the workload may seem daunting at times, we’ve gathered a list of 11 ideas and strategies to help you feel on top of your game and focused on what matters most:
1. Keep your to-dos realistic!
If you’re a list maker, then a mental or hand-written list is a must have! A manageable load of items that you can achieve and cross-off can feel great! The problem comes when the list becomes counter-productive. When your mind runs wild, adding endless items without regard for time, space, or human limitations, then you’re setting yourself up to fail.
So keep it simple. Your list should only include the things that you can comfortably accomplish within that day or week. Anything that pops into your head that falls outside of that scope needs to wait for its own time and place.
You’ve heard this a million times…”try meditating.” But there are some great reasons and hard facts to back up this suggestion. According to this article from our friends at Forbes, meditation can improve concentration as much as 16% after just two weeks of consistent practice. Equally impressive are the potential impacts on stress and anxiety. A meditation practice could be the antidote to SLP burnout and there are countless tools online to get you started.
3. Come back to the beginning
Regardless of your profession or life phase, we can all lose sight of the beginning. Bogged down by day-to-day worries and pressures, we forget what brought us here.
When that happens, think about this: What made you choose this career in the first place? When you first began, would you have been thrilled with the position you’re currently in? If you look at your career overall (not just this tough period) are you proud of what you’ve accomplished and the impact you’ve made? Are there students that have touched your life, who you may have never known otherwise? Keeping perspective garners gratitude and contentment, which creates happy, world-changing SLPs!
4. Set Boundaries
In this all-accessible, all-the-time world, burnout is inevitable without some healthy boundaries. By deciding what you’re comfortable offering in terms of time and effort ahead of time, you’ll recognize if anything attempts to breach that threshold. By respecting your limits, you’ll be encouraged to find more efficient ways of completing the things that need to be done, and you you’ll be more present for the important work that you love.
5. Take Care of You!
Diet, sleep and exercise- the trifecta that we’re told is the antidote for many of life’s ailments, and SLP burnout is no exception.
According to this article by success.com, staying fueled with the right foods, having a healthy sleep routine, and exercising regularly will help burnout and depression stay at bay. At the same time, you’ll optimize your mind and body to rock each day! You can start small! Small changes for your health can have BIG results for you and all those around you.
6. Change Things Up
If you’re using the same room/desk/bag for your speech time everyday, it will eventually get boring. Keep things fresh by reorganizing or redecorating to add a splash of “new” and keep things running smoothly. Integrate new colors, themes, scents, anything that’s going to make you smile and feel more energized during your day.
7. Have Fun
Just because you’re working doesn’t mean that fun isn’t welcome. Integrate a joke, share a quick story, or play a game with your students. Let your personality come to life, while letting your students get to know a bit more about you. By encouraging fun, you and your students will feel more comfortable and enjoy speech time that much more.
8. Learn Something New
In the SLP world, we know how empowering learning can be. According to this article from Inc.com, learning new things opens up new possibilities and can even improve your brain! Read a new book, take a MasterClass, or watch a TED Talk. The world is big and always full of new, incredible things. By seeking knowledge, you’re investing some much-deserved time in your growth and happiness.
9. Help Someone
Out of everything on the list, this may offer the biggest and fastest return on your investment. MentalFloss.com tells us that the benefits of helping others range from bringing you happiness, to literally extending your life.
So take a moment to share a best practice with a teacher you work with, send a nice message to someone you’ve been thinking of, or buy a stranger their next cup of coffee. Doing good is always a great idea!
10. Check in with You
So often, we ignore our own feelings and “push through” our body’s warning signs, only to be met with complete burnout down the road. To keep that from happening, intentionally check-in with yourself a couple of times each day: How do you feel? How are those boundaries holding up? Are you hungry? Do you feel overwhelmed? Listen and take care of you.
11. Seek Good
VeryWellMind.com explains that historically we’ve been hard-wired for negativity because being cautious helped us survive. But these days it seems that the tables have turned. It’s now positivity and gratitude that keep us healthy and successful. So how do we change our internal narrative?
Start with a gratitude practice. Our favorite is to write down (actually write, not just think) at least three things you’re grateful for each day. These do not need to be major- “I found a great parking spot” or “I had a great conversation” are both great examples. You’ll be surprised by how many things you’ll find throughout your day. By practicing gratitude you’ll seek out the good in your life, which will keep you uplifted.