According to a UK study, teaching is one of the top three most stressful professions.
If you’re a teacher anywhere in the world, this isn’t exactly news. Between parent-teacher conferences, additional duties, normal teacher work, and impromptu evaluations, you know it’s crucial to manage stress now and avoid teacher burnout later. The worst part is, most people don’t even know how much work you’re juggling!
In a perfect world, we would clock 8 hours of sleep per night, fit in a daily workout, and visit the spa regularly. Unfortunately, we live in a less-than-perfect world, and many teachers are working double duty—taking care of kids at school and at home. Nationally Board Certified elementary teacher Alissa Lindner of Henderson, Nevada, is currently in this situation.
Read on for proven tricks and solid research that will help you manage stress and beat burnout now!
1. Limit “Vent Sessions” With Colleagues
It’s not a bad thing to enjoy a cup of coffee in the teacher lounge and talk with other teachers. In fact, it can be motivating. “It helps to take a little time in the morning and your prep to chat with other teachers,” Lindner points out. “Staying connected is key to keeping stress in check.”
However, Linder warns about the danger of turning these chats into a full blown vent session. “I try to keep it positive so it doesn’t turn into a gripe session.” There’s a point when sharing frustration becomes unhealthy, and instead of releasing pressure, it ruins your entire day. Learn when you and your colleagues are approaching that point, and change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation.
2. Prepare the Night Before
A little bit of prep work can go a long way. “Every day before I leave, I make sure my desk is cleaned off, morning work is on the students’ desks, and lesson plans are out. That way, I can be ready the next day even if I have meetings and duty,” Lindner says. Not only will you enjoy more ease of mind when your head hits the pillow, you’ll also be ready to deal with any unexpected morning crises. Want to take preparation a step further? Set aside a day to work on the next week’s paperwork. “Every Thursday, I copy next week’s Monday–Friday work and place them in baskets,” Linder says. It’s a smart way to regulate work so you’re not scrambling to stay up.
3. Let Go of Perfection
You may not think you have a perfection problem, but if you feel down on yourself a lot, it could be due to your expectations. “You have to think of it as a learning process as you refine your craft,” Lindner says. This is especially important to keep in mind as you try to keep your work and personal life in balance—one or the other is bound to get out of whack sometimes.
Can’t work out every day? Try to be more active throughout the day, and maybe set a goal of working out three times a week. If you want to participate in a gym, but you’re finding it difficult to fit in a workout once you get home, try the morning instead. Above all, give yourself the room to make mistakes. You’re growing and learning every day, just like your students!
4. Learn to Say No
You know those in-flight instructions where they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others? Well, apply that to the teaching life.
When you’re a new teacher, you’re much less likely to stand up for yourself and your needs. In fact, it’s probably a lot harder to say “no” to a request from a fellow teacher or school administrator. Remember: you can say yes to some requests, but make sure you’re not wearing yourself too thin. “You don’t need to say yes to everything,” Lindner says. “Your health and your family need to be prioritized as well.”
5. Make Your Desk a Positive Spot
Don’t let your desk get overrun by paperwork mountains, and make it a haven rather than a stressful space. “I like having family pictures next to my desk and a stash of chocolate for especially stressful days,” Lindner says. A 2014 study conducted in the Netherlands suggests that plants have a positive effect on your mood and productivity in the workplace. Try adding your favorite plant to your desk, and see if your mood lifts!
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Low-Tech
Just because everyone else is going paper-free doesn’t mean you have to. “I’m obsessed with my old-fashioned planner. I make sure I put important dates and plan out my long term units so I’m rarely taken by surprise,” Lindner says.
There are a couple reasons why using your smartphone instead of an old-fashioned planner might not be for everyone. First off, using your smartphone calendar or task app to plan things might be more convenient, but it might also make you stress more. Secondly, you’re more likely to get distracted by other apps, incoming emails, and more while making plans for the week. Make choices not just based on what’s “most convenient,” but also, what’s less taxing on your brain.
As you read this blog, ask yourself—are you starting to feel burnt out?
A study by the Alliance for Excellent Education showed that about half a million U.S. teachers drop out of the field every year. There are many different reasons why teacher turnover happens, and not all of them have to do with stress—but judging from the study showing that teachers are some of the most stressed out people out there, it could be a big factor.
The bottom line? Make time to reduce your stress every day, and you may be more likely to stay refreshed and excited in the classroom for years to come. Along the way, check out the ECR4Kids website and stay tuned to our weekly blogs for more ideas and information to keep your classroom humming along!