As exam season approaches, the demand for tutoring skyrockets. It’s a familiar scenario: students look for last-minute assistance to boost their grades, parents become anxious for their children’s success, and tutors get caught up in a whirlwind of requests. It’s all too easy to succumb to the pressure and say yes to every extra hour and new enquiry, driven by the promise of additional income and the desire to help as many students as possible.

However, as someone who has experienced the demands of full-time tutoring, I understand the toll this can take. The constant stream of lessons, the unrelenting schedule, and the pressure to deliver results can lead to burnout. I have experienced this first-hand: pushing myself to the limit and then crashing after the exams, my body succumbing to the stress and exhaustion.

I don’t want you to experience burnout like I did. It’s neither healthy nor sustainable. This article aims to help you identify the signs of burnout and take action to prevent it.

What are the signs of burnout?

Burnout is a complex and personal experience that can manifest differently in each individual. It is not necessary to experience every symptom to be considered burnt out or on the verge of it.

Below are some examples of burnout symptoms:

  • Feeling constantly tired and depleted, even after adequate rest
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep due to anxiety or racing thoughts
  • Mood changes, such as feeling sad, irritable, or angry without clear triggers
  • Heightened irritability and frustration in response to minor issues that wouldn’t typically bother you
  • Frequent illness or a weakened immune system in response to stress
  • Struggling to maintain performance standards and feeling like you’re constantly falling short
  • A general lack of motivation, both in your tutoring work and in other aspects of life

These symptoms act as warning signals that you might be nearing burnout. Recognising and understanding the warning signs of burnout allows you to take proactive measures to avoid or manage it.

Pensive and burnt out tutor sitting on a bench.

How can you prevent burnout?

Preventing burnout requires a two-pronged approach. Firstly, it is important to avoid overextending yourself and taking on more than you can handle. Secondly, it is essential to develop self-care strategies to help you manage any additional stress that you may face.

Managing workload and setting boundaries

The best way to prevent burnout is to take proactive measures to manage your workload and set clear boundaries between work and personal life.

  • Understand your capacity: It is important to recognise your limitations and create boundaries regarding the number of tutoring sessions you can undertake. This includes keeping track of the total hours you tutor each week and setting maximum limits for sessions per day, per week, and in succession.
  • Say no to new enquiries: If you have a full schedule and cannot accommodate new students, it is important to learn to say no. If you are an online tutor on a platform like PMT Education, you can easily hide your tutoring profile to prevent new enquiries. This will save you the trouble of repeatedly declining requests.
  • Set boundaries: Similarly, if your current students are requesting an overwhelming number of additional lessons, it’s okay to decline. You won’t be sitting next to them in the exam hall, so it’s important to teach them to work independently. You can do this by assigning them specific tasks between sessions, such as timed practice papers or sets of questions by topic that they can self-mark. This will foster accountability and reduce their reliance on you.
Male online tutor. To prevent burnout, it is important to set boundaries with your students.

Practising self-care

You’ve set boundaries and limited your workload, but there’s another crucial element to achieving balance: prioritising yourself. Just as we expect our students to work out the revision techniques that work best for them, you need to identify what helps you relax and maintain balance. Allocate dedicated time in your weekly schedule to prioritise self-care. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Exercise: Although it’s probably the last thing you want to do when you’re tired, regular exercise will help you feel better. It doesn’t have to be intense – a light jog, a walk around your neighbourhood, or a home-based stretching or yoga session can suffice. To ensure that I keep up with my exercise routine, I schedule my gym sessions in my diary each week. If you mainly tutor in the evenings, it’s best to exercise in the morning or during the day.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: After a long evening of tutoring, you’re unlikely to want to cook a nutritious meal from scratch. However, fueling your body is crucial. Resist the temptation to grab some fast food or order in. While not every meal needs to be perfectly balanced, aim to make healthy choices whenever possible. You could also consider batch cooking during quieter times in your schedule.
  • Drink water and avoid caffeine: Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining focus and overall wellbeing. While it might be tempting to reach for that extra cup of coffee during long tutoring sessions, it can ultimately disrupt your sleep and increase feelings of stress and fatigue. Keep a water bottle or glass of water handy during tutoring sessions as a reminder to stay hydrated. If you find plain water bland, opt for herbal teas or naturally flavoured water.
It is important to stay hydrate while tutoring.
  • Limit screen time: If you’ve just spent hours tutoring in front of a screen, don’t spend your downtime staring at a different one! When I’m stressed, I tend to doom scroll on Instagram, which only makes me feel worse. To break this cycle, I often delete my social media apps, especially when I sense burnout creeping up on me.
  • Moderate alcohol intake: While indulging in a drink at the end of the day may seem like a good way to relax, it’s important to be mindful of its effects. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep and increase feelings of fatigue, stress, and depression. If you find that alcohol worsens your mental health, it may be best to avoid drinking altogether.
  • Prioritise sleep: Sleep plays a crucial role in both physical and mental rejuvenation. I have a set bedtime and alarm to ensure that I sleep for at least 7.5 hours each night. I have determined that this is the minimum amount of time that my body requires to function best. By maintaining this regular schedule, my body has become accustomed to going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.

As I write this article, we’re in the midst of our Easter revision courses and an inundated tuition platform. I can feel the weight of burnout looming and find myself neglecting the very strategies I have advocated for above. However, it is not too late for me to regain control and change this course. This realisation is what I hope to impart to you.

You may have taken on extra hours during the Easter break, and you might be feeling exhausted and worried about how you will get through the next few months. Pause for a moment to evaluate your schedule and identify moments where you can step away from the computer screen and focus on your own wellbeing. In the whirlwind of exams, it’s all too easy to put the needs of others ahead of our own. However, it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish but an essential step towards effectively supporting your students.

So, amidst the chaos, let’s remember to carve out moments for self-care, to step away from the screen, and to prioritise our own mental and physical health. Only by doing so can we effectively fulfil our roles and provide the best support to our students.

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Michelle Wright

With a background as a full-time tutor, Michelle's journey at PMT Education began when she was recruited to organise their revision courses. In her capacity as Head of Operations, she not only manages the day-to-day aspects but also takes the lead in running the tuition platform and holds a crucial role in tutor recruitment.