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In a recent study by University College London (UCL), it was reported that teaching professionals are now working more than 60 hours a week. As this additional work is often completed in the teacher’s own time, they now have less time to switch off, rest and recharge.

Teachers are frequently working longer hours as a result of the following:

  • Increased administrative tasks added to their already busy schedules
  • Adapting to frequently changing curriculums
  • Complex requirements for planning and marking
  • Lengthy data entry processes

The additional work is causing more and more teaching professionals to burnout. Burnout is a term commonly used for a state of chronic stress, which leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. In the Teacher Wellbeing Index UK 2018, it was found that:

  • 76% of education professionals experience behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work
  • 57% considered leaving the profession in the last two years
  • 47% experienced depression, anxiety or panic attacks due to work

This has become a growing concern in the UAE, as expat teachers are at a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of burnout due to being away from their social support networks, adapting to a new culture, and living in a transient environment. They run the risk of feeling isolated, lonely and stressed.

Tanya Dharamshi, clinical director and counselling psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai says that: "Often teachers are asked to work late and their mental health is often the last thing on schools’ agendas."

What are the differences between stress and burnout?

Stress verses burnout at work

We hear more and more people commonly using terms such as ‘stressed out’ and ‘burnt out’ to describe their physical and mental state. If you are feeling stressed it would be advised to take precautions so that you don’t enter a state of burnout. Here, we have outlined some of the common differences: 


Stress

Burnout

Characterised by over-engagement

Characterised by disengagement

Lacking in motivation and having a sense of dissatisfaction at work

Feeling frustration, disruption and cynicism towards everything

Experiencing feelings of urgency and hyperactivity

Having a loss of physical energy and an inability to function at work

Having symptoms of anxiety

Having symptoms of depression

Primary effects are physical

Primary effects are emotional


What are the signs and symptoms of burnout?

Below we have outlined some of the common signs and symptoms that someone may experience if they are at the stage of burnout:

  1. Continuous fatigue: Constantly feeling tired, low in energy and lethargic
  2. Becoming more susceptible to illness: As the body’s resources become depleted, the immune system weakens, allowing room for illness to strike more frequently
  3. Prolonged insomnia: It can become difficult to switch off and sleep, despite feeling exhausted. This can prevent the body from being able to ‘recharge its batteries’
  4. Feelings of isolation: Frustration, anxiety and low mood can contribute to someone feeling that they want to be alone, or are too busy to form and maintain relationships
  5. Physical symptoms of burnout: These include recurring chest pains, palpitations and/or shortness of breath. Other symptoms can include frequent headaches, dizziness and stomach problems
  6. Loss of appetite: Hunger levels may drop and a person may totally lose their appetite, which in turn can result in unhealthy weight loss, putting further strain on the body and immune system
  7. Forgetfulness and lack of concentration: It can be difficult to keep focused and forgetfulness can ensue, especially as tasks begin to pile up
  8. Anxiety: Anxiety can affect a person’s work to the point where feelings of fear or dread become associated with the workplace. Tension, worry and negative thought patterns can quickly lead to total burnout
  9. Depression: As a result of the other symptoms, a person can start to feel sad and hopeless, guilty and worthless. They may also start to feel trapped, with no way out of the situation
  10. Anger: Frustration and irritability may build up to a point of resentment and anger outbursts, often over very small things. However, if anger builds to a point of acts of violence towards others, professional help should be sought immediately

How can schools in the UAE support their staff?

To reduce the rate of teachers suffering burnout, steps should be put in place to help them better manage their stress levels:

  • During teacher training days, emphasise the importance of a good work-life balance for teaching professionals. They need to be equipped with the right tools to manage stress, recognise the signs quickly, and know where to seek help. Workshops for practicing mindfulness techniques would also help teachers deal with initial signs of stress
  • Put safe spaces into schools, where colleagues can engage in conversations about their mental health and wellbeing, and support one another
  • Have a welcome team for new teachers, a buddy system, and a peer support group meeting on a monthly basis where teachers from various levels of teaching can support each other

Support available at Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai

If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of stress or burnout you may need professional help. Receiving the right support from a professional psychologist is an important step to take.

To find out more about mental health support offered at Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai, call +971 4 245 3800 to speak to one of our administrative team today in confidence or submit an online enquire form.

Tanya Dharamshi, Counsellor

This page was clinically reviewed by Tanya Dharamshi (BSW, MSc Psych, Counsellor, DHCC, UAE). Tanya brings 18+ years of counselling experience in trauma, crisis intervention, child abuse, substance addiction, attachment disorder, depression, anxiety, stress, bereavement, couples therapy, mood disorders, chronic illness and adjustment disorder. View Tanya's full profile here.