8 Ways to Reduce Teacher Stress During the Holiday Season
The Holiday season can be a stressful time for teachers and administrators as they add holiday events, projects and concerts to their list of academic demands while also trying to prepare for their own family celebrations. A study done by the National Foundation for Educational Research in the UK found that 20% of teachers are stressed about their jobs, which is greater than other professions. Polls in the U.S. show much higher rates. At Kindermark Kids, we care about teachers and staff and want to help you be successful in and out of the classroom. As a former mental health counselor, I am familiar with helping others reduce stress and anxiety levels. Here are 8 tips that might be helpful this holiday season and throughout the year.
1. Deep breathing
This may sound simple but did you ever notice how shallow your breathing is throughout most of the day? When you’re stressed it can get even shorter. We need more oxygen to our brains during stressful times and deep breathing also helps us to relax our muscles. You will see a difference in your shoulders and chest as you breathe deeply. Count to 3 as you inhale then count to three or four as you exhale slowly. Try to increase the length of each inhale and exhale as you repeat this two more times. You may also add a positive phrase you think in your mind as you inhale and exhale like “I am calm” or divide words describing a place you love or something you enjoy into two short words and say one half while you inhale and one half while you exhale. An example might be “summer, sunset” or “beautiful, beaches.” Try this at the beginning and end of your day and during a lunch break.
2. Watch the sugar
This time of year it seems everyone is bringing teachers sweet treats. Parties and meetings have tempting goodies galore. While you may not feel it bothers you, if you are feeling stressed you may want to watch how much sugar you are eating as it’s easy to go up and down and feel lousy before you know what hit you. Sugar can limit the body’s ability to respond to stress, can increase mood swings and cause brain fog or lowered brain functioning. Set a limit for yourself or a certain day of the week that you indulge in a sweet treat. Watch the sugar content in beverages too because those add to the total. Fancy coffee drinks and sodas are high in sugar. We know you appreciate all those parents thinking of you, but don’t eat it all at once! Share as much of the sugary treats as you can with others and balance it with healthy eating. When you are craving sugar, try to eat an apple, berries or even roasted sweet potato as an alternative.
3. Write it down
This may seem silly, but when you are feeling overwhelmed jot down a list of a few things you have accomplished already that day or week. Be sure to add caring for the emotions of your students, prepping for holiday events and parties and responding to emails. The to-do list gets out of control this time of year and it actually helps the mind to be reminded that you are accomplishing a lot and don’t need to get to everything.
4. Walk or stretch
A short, brisk walk or 5 minute stretching session can really help your brain release stress-reducing chemicals. If you can’t walk around the block, walk up and down a flight of stairs to get your blood pumping faster and endorphins flowing. Stretching helps too. Raise your arms straight above your head and then stretch them a bit higher. Stretch your arms out over to one side, then the other and each time try stretching a bit further than your initial position. Squats and lunges can help increase energy and arm circles and shoulder shrugs can help to ease next tension.
5. Gratitude journal
Keep a small notebook next to your bed or on your desk at work and keep a list of things you are thankful for. When I was a therapist I had clients with anxiety do this nightly and it helped with sleep when done regularly. Write down 3-5 things you are thankful for, even simple things like sunshine, willow trees, tulips, running water or chocolate in addition to friends, family, sweet things a student has said or done or getting something accomplished. The act of writing these things down, rather than just a fleeting thought, improves our mindset, slows us down and can reduce stress. You may notice that your focus shifts as you do this and you may take a few less important things off your to-do list.
6. Get enough Sleep
It’s not news that sleep is important for our bodies but it’s equally important for our minds and emotions. During this busy time of year it’s easy to stay up later and later getting a little more accomplished. It’s good to stop and think about how many hours you are getting each night. If your’s feeling stressed, try to keep a bedtime that is closer to normal for you and cut screen time 1-2 hours before in order to sleep more soundly during the night.
7. Ask for help
We know that teachers are clever and resourceful and often think of the best ways of doing things. However, with all the activities at school, holiday events and shopping, now is the time to delegate or ask for help. Wether it’s asking a teenage child to pitch in a prepare a meal (even if it’s sandwiches or cereal!) or asking for help from staff or parents prepping for classroom activities, taking something off your plate will make a difference. Delegate tedious tasks to those who are available at your school or home so you can focus on the important aspects of interacting with kids, completing grades and leading your classroom.
8. Reflect and reduce your list
Finally, reflect on all the great things you have helped your students do this semester. You’ve had some good days and bad days but focus on the ways you’ve impacted your young learners. Think about 2-3 words that would describe your teaching style and what you like about your classroom. Reflect on your overall goals for the year and remember it’s not about perfection. There are no perfect teachers or people (even though it might seem that way on social media). There’s only one you. You are uniquely gifted to impact others. Focus on these things and try and reduce the long to-do list if you are finding it overwhelming. As a mother and former therapist I have realized that those around me would much rather have my calm presence than all the presents.
- Melissa Kistner