Ask a teacher what the most stressful part of her job is and chances are good that paperwork, testing, and things not related to actual classroom instruction are high on the list. The piles of paperwork, outside stressors, and ever increasing workload can make even the most dedicated of teachers feel discouraged at times. The challenge then becomes tackling those feelings of frustration to make room for the excitement and enthusiasm of teaching. Before the school year begins, commit to the seven stress management techniques below to ensure that this year will be the best year ever.
7 Stress Management Tips for Teachers
1. Choose Your Food Wisely.
You know what you should eat and what you shouldn’t. That candy bar and soda for lunch may be quick and easy, but it is a far cry from nutritious and satisfying. If you do not have time to pack a quick salad or healthy lunch in the morning before you rush out the door, take an hour on Sunday afternoon to plan out and pack the week’s lunches. Breakfast sandwiches can also be made and frozen for the mornings ahead so that you have a hearty meal before starting the school day. A well-nourished body leads to a much more focused and productive mind.
2. 30-Minutes a Day of Exercise
Did you read the title and immediately think, “I absolutely do not have a 30-minute gap of time in my day to do that”? Busy teachers often do not have 30-minute chunks of time and the stress of trying to find that time can be worse than not exercising. So, what can you do? Skipping exercise entirely is not a good option, but breaking those 30 minutes of exercise into 10 minutes chunks of time is a viable option. Here are some ideas:
- Consider going out to recess with your students and walking the perimeter of the playground for 10 minutes.
- Have brain breaks and dance with your students three times a day for 4 minutes each time.
- Break out the hula hoop while you are watching your favorite show at night.
- Play a round of Words with Friends or Candy Crush while pedaling for 10 minutes on your recumbent bike.
- Download an exercise app that targets a group of muscles and do that for 10 minutes when you get up in the morning.
- If possible, ride your bike to work.
No matter what you do during those 10 minute chunks of time, the movement and exercise will do your body and spirit good.
3. Set a Timer for Work
Unfortunately, lesson plans and papers do not take care of themselves on their own. If you absolutely must bring work home (it is better to keep it at school), set a timer for how long you are willing to work. When the timer beeps, stop. No matter what you are in the middle of or how many papers are still piled up, stop. Sounds easier said than done, doesn’t it? Put it into perspective…you have worked all day, your family needs you, you need time for you, and if those papers have to wait a day to get graded then they have to wait. If you do not manage your work time, your work time will manage you and that leads to instant stress.
4. Family Time
Embrace family time wholeheartedly. Your family needs and deserves the same amount of dedication and enthusiasm as you give your students. Don’t feel guilty about those lesson plans that need to be written or the laundry that needs to be folded. Snuggle with your children, hold hands with your spouse, and cherish the precious moments that will go by altogether too quickly.
5. Me Time
It sounds so cliché to suggest that taking time for yourself will lessen your stress level, but it is true. We all need time to step away, recharge, and care only for ourselves. As a teacher, you are a constant caregiver. You give at school all day and then you come home to give to your family and, while you would not trade it for the world, it can become exhausting. Take your kayak out on the lake, go for a walk, curl up in your pajamas and read a good book…it does not matter what you do as long as you are doing it as a way to relax and recharge. In order to take care of your students and your family, you need to first take care of yourself.
6. Keep Learning
Nothing can get you excited about teaching like learning something new. Whether you read a professional development book, attend a #TeachChat in your pajamas, or attend a seminar or conference, the new ideas and enthusiasm from others can help reignite your own. Don’t feel like you have the time? Listen to an audio recording of a professional development book on the drive home or while cooking dinner!
7. Look for Inspiration
Inspiration can come in many different forms. It can be a cheerful quote or message on Facebook in the morning or a favorite uplifting song on the radio on the way to work. It can be a few minutes spent touring other teachers’ classrooms before the day starts or a quick chat with a friend after a tough day. Search out what refuels you and “fill your bucket” with the things that give you hope and restore your soul. When you have hope and feel positive, it is difficult for stress to take over.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding and most challenging professions that exists. Take care of yourself. Feed your body, your mind, and your spirit. It is like a ripple effect…when you are less stressed, those around you will be do. Imagine a school year where life feels more balanced and then go after it. You deserve nothing less.