The school year is quickly approaching! In the midst of the excitement and enthusiasm of a new bunch of students and trying out new lessons is the knowledge that the school year can very quickly get quite busy and stressful! In addition to planning lessons and assessments, this is a great time of year to give your self-care toolbox a quick look and tweak! Just like planning your work schedule, you need to plan your self-care schedule as well. It’s important to start early so that you can make it a habit before your schedule and the school year takes over your life.
Exercise is one of the greatest methods of relieving stress and anxiety. This does not mean you need to be dead-lifting 200 pounds or training for a marathon. The best type of exercise is the exercise you will do regularly! Scheduling exercise in your day can be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes for taking a walk around campus to as complex as training for an iron-wo/man triathlon. Try to get in a little bit of exercise every day. If you need some help for motivation, try recruiting a friend or investing in an inexpensive fitness tracker (I wear a Fitbit One that I purchased on eBay).
Explore Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation has been around for a long time but has only recently picked up popularity. While it seems like new-age feel-goodery, the reality is that meditation works. Meditation has been proven to help individuals cope with stress and anxiety, sleep better, and increase resilience. I try to meditate for 10-15 minutes a day (preferably in the morning). If you want some help getting started, check out The New York Time’s article: “How to Meditate.” My favorite tool for meditation is an app called Calm; it has several guided meditation options and programs to help you progress and experiment with Mindfulness. Better yet, Calm is free for teachers.
Set up a “Praise Box” or “Praise Wall” for Yourself
I keep a small box of mementos from students – thank you notes, small gifts, etc that remind my why I do what I do. I keep these for those challenging days when the kids drive me up the wall (and they will) or when I feel like the worst teacher in the world. Anytime a student gives you a thank you (sometimes it’s written on a test or a quiz, in a note, or attached at Christmas to a present), be sure to save it and throw it in the box or put it on the wall. This is a great way to give yourself a boost when you need it.
Prioritize Leisure Time
Prepping, grading, and supporting students can take over your life. While none of us got into education for the money or the fame, it’s important to prioritize your life outside of school as well. Schedule time with family or friends (and keep those commitments), schedule an hour for you to read a book that isn’t work related, watch your favorite tv show, and make sure that you get in time for exercise or the gym.
When you’re on an airplane, if you pay attention to the safety instructions (most of us don’t), you are told to put on your oxygen mask first, before you help anyone else. This is because unless you are at your best, you will not be able to help anyone else. The same is true in education. Take care of yourself, prioritize your self-care; you will be a better teacher because of it.
These are the methods that I use to help me stay on track and tackle stress throughout the year. What are yours? Leave them in the comments below!