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50. Prioritizing Mental Health: How Therapy Can Benefit Teachers Experiencing Burnout with Special Guest Clare Welsh
Episode 502nd May 2023 • The Resilient Teacher Podcast • Brittany Blackwell, Teacher Burnout Tips
00:00:00 00:36:24

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Have you hit that point of burnout where you're wondering if it's time to head to the therapist office? Maybe the idea of therapy is scary to you and you just don't know what to expect? I know that when I first set foot in a therapist's office, I was terrified and I knew I just wanted to get help but wasn't sure what exactly to expect. You've probably been there before too and I want you to know that getting help from a licensed professional is not something to be ashamed of. It's understandable to feel nervous or apprehensive about seeking help from a therapist, but it's important to recognize that therapy can be an incredibly powerful tool in managing burnout and prioritizing your mental health.

In this episode, we dive into Clare's story of teacher burnout across seas, how she went from teacher to therapist and discuss topics such as the root causes of teacher burnout, the transformative power of hypnotherapy, and practical tips for finding the right therapist or practitioner for you. We also explore the symptoms of burnout that therapy can help address and provide a quick exercise to calm your nervous system right now.

Clare was an Early Years teacher for 20 years. She initially taught in the UK, then in the Middle East. She suffered with chronic anxiety for years, until a family crisis pushed her over the edge and she suffered from teacher burnout. Quickly followed by a health scare. After resigning in 2020, with no clear idea of what she was going to do, apart from to try to regain her health, she realized her high stress levels had contributed to her health crisis and this led her to train to be a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist and Mindfulness Coach. She actually used all the skills she learned on herself first! She is now happy and healthy, and supports and teaches others how to transform their mental and physical health and well-being through her signature 1:1 program, “The Shift”.


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[0:00] Hey, Claire, it is such a pleasure to have you on the podcast with me today.

It's really lovely to be here. Thank you so much, Brittany. Thank you for inviting me.

Yes, of course. I already gave your official introduction, but I would love for you to introduce yourself a little bit to about your teaching experience, where you're from, how you help teachers now.

Yep. So you might be able to hear from my accent. I'm from England.

I'm from the UK. I was a teacher for over 20 years.

I started in the UK and I was an early years teacher, although I didn't actually aim to be an early years teacher.

[0:39] It just sort of happened really. And once I was there, I thought, oh gosh, I don't really know what I'm doing actually. So I ended up doing an MA in early years and really, really loved it.

You know, loved teaching to begin with, like all of us, you know, started out with lots of hopes and dreams and wanting to change things for children.

And that was wonderful.

But I know things are different in different countries, but certainly in the UK, there's a lot of scrutiny goes on, there's a lot of pressure.

And over the years, I just decided that I wanted to try something different with teaching.

My family had gone abroad and taught abroad. So I ended up going to teach in the Middle East.

So I taught there for about nine years. That was really exciting.

I was there till about, yes,:

So 2020 was when I ended up resigning and then retraining to be a therapist.

Oh, wow. So just kind of speaking on, I think a lot of the teachers that listen in are either from the United States or they're in North America area.

So what I'm hearing you say is that there's a lot of pressure for teachers, not just in America, but in the UK, in the Middle East as well. Is that true?

[1:55] Yeah, I think that in the UK especially, there's an awful lot of scrutiny.

And what I found as well was you have your teaching wage and then on top of that, you're expected to take on lots of extra responsibilities that are unpaid.

And I was in a very small school.

So I had this coordinator job, PE coordinator, then can you manage science?

Can you do this? Can you do that? I became a mentor as well, which was really good because I then was offered a position to be an NQT coordinator when I was in the Middle.

[2:26] East and that's a newly qualified teacher coordinator, so I coordinated that program in the Middle East but...

You know, as teachers, all we teachers know, there's so much more than just a nine to three job.

There's so much more that goes on than just teaching your own class. So yeah, definitely, I think that I think from looking at what happens in America, there's lots of things that happen in the UK that are similar as well. I think that's really good for teachers to hear. Because I think we think it's just an American problem, or it's just a Canadian problem, or it's just a UK, it's a teaching problem. And so I think that your experience just talking about that will kind of validate, you know, that it's teachers across the world who are not respected enough or expected to do all of these various things that aren't part of our job description, but we do it anyways, because it's for the kids, you know. And I know you have a very unique story about your experience with burnout. And I always ask this question when I'm talking with guests, because I think it's very transformative for the listeners to hear other educators' experience. So can you share your story about burnout?

of that as well. So December:

[4:41] But the thing is, Brittany, I knew straight away, I did, deep down, I thought, it's that stress. It's, all of a sudden, it came to me. I really took a good look at myself. And I knew it was the stress that I'd been under for years and years and years, and it had built up. It was a real sink or swim moment, you know. And you don't always know when you've got something really awful that happens, what you're going to do. But fortunately, I had reserves that I didn't know that I had. And I decided that was it. I was going to put myself first. I was going to change my life. And that really was the start of me committing to myself for the first time for years. So, yeah, so that, and that started me on my path to, which ended up me retraining to be a hypnotherapist. I'm happy and healthy now. So, you know, no worries on that score. So yeah, that's what happened to me, unfortunately.

[5:35] Oh, wow. And I, you know, we often don't realize how our body manifests a lot of the stress that we're experiencing. Like for me recently, I've lost 65 pounds. And I did not realize that weight was so heavily influenced by stress. Like if we're not releasing stress from our bodies or doing somatic healing and things like that, it can get stuck. And it's crazy to me that making these small little changes or even just recognizing, hey, I'm, I might be addicted to stress and I'm putting myself in stressful situations that I don't really need to, then it's just accumulating within my body and you can see it on the physical.

So it's just, it's crazy to me what stress can do to our bodies. You mentioned becoming trained as a hypnotherapist, and I know that some teachers might be familiar with this term and others are like what in the world is hypnotherapy? Can you kind of explain a little bit about what that is and how it works.

[6:42] Yeah, of course. Yeah. So my training is in cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy because there's different types, So I like to say there's sort of three parts to that. So there's like the hypnosis part in the training, It can feel magical, but it's not it's science-based. It's got CBT aspects to it, And then there was a lovely mindfulness part like an ancient part ancient roots to the training as well, and then there was breath work.

So those three things combined were just absolutely amazing.

The hypnosis part, it's not scary, it's not woo-woo. It's a bit like, it's that sort of state, you know when you sort of wake up in the morning and you're just starting to wake up, it's like that relaxed, but very sort of alert state as well.

So like if you sort of daydreaming or if you're engrossed in a book.

And when you're in that sort of state, That's the ideal state to change your thoughts and feelings and behaviors when you're in that state.

So yeah, it's really powerful. It's really amazing. So it's not scary at all.

[7:46] Yeah, that's basically what it is. So I read a lot of books.

I read from here and there and I just combine them together.

So is that theta waves that you're talking about?

Yeah, we didn't go into the brain waves, but I've certainly looked into that and there's different levels of brainwaves. And I think that is the state.

There's beta, alpha, beta, gamma, yeah. So yeah, it's not that the hypnotherapy I was taught in, it's not a deep trance state.

So you remember everything afterwards and it's really important because quite often I want to talk to you about, say for example, I have helped people with pain.

So I might want them to rate their pain and tell me what is your pain level now?

And then we'll do some work.

And I say, okay, can you rate your pain now? or rate your anxiety level.

So it's really important we have communication all the way through.

So you're very relaxed, you're very alert, but you're just able then to, we're able to work together, because if you can't remember what happens afterwards, and I do know people that have had hypnotherapy and they can't remember what's happened afterwards and it's helped them, but then they don't know what to do themselves.

So it's really very much about empowering the person that I work with.

[9:00] Yeah, yeah. So I went through EMDR therapy for, for trauma. And it, that's kind of what it sounds like a little bit. I had to hold these little eggs in my hand, and they would go back and forth and back and forth. And I would have to be in a calm state that where I could actually remember things and bring things up in my mind. So it sounds very similar to that, in that afterwards, it's still on the person to take the action. You're, you're giving that person the opportunity to really go through or process things and then take action afterwards. Is that what I'm hearing?

[9:43] Yeah, absolutely. What you're looking to do is you're looking to change those thoughts, feelings and behaviors in that state and change them. And then, and I'm saying behaviors, because there's an understanding that something's going to happen afterwards. And it's mainly down to just starting to put yourself first, you know, actually commit to yourself, decide you're going to spend some time every day on yourself. There's things that we can do as well called behavior experiments. So sometimes teachers will go in, and they'll practice doing different things. Maybe there's a confidence issue, they might go in and practice something to do with that. So it's very much, it's, there's a real practical thing going on, as well as the sorting out the inner world. It's very important that teachers take, Yeah. Yes. So in terms of teachers who are experiencing that burnout, that compassion fatigue, all those.



Also, there's usually underlying core beliefs that we then start to look at. So things like might feel a fear of failure, which I really had. You know, this huge fear of making a mistake.

This sort of environment, like, teachers are judged all the time on how good you are, if that's one of your core beliefs, and, you know, like, not feeling good enough, all those sorts of things.


So it's really, hypnotherapy is all really to help you with that inner world, you know, really get to what those core beliefs are, look at where did they come from, and start to really, really unpick them, and then start to work on new positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Like you say, it's the action that's really important as well. Yes. Oh, gosh. So walk me through this, okay? A teacher decides, yes, they want to try this method, they want to support their well-being. What does a session of hypnotherapy look like for this teacher? Well, I always start off with a brief chat.

It's really important that you tell me what your issues are, make sure that I can help, make sure I feel like that we're a good match. And then if that seems to be going well, we can book our first session. And in that session, it's really important that it's a, confidential assessment session so I can really work out what's going on for you.

Again with, I have to say there have been some clients that I've had where I do think actually I can't help here and I will refer on, that's what we do as therapists, you have to make sure that it's right for me to work with you.





Anne Angus That is! That's how I feel! I sort of, yeah, you can't, you get so excited because once you realize actually you can do something about the stress that you have, it is amazing.

Yes, yes, oh my goodness. Okay, so I love what you said about, you don't want them to become like a client, you don't want them to become dependent on you.


They're like, well, then I'll have to go to this person forever and they're just gonna be this person that's listening to me talk. And yes, there is, you know, talk therapy. But a lot of times, what happens is you may go through cycles where you need a little extra help. But the whole idea of therapy is really to start to recognize these patterns and behaviors that over time, you can kind of work your, work out yourself. The therapist is there to help support you in your ability to do that. But you don't often need to go forever and ever, amen, and be dependent on a therapist. So I love that you even mentioned that, because I know that that's something that teachers or people in general often struggle with that idea of therapy, that they'll need it forever and have to go every week for the rest of their lives. And that's just, that's not the case. Yeah, so that's, I love that you brought that up.



Yes. I mean, all those things you talked about, definitely the things that teachers will come to me with.

And like I said before, there's core beliefs going on behind there.


You know, if you don't know how to calm yourself down, then your fears just grow and grow and grow and grow and grow.

And it becomes this huge ball of anxiety.


So you admit that you're going to worst case scenario.

So it's really important to be able to rationalize those thoughts and ask yourself, where's the evidence for this?

Where's the evidence that I'm no good? You know what I mean?

And once you start to do that and you do that work a therapist can help you to get there. Yeah, that is, it's, it is really, really life changing. But like you said, it doesn't go on forever. And it's something that those changes can start to happen quite quickly. It's all about awareness, like you said, all about awareness and insight. And teachers especially are very motivated to learn.

So they're brilliant to work with, because they're, you know, it's quite dynamic, my process, because I am a, teachers. So there's lots of back and forth and, you know, trying things out. And what do you think? So it's not passive at all.


Well, from people that I've worked with, with teachers and clients that I've worked with, you definitely should be noticing real change, real improvements from sessions.

But also, what I've noticed, though, Brittany, is that even in the first session, a lot of teachers will say to me.


So just that unburdening yourself and telling somebody, and who really listens to you, and who really cares.

Even quite often at the end of that first session, teachers will say to me, Gosh, I feel such relief and, and a, sense of hope, because someone's saying to you, I've been there, I've gone through it, I can help you. And so that sort of, that hope for change is really important. And also, that motivation, like I said, to want to do things in between sessions, that's going to very much speed things along. So like I said, having a daily routine, well, you know this, so bookending your day, so starting well, finishing well. And also, it's not just about that, it's about your whole life, you know, looking at other aspects of your life. You know, teaching is not just your life, you need to try and have a life outside of teaching, having that balance. But I do find, certainly for me, it was, I had a lot of big fears and anxieties to shift. So I would say that for, for some cases, it is going to need a longer program, look, you're looking at more like 12 weeks. But it, like you say, it varies from case to case.


And like, my longest program is like 12 weeks.

So, you know, the hypnotherapy aspect really does speed up the whole process.

Yes, because of how it's using your brain and when your brain is most receptive to that information.

So I think that's super powerful.

Yeah, because you're talking about neuroplasticity as well, aren't you?

You're talking about, you know, the firing or wiring new positive pathways in the brain.

I've got a feeling you've looked into that. So yeah, I'm very interested in that as well.

It is just amazing what you can do.

If you can change your inner world, It is amazing what you can do.

You mentioned that about how people often, it's not just teaching, it can be from other walks of their life, other pieces of their life. And I think so often we, because we're teachers, because we struggle with these ideas about teaching, we think it's only related to teaching.

But oftentimes what I find with teachers that I talk to, teachers that I work with.


That's amazing.

Oh, thank you. And Chris, you're currently teaching, are you, Brittany?

I am. I am still a teacher. I've been teaching for 11 years. Hats off to you.



You must have heard of belly breathing. Yes.

I'm sorry, but that is my go-to. Yeah, belly breathing is my go-to because when you're a busy teacher, you haven't got time sometimes to go off and listen to your little hypnosis audio, or maybe if your mind's really frazzled, you can't always calm it enough to do this. But Breathing is really amazing, as you know, you're going to be oxygenating the body when you're doing your breath work, but also you're stabilizing your blood pressure, you know, you're calming your body down and you calm your brain down, and then you can start to think.

But also what's really good about belly breathing is you can do it with the children. It's really fun, so you can legitimately calm yourself down and the children at the same time. So if you're doing it with children, you can call it balloon breathing, because then they get the idea of of when you're breathing and your belly comes out, which feels like the opposite thing, because we're all trying to suck our tummies in. And then when you're breathing out, you pull that, you pull your belly in. So do you want to do it now? Or do you want me to do it? Or I might have to stand up. It's really funny, because when I've taught this, when I've taught this to clients, some of them, they really don't get it. And I've had to, in fact, I did a little video on Instagram just because of that. So look, this is, this is what I mean. This is what I mean. So.




There are all sorts of breathwork exercises that you can do.

There is box breathing, vagal toning, but belly breathing is something that I find is the quickest, my quickest go to to calm my body down, then I can access my mind and then I can start problem solving my way through.

Yes! I love it! I love it! I love it!

I love it! My friend, Dr. Katie Raher, she's actually going to be on the podcast as well, and she, something with breathwork. She's really focused on, she's got training in it. And so she's going to come on the show because I did a breathwork session with her, and she's fantastic. She's fantastic. But I love that, that, that quick win. It's something we're already, we're already breathing anyways. Might as well just, you know, just be more intentional about it. And I just, I love that.


Do you have any advice for those teachers, words of wisdom, things that you can offer them to kind of guide them?

What I would say is that therapists are just human beings. I mean, you know, there's us two talking here, we're just human beings, and we're all different.

So it's really important that there's a good match between client and therapist. So my first, most important tip is, don't just go with the first therapist that you talk to. Make sure you feel like you've got good rapport going on. I mean, I've got a business coach, and I talked to loads of coaches before I decided on the one that I had. So really, you know, and your gut feeling, your intuition, and how good you're feeling about the therapist, I would say that's the absolute No. 1 thing, because that working alliance is really important. But with regard to credentials are different in different countries and how you search as well. But certainly in the UK, we have registers. So, like I've got registered to an accredited organization, but I am so you can ask the therapist, are you registered? Are you insured? Because if they're registered, that means they've got a code of ethical conduct that they need to adhere to. So that's really helpful to look for that. But the rules and regulations regarding hypnotherapy certainly quite.


But yeah, No. 1 really is, is trusting yourself and going with your gut. And it's not scary, like I say. Therapist is, just human, like everyone else.

Yes. And so you need to like speed-date some, some therapists.


Yes. And so I really think that a lot of teachers, just whoever's listening right now, may have just needed that reminder today that they're not alone in their feelings about burnout. They're probably learned a ton about the different types of therapies they've, you know, never heard of before, CBT, hypnotherapy, all of those things. They've just now heard some buzzwords that have got them thinking. So do you have any resources that would help teachers? Or can you share where teachers can learn more from you and, like, about you?

Yeah, well, I mainly now, really, most of my work is on Instagram. So if you look for me on Instagram, I'm on Instagram, and that's why I put Self & With Claire's, just so you, it sort of makes it a bit clearer. So if you look for me on Instagram, I've got quite a lot of content on there. And then if you want to know any more, just do reach out for me, and then I can chat with you. But also, I have got freebies that I can send to you. So that's really the.


So yeah, that's the first point of call, really.

Awesome! So I will put those links in the show notes for anybody who's listening that wants to learn more and wants to get to know you. I'll put those in the show notes for them.

Thank you so much, Claire, for just chatting with me today. It was really fun. I could listen to you talk for hours, and I know that every American says that.

But you're just, you've really made this conversation so powerful and just really informative without, you know, all the crazy language or anything like that. It's just made it really easy for people to listen to.

Yeah, that's the main thing is to really try to make it accessible, you know, not give people loads of jargon.

So yeah, the best of luck with everybody, all your teachers out there, sending you lots of big, big hugs.

I think you're all amazing.

I still know lots of teachers and you can make it through this.

If you're listening to people like Brittany and myself, learn to look after yourself, look out for those signs and remember you are more than just a teacher.

Yes, yes, awesome.