Boarding burnout – dont be a casualty

Boarding burnout – don’t be a casualty


Burnout is work-related feelings of hopelessness, emotional exhaustion, and being overwhelmed, and it can result from work environments that involve excessive workloads and little support. However burnout can also occur because a person does not manage the stress and workload that is a part of their combined private life and work life. A boarding supervisor may have a demanding but manageable work role, but combined with a very busy home life, the demands of their own children, involvement in charities, volunteering, sports clubs or personal projects, the combination can develop into burnout if not managed well. The consequences of burnout are anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, prolonged health issues, and troubled relationships. In the workplace, it may result in absenteeism, difficulty with coworkers, poor productivity and performance, which Dzcan decrease self-esteem and increase feelings of incompetence.dzWhen boarding supervisors experience burnout, students suffer as well. It’s obvious that if boarding supervisors don’t care for themselves, their ability to care for students will be. There are ways you can reduce your exposure to burnout.

1. Develop an early warning system
Make sure that you know the signs that you are overloaded, stressed or approaching meltdown. These will be different for each person. It is great to record these in a diary or a journal. My early warning sign was headaches, which grew in frequency and intensity until they became full-blown migraines. Most people will have early signs that lead to more serious signs. If you can recognise these early signs and then take action, you will be better able to deal with stress and overload.

2. Take stock – what’s on your plate?
Start by taking a nonjudgmental inventory of where things are at in your life. Make a list of all the demands on your time and energy (work, family, home, health, volunteering, other). Try to make this list as detailed as you can. eg: wnder the Work category, list the main stressors you see (difficult students, amount of paperwork, or issues with work colleagues, etc).

Once you have the list, take a look at it. What stands out? What factors are contributing to making your plate too full? Life situations or things you have taken on? What would you like to change most? If you are comfortable sharing this with a trusted friend or colleague, have a brainstorming discussion with them on strategies and new ideas. A counsellor or life coach can also help you with this exercise.

3. Start a self-care idea collection
This can be fun. You can do it with friends and at work. With friends: Over a meal or a coffee, interview three friends on their favourite self-care strategies. Start making a list even if they are not ideas that you would do/are able to afford at the moment. Something new might emerge that you had not yet thought of.

At work: If you are doing this at work, you could even start a contest for the best self care idea of the week or have a Dzself care boarddz where people post their favourite ideas. You could have Dz5 minutes of self caredz at each staff meeting, where someone is in charge of bringing a new self care idea each week. Once you have a really nice long list, pick three ideas that jump out at you. Make a commitment to implementing these in your life within the next month.

4. Find time for yourself every day – rebalance your workload
Can you think of simple ways to take mini breaks during a work day? This could simply be that you bring your favourite coffee cup to work, and have a ritual at lunch where you can sit outdoors and listen to 10 minutes of your favourite music. Make sure you do one nourishing activity each day. Don’t wait until all the dishes are done and the bench is clean to take time off. Take it when you can, and make the most of it. Even small changes can make a difference in a busy supervisors’s life.

5. Delegate – learn to ask for help at home and at work
Have you ever taught a boarding student how to make a sandwich? How long would it take you to make the same sandwich? Yes, you would likely make it in far less time and cause far less mess in the kitchen, but at the end of the day, that student will grow into a self reliant young person, and you won’t have to supervise the sandwich making anymore. Are there things that you are willing to let go of and let others do their own way? Don’t expect others to read your mind: consider holding a regular staff meeting to review the workload and discuss new options. Think of this: If you became ill and were in hospital for the next two weeks, who would look after things in the residence?

6. Learn to say no more often
Boarding supervisors are often attracted to the role because they are natural givers. Are you the person who ends up on all the committees at work? Are you on work- related boards? Are you the crisis/support line to your friends and family? It can be draining to be the source of help for all people. There are times when we need to learn to say no, because if we have another task, we will not be able to do it well because we are already overloaded. It’s a matter of evolving out of being a people pleaser and learning to set healthy boundaries to be better able to serve the greater good.

7. Consider joining a supervision/peer support group
Not all places of work offer the opportunity for peer support. You can organise such a group on your own (whether it be face to face meetings or via email or phone). This can be as small as a group of three colleagues who meet once a month or once a week to debrief and offer support to one another.

8. Attend workshops/professional training regularly
Attending regular professional training is one of the best ways for supervisors to stay renewed and healthy. There are of course several benefits to this: connecting with peers, taking time off work, and building on your boarding skills. Identify an area of expertise that you want to hone. If you are not able to travel to workshops, consider taking online courses.

9. Exercise
We tell our students how important physical exercise is. Do you do it on a regular basis? Can you think of three small ways to increase your physical activity? The key
to actually increasing physical exercise is to be realistic in the goals we set out for ourselves. If you don’t exercise at all, aiming to walk around the block twice a week is a realistic goal, running a 10km run in two weeks time is not.

10. Eat the best foods possible.
Often when we are busy fulfilling our responsibilities, part of the way we make more time is to neglect our own dietary needs. Instead of fully nourishing ourselves, we rely on packaged, microwavable or takeout foods, which lack nutrients and often have an abundance of substances that are detrimental to our health. Decide to make food a priority for yourself; even for just a short while. Chances are, you’ll feel better at the end of that process, with increased energy and clarity. You can start slowly here; evaluate where you are now, and make plans for small steps. As you learn new strategies for sustaining healthy eating as a regular part of your life, you’ll make more changes and your progress will be exponential.

11. Make sleep a priority.
For a myriad of reasons, our society is becoming increasingly sleep-deprived. Sleep is significant in our body’s ability to be well. While sleeping, we repair damaged tissues and organs, we metabolize hormones our body no longer needs, and our brains use this time to organize our thoughts and experiences, and to make permanent neurological links (memories) for the learning we experienced that day.

12. Realistic work demands
Student boarding is an industry that sometimes places demands on employees which cause stress and overload. This can be because of unplanned events such as a student being unwell in the night, or misbehaviour of students late at night. Managing this is part of the role of the boarding supervisor and the residence should develop strategies to allow for recovery time. The demands can also be due to unrealistic work rosters and work expectations. If this occurs the boarding supervisor must be confident in their awareness of what is good practice in the industry and their own terms and condtions. They can then talk to the manager and work out alternative strategies / rosters that are manageable for staff. The ways to know what is best practice in the industry is;

  • to attend boarding conference and training events hosted by peak bodies,
  • To visit other residences and dialogue with staff,
  • On-line forums.




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