Theodora Papapanagiotou

Burnout, exhaustion, and mindfulness
by Theodora Papapanagiotou.


A year ago, day of my life looked like this:

6 a.m. – wake up, cook, clean;

9 a.m. – go to the office (working as a material developer at that time);

5 p.m. – start teaching my private students and groups;

11 p.m. – go home, prepare for the next day, tidy up, and go to sleep.


This was my life for the past three – four years. I just went on as if on autopilot. Motivation? Probably next to zero. Mood? Really bad. One word culd describe it well – exhaustion.

We have all been there. Tired, no inspiration, no motivation. It does not matter if we love our job, it just happens so that we get burnt out.

So what is burnout and how can we get over this?

Burnout is not so much about your job. It’s about choices. It’s about how you want to live. If you realise these choices, you can get closer to the causes of your stress.

You never understand immediately that you are burnt out, but it doesn’t appear suddenly either. The signs are there, however you choose not to see them. You only notice when it is too late.

So what happens when you experience burnout?

You don’t feel like you did before. You lose your enthusiasm, your spirit. You don’t want to participate in social events anymore, you don’t want to be around successful people and when you do, you feel bad about yourself.

You don’t have new ideas. It’s hard for you to think of anything new. Going to work seems like a torture. You just keep going without thinking much about it.  And you also keep complaining. Everything seems wrong – your classes, students,  books, colleagues…

You don’t share anything anymore. You refuse to help others. No one is helping you get over this, right?

Wrong… Because there is someone who can actually help you. This someone is you.

Have you ever thought of what you do to take care of yourself? Do you take care of yourself at all? And how can being mindful help you see the world with another, more realistic pair of eyes?

What is mindfulness and why is it so important?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. In other words, being mindful means understanding yourself and how you feel, what is happening and how you react to that. Do you like the way you behave in this specific situation? What can you change?

I have a small task for you. Take a piece of paper. Divide it into 3 columns. In the first one write what you do for others, for your students, your boss, your family. In the second column write what you do for yourself. I bet the first column has much more in it. Now take a deep breath and use the third column to write what you would love to do. Something fun, something useful, something you have always wanted to do. And then make time to do it. Even 5 minutes a day counts.

You matter.


Learning to Teach Better with Penny Ur

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Theodora Papapanagiotou

Theodora Papapanagiotou is a teacher of EFL and DaF (German as a foreign language) in Greece since 1992. She has worked in various language schools in her hometown, Thessaloniki and with various levels and ages. In the past few years she has been working as a freelance teacher and taking parts in conventions, webinars and online courses, trying to become a better teacher.

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