Teaching is a beautiful career that I have put my heart into for 30 years. I love the challenge of getting a non-reader interested in books. I love helping students and staff feel welcome when they are new to the school. And there is nothing like seeing the satisfaction and pride a student has when they understand something for the first time. On the flip side of that positivity, it’s easy to get bogged down, even at the beginning of the school year. The TO-DO list seems endless!

At times, the workload can be overwhelming and stressful. I’ve found it’s constructive when I reflect on my feelings and physical symptoms. When I’m starting to spiral into unhealthy habits or thinking, I put some strategies into action to help me be my best self. I do not want to be in a situation where I stay up half the night planning what and how I’ll teach. And I do not need stress and negativity from work to spill over into my time with family and friends. Here are a few of the strategies that work for me.

Physical Fitness
As part of my proactive approach, I have found it beneficial to be involved in fitness classes. I’m online with a group of dedicated individuals three times during the work week at 6 am. I used to laugh at the idea of doing an early morning fitness class, but after 2 years- I love it, mainly because I can connect with friends from university who I don’t see often. For me, it’s more than the fitness aspect. Seeing my old friends is uplifting! Do you have something that you look forward to doing? Something for yourself?

Getting Grounded with Nature and Breath
Even after a great workout, there are times when I get upset about all kinds of things that happen in the school environment. Working with humans of all ages can test my patience sometimes! When any of those stressors get to me, I try to take a walk, observe nature, and reflect on what is happening. I use some of the same ideas I share with students about mindfulness. I let the feelings wash over me and get grounded while watching the ducks swim in the pond or the clouds forming in the sky. Some techniques like box breathing and meditation can help. It’s not always enough, though.

Support at Work
It’s been vital to me over the years to build positive relationships with staff at the different schools where I worked. Having colleagues who have become friends makes any challenging moments tolerable. We laugh and cry together. My current staff likes to gather regularly for food. We have soup lunch on Mondays and treats on Fridays. These weekly occasions get us out of our isolated work situations and make time for conversation. On these occasions, we get to know each other. Over the years, we’ve also had scavenger hunts, noodle tag, and special friend week, where people do acts of kindness for each other. I can’t emphasize just how important it has been for me to work in a place where I know my colleagues well, and we have taken the time to build a trusting relationship.

It is early in the school year to be thinking about the long winter nights ahead but wouldn’t it be great to have a variety of stress management techniques in place for those days when things are getting to be a bit much? I’d love to hear ideas about how you are proactive about taking care of yourself and what events happen at your schools to help you build great relationships among staff. Take care!

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