Let’s talk teacher stress and self-care. That, along with Social Emotional Learning, are hot buzzwords right now in education. Teachers have stopped being content area experts delivering instruction and are now expected to be full time counselors for students. It has all gotten to be too much.
By now we have all seen the gargantuan lists of impossible teacher duties, very few of which have anything to do with actual teaching. We have also seen the statistics on teacher burn out and those leaving the profession in droves.
So what do you do when leaving is not an option? How do we take care of ourselves because we all know that if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we cannot take care of others? You know, that whole “put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you”?
Here are some tips and tricks you can complete right at school, many (not all) of them in the classroom.
#1) Leave school on time. We hear this all the time and typically roll our eyes at the prospect of walking out when the last bell rings. I’m telling you. There is absolutely nothing that cannot wait until the next day. Nothing. The day will come, and the day will go with or without that “one last task” checked off the list or not. Leave. Go home.
#2) Write it down. As new tasks arise throughout the day, write them down and come back to them later. You get an email with a question or task or yet another meeting. Instead of trying to fit one more thing into your hectic day, stop for three seconds and write it down. Then move on with whatever you were doing. Keep a notebook on your desk for these things. Don’t let the interruptions and ever increasing list of things to do interrupt your flow. Then when you do get a minute to look at the list, you can prioritize (or more often than not, reprioritize) and check them off.
#3) Stop and Listen. When you are deep into that three part lesson and feel yourself exactly on track and in the groove, a student will throw you off and ask an off the wall question that stops you right in your tracks. Occasionally, we must stop our lessons and talk with our students. Really listen to what they are saying. Make them listen to each other. Oftentimes these are the greatest lessons and make the best memories for both of you. The lesson will be there to pick up again when the time is right. Sometimes we all need a detour to gain a sharper perspective. And that’s okay.
#4) Hot bath. Make it a habit and take one a few times a week. Take the time for yourself. Force yourself to run the water, add the bubbles, light the candles, pour yourself a relaxing beverage. Then get in (without electronics!!), close your eyes, and r-e-l-a-x….
#5) Keep bedtime consistent. Set an alarm or reminder that it is bedtime. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day, work, spouses, kids, schedules, etc. that we can forget to go to bed. Next thing you know, it’s midnight and you are just crawling under the covers. Be purposeful about bedtime. Train your body to rest.
#6) Be purposefully grateful. Think of three things you are grateful for and say them to yourself BEFORE getting out of bed each day. If you can start your brain each morning in a place of gratefulness, the rest of the day will follow.
#7) Eat lunch. Separate yourself from the work that surrounds you and the students who hound you. Leave your room if you need to or at least shut and lock your door. Cover the little window. Do not let anyone in. Except your warrior tribe that helps you hold it all together. Don’t work through lunch “this one time” as that becomes a habit. A very negative, bad habit.
#8) Acts of kindness. Be intentional in showing your appreciation for others. Doing so is automatically reciprocal to your own well being. Write a positive note (signed or anonymous) to a coworker or student. Leave it in their mailbox or on their desk. Watch how they respond. Send home a positive email to a student’s parent. Kindness is multiplied…never divided.
Small breaks you can take right at school
* Listen to your favorite songs
* Tell someone “I love you”
* Write about how you feel
* Put yourself in timeout
* Look at artwork
* Write a compliment to yourself on a sticky note and post it at your desk
* Learn to say no
* Phone a friend
* Pop some bubble wrap
* Wear comfy clothes
* Take a quick walk around the building (inside or out)
* Take a couple extra minutes of alone time in the restroom
* Meditate in complete silence for 5 minutes
* Practice a few yoga poses
* Focus on taking five deep, cleansing breaths
* Color. Keep a coloring book and your favorite coloring utensil handy
* Send a happy text to your favorite person
* Watch a short motivational video
Take care of yourselves, my friends, for you will be replaced before your obituary hits the news.