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Raise your hand if you want to reduce teacher stress and overcome overwhelm? Me too!
I was listening to The Purpose Show with Allie Casazza the other day and she said, “Overwhelm is a choice. And that is a giant dose of freedom for you today.”
We know that being a teacher can be difficult, stressful, and downright overwhelming. Not to mention this year of pandemic, hybrid, online, and modified face-to-face teaching.
There is also a rollercoaster of stress as the school year ebbs and flows. End of terms or semesters, registration, end of level testing, all add to this stress.
For all my multiple prep-teachers, your day has those same ups and downs of stress. You prepare to teach one class and then another, rinse and repeat.
In Episode 4: 5 Ways to Prevent Teacher Burnout, I mention practicing stress-relieving activities as one of the ways to prevent burnout.
Today, I want to share with you some ways that you can lower your stress throughout the day. The hope is to free you from overwhelm so that you will be a happier and more productive teacher.
How to Overcome Overwhelm
Before I get into the strategies to prevent stress, I want to dive deeper into overwhelm.
Overwhelm comes from thinking about the future and not knowing what to focus on.
Um…hello my CTE teacher friends, who can relate to that? Do you focus on this class or that one, registration, observations, your social life, etc? If teaching multiple preps has you overwhelmed, check out the Free Recruiting Roadmap to plan your next steps to your ideal teaching schedule.
Like Allie mentioned, overwhelm is a choice. Our first strategy is one you can apply whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you need to stop what your doing. Stop thinking about your next class, what you are doing after school, or even what you will be doing in the next five minutes.
Clear your mind, and focus on being present. Then think, “What is one thing that I can do that will be productive?” It doesn’t need to be the most productive thing, just something productive. It could simply be checking your teacher’s mailbox.
That small win will get you going in the right direction.
Reducing Stress Even Before Entering the School
Now that we are clear on how to choose not to be overwhelmed and what we can do when we are, let’s talk about how to reduce teacher stress and overwhelm.
We’re going to start at the beginning of your day. From the moment you pull into the parking lot.
I admit that I am usually one to roll into the parking lot right as contract time is beginning. Quickly getting out of my car and heading to my classroom or rushing to make copies makes for an intense morning.
Try this instead. Arrive at the school five minutes before contract time begins. Allow yourself to sit in your car for those extra minutes. Use this time to take deep breaths to prepare yourself for the day. Breathing deeply relaxes your body and your mind and allows you to think more clearly.
You can use this time to meditate, journal, or even recite some affirmations. Here are some examples of teacher affirmations I found with a simple Google search:
- I am a competent and capable teacher.
- I am becoming a better teacher each day.
- I am making a difference in my students’ lives.
- The work that I do matters.
- I motivate and empower my students.
Clear Your Head with a Brain Dump
Before you leave your car or right after you arrive in your classroom is when you can practice the next strategy–brain dump. For this, you will need to write down everything you are thinking about at that moment.
This is not a to-do list, but you can have things that you are dumping that need to get done. The idea here is that you are getting your thoughts on paper and freeing up space and energy in your head.
As with breathing, this can be done several times throughout the day. You can do this before school, before lunch, before you leave school, and even before bed. If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, try this brain dump practice and see if it helps.
I mentioned doing this before lunch because I want to encourage you to take a lunch break. Too many teachers work through lunch. You deserve a break! Take it!
I admit that some faculty rooms are toxic and can cause more stress. You don’t need to eat in the faculty room, but make sure that you are able to take a break.
Go to your car, walk around the track, or simply turn off all distractions and enjoy the peace and quiet of your room. Just take a break!
Let’s review. We talked about how to get out of overwhelm, how to practice breathing and meditation before we even enter the school building, and how to do a brain dump to clear our brains so that we can rest.
It’s your turn to try these practices and see how they reduce your teacher stress. Know someone else who could benefit from reducing teacher stress? Pass this along!