As educators of the country’s youth, teachers have one of the most important jobs available. Whilst this can be an exciting and life-affirming prospect, it can also feel a little overwhelming at times. After all, what teacher hasn’t felt the weight of expectation from pupils and parents, particularly before an important test?
As the new school year approaches, then, teachers should take a little time to think about effective ways that they can cope with stress. After a long summer away from the hectic classroom, it can be difficult to get back into the routine of the teaching life, particularly if (like many teachers) you have trouble maintaining a work-life balance.
Fortunately, we’ve put together a quick guide for teachers preparing to return to school. Make sure this academic year is the least stressful yet!
What to do before the new semester starts
It is important not to leave preparations until the last minute. Here are a few steps you can take before the new school year starts:
Think carefully about your work routine
Now is the perfect time to think about whether your work routine is causing or alleviating your stress levels. If you routinely prepare lessons late at night, for example, you may miss out on time for hobbies or, indeed, sleep. A lack of sleep can be hugely detrimental to your overall well-being and can raise stress levels.
For some teachers, the morning represents a great time to get work done outside of the hustle and bustle of the school grounds. As well as freeing up time in the evening, you may be able to focus more easily and ensure that you are working to the best of your abilities. If you need a little motivation getting up earlier, this teacher-written testimonial about the power of a good morning routine may prove very helpful.
Pay close attention to your emotions
Most teachers feel mixed emotions about heading back to school. You’re likely to be feeling a combination of excitement and anxiety, and this is perfectly normal. However, if you’re feeling a deep kind of dread, you may need to take action.
Most of us lie to ourselves to avoid addressing emotions such as dread, so it is important to figure out what might be causing it. If you can locate a particular source of stress and worry that played on your mind during the past academic year, try to address it as soon as the new term rolls around. Talking to the school principal may be a good place to start.
Take part in relaxing activities
Make sure that you have fully recovered from the last academic year before going back to school. This could mean different things for different people. You may decide to spend time relaxing with friends and family or you may prefer to engage in some exercise. Check out this article from the Huffington Post if you need a little inspiration for stress-busting workouts.
Try doing a little work
It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but doing a little light work before the new semester can help you to feel calm and prepared. Indeed, it can help you feel in control of your situation and will reduce any potential feelings of panic on the first day back.
Rehearse how you will handle tricky situations
Consider the kinds of challenging situations that could raise stress levels at the beginning of the school year and practice how you will deal with them. If you rehearse a specific conflict or event in your mind, you are more likely to feel confident in dealing with it if it arrives. This is particularly relevant if you find it difficult to say no to extra responsibilities. Practicing saying no can be invaluable if you want to keep stress levels in check!
Steps to take from the first day of the new semester
The first few days of a new school year can fly by in a whirlwind. In this way, it is important to remind yourself of your personal well-being and to keep your stress levels in check. Here’s how:
Save your worrying for set times of the day
Designating a small period of time for worrying can be very helpful if you want to mitigate stress levels. Start by writing down all of the stressful things that come into your head throughout the day in a small notebook. Once “worry time” comes around (say, 6 pm to 6.16 pm), you can start thinking about resolutions.
Indeed, you may even find that many of your worries have already been resolved. By getting into the routine of worrying only for a small amount of time, you can spend most of your day calmly focused on important tasks.
Mindfulness may seem like a slightly clichéd practice nowadays, but it has some valuable takeaways that teachers can use. Techniques such as learning gratitude, for example, will help you to appreciate your role as an educator. To read up on mindfulness for teachers, check out this excellent article.
Talk to a colleague
There’s no greater way of relieving stress than talking to someone in the same situation as you. Try spending an hour or so every week talking to a colleague that you have a close relationship with. It is a good idea to talk to someone of equal status to avoid potential power imbalances. Indeed, someone who takes on a different kind of work will be less likely to understand where you’re coming from.
Promising yourself rewards after completing certain goals is a great way to relieve stress and bring joy into your life. This could include small things such as a box of chocolates or a date night with your significant other. It could also include bigger things such as a holiday once the semester is over.
Just remember that looking after yourself is the first step to caring for the lives and futures of the young people in your classes.