The testing season is upon us. There are added responsibilities, added things to keep track of, and added stress for students and teachers alike. When these extra added things hit us all at once, it can have a detrimental effect on our overall well-being, both physically and emotionally. Here are 10 things you can do to take care of yourself when you are knee-deep in stressful work situations.
1. Prioritize– Have you ever seen the man who spins plates on top of poles? He runs back and forth among the poles keeping each plate spinning. This time of year, we can feel just like that plate spinner. It seems that everything is demanding our attention and everything is top priority. When you start feeling like this, take a step back and think about each thing on your plate. Prioritize those things that absolutely have to be done, and focus on completing the next thing. That awesome idea you saw on Pinterest that you wanted to try might need to wait until next year. And that is ok.
2. Mind your monkeys- The saying goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” However, when people under stress are together in one spot, sometimes that stress can spread. We start letting things that really don’t have anything to do with us affect us in a negative way. When you feel yourself getting pulled into a situation that is causing you stress but really doesn’t concern you, take a step back. Mind your own monkeys. Be the keeper of your circus.
3. Make a Plan, don’t just admire the problem- When difficult situations arise, it is easy to get stuck just thinking about the problem in an endless cycle. Discussions start in an effort to solve the problem, but those discussions can sometimes just keep restating the problem over and over instead of coming up with a plan to address the problem. I once heard this described as “admiring the problem”. When you find yourself admiring a problem, stop and focus on how that problem can be solved, who can help, and what supports are needed.
4. FIDO: Forget It and Drive On– Similar to admiring the problem, when something negative or stressful happens to us, we can get stuck in a loop thinking about the incident, reliving it over and over. We need to break that cycle and move on to the next thing. I once heard a speaker who had faced a number of huge adversities say that this was the secret to him getting through life. If something bad happens, when it’s over, forget it and drive on. Leave the past in the past. Look to the future.
5. Exercise– Exercise is truly good medicine and a great stress reliever. You don’t have to join a gym to get the benefits from exercise. A walk in the park or in the neighborhood with a friend is good for your body and your soul.
6. Laugh deeply and often– I love to hear babies laugh from their bellies, and it always makes me think that adults don’t often do that. Laughing can have much the same effect on a person as exercise. I once was waiting for some medical results with some pretty intense consequences. A family member gave me a Blue Collar Comedy Tour DVD. I laughed until I cried, and it made me feel so much better. Watching funny stuff got me through a pretty stressful time. Laughter is therapeutic. (If you need a laugh this very minute, check out this hysterical Youtube video from Principal Gerry Brooks that reminds us that lamination is permanent.)
7. Celebrate success– Take time to recognize the good things you do. Look back through your file of positive notes from former students and parents. Lots of good things happen in your life. Celebrate them.
8. Focus on the positive, and smile- The simple act of genuinely smiling has been shown to improve your mood as well as the mood of those around you. Focusing on maintaining a positive outlook can also help your brain make pathways that help you be a more positive person.
9. Sleep- I think we can safely say that teachers don’t get enough sleep. Between grading and planning at home and balancing that with family responsibilities, sleep is often the first thing to go as we look to get more done. However, being well rested can make a huge difference in our day. We can better focus on tasks, be alert when challenging situations arise, and have more patience and kindness with others. Even 20-30 minutes more sleep per night can have great cumulative effects.
10. Seek support- When life gets overwhelming, find a trusted friend or colleague that you can confide in. Sharing your burdens makes them lighter, and a friend can offer a different perspective on the situation.
All of this boils down to taking care of ourselves and giving ourselves some grace to get through these stress-filled days. And remember, summer break is not far away!