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To my teacher friends out there!
I know you are working harder than ever to support your students and help them be healthy, happy, and successful in your classrooms.
But I’m here to ask if you are supporting yourself right now too?
I know this is a difficult time; we’re embarking on another school year filled with uncertainty, constant change, and unpredictable challenges. Because this is such a demanding year, it’s more important than ever that you are implementing self-care and using stress management strategies to:
•Prioritize your health
•Make sure to get some sleep
•Connect with colleagues
•Make time for friends and family
•Ask for help
I know all of these tips are easier said than done. But you, your health, and your mental well-being are important. You give a lot, but you have to learn to take too. Especially this year!
You’re not doing a disservice to your students by taking time for yourself, infact, your students will be better served when you are fulfilled in your personal life.
We’re all familiar with the expression you can’t pour from an empty cup.
So I want to know, how much is in your cup right now?
Teachers tend to talk a lot about caring for our students - but what I’m NOT hearing enough of is the push for educators to take care of ourselves and make sure we are well.
We all want to pour out but if you just give without giving yourself the opportunity to replenish, well that’s a recipe for burnout.
So here’s some strategies you can use to make sure your cup stays full so you can continue to show up and serve your students:
• Breathing Exercises - Deep breaths can help you calm down and think clearly during high stress moments. Here’s a breathing exercise you can do throughout the day to help you take care of yourself and maintain a sense of calm.
• Schedule Self Care - Once the school year is in full swing, it can be a challenge to prioritize self care. Actually scheduling in time for yourself, writing it on the calendar, and making it a priority can increase your chances of engaging in self care. Remember, this doesn’t have to be scheduling a spa day, it can be as simple as scheduling an hour to read a book for pleasure, a half hour for a yoga practice, or 20 minutes to go for a walk.
• Connect Outside of Work - Make sure to have conversations about things OTHER than work.
The goal here is to find something that fills your cup. The more you start prioritizing taking care of yourself, the more equipped you’ll be to show up and be the best version of yourself for your students
One of the most important reasons for self care is preventing burnout.
• Do you regularly feel overwhelmed at school?
• Do you feel frustrated by how powerless you sometimes feel?
• Are you feeling more cynical about education, or do you lack the energy to be productive?
If you answered “ABSOLUTELY” to some of these, you may be experiencing burnout.
Anyone in any line of work can experience burnout, but it is especially common in jobs of service, like teaching. But just because burnout is common in the field of teaching, doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.
The chronic stress that can accompany burnout has the potential to be quite damaging, so instead of accepting your feelings of burnout as part-of-the-job, you can learn to manage them.
So what can you do to overcome burnout?
• Change your job!
Okay, yes. That is a great way to overcome burnout. But obviously that’s not a viable solution for many of us! When you love teaching and find joy in working with and helping your students, just abandoning your career simply isn’t an option.
Don’t worry. There’s others ways to manage burnout. You can:
• Practice breathing exercises and mindfulness strategies.
• Find a trusted colleague to talk with.
• Implement self-care strategies.
• Focus on your daily accomplishments and avoid criticising yourself.
• Practice. That. Gratitude.
Leaving teaching IS NOT the only solution to burnout. There’s a lot of steps you can take to prevent and recover from burnout!
One of the best ways to help you manage the feelings of stress triggered by school and students, is to start a regular gratitude practice.
The more we practice gratitude, the easier it is to remain positive during stressful situations.
I know it’s easy to recognize the negative during the school year. That’s because those neural pathways in your brain are well traveled. Turns out, we have a lot of practice being negative.
But you can choose to shift your brain to gratitude recognition.
The more we activate the gratitude circuits in our brain, the stronger the neural pathways become, and the more likely we are to recognize what’s going right, instead of always looking at the problem.
Start strengthening your gratitude practice by trying one of my favorite gratitude exercises.
Make It Count:
• Sit up nice and straight.
• Take a few deep breaths.
• Count 10 things that you are grateful for; extend one finger for each one.
• Once you’re finished, both hands will be open and you may find yourself feeling a little more grateful.
Incorporate this exercise into your routine to enhance your sense of gratitude - because that sense of gratitude has been proven to increase your wellbeing by improving mental and physical health, sleep quality, relationships, self-esteem, building empathy, and more!
Looking for more gratitude exercises to help you manage your stress? Try this 7 day challenge! Check-in with yourself at the end of the 7 days to see how focusing your perspective on gratitude has lessened your reaction to the stressors around you.
I just discussed the importance of practicing gratitude and how a positive perspective can help you manage your stress, but I want to give a warning about staying positive and always looking on the bright side.
Do you know there’s a point where being positive may be received negatively?
We call this toxic positivity.
It’s the idea that while optimism is great, BOMBARDING others with insincere positivity can actually create feelings of guilt and shame for those experiencing negative emotions.
And negative emotions like stress, fear, frustration, and anxiety are NOT reasons to feel ashamed! They’re normal emotions. Both for your colleagues and for your students.
You can create a space within your school with less tension, less judgement, and more acceptance.
Avoid toxic positivity during your school day by:
• Letting others express their emotions.
• Validating others’ emotions without immediately offering suggestions or putting a positive spin on things.
• Showing empathy.
Finally, remember that avoiding toxic positivity does not mean not showing your colleagues and students your positive and optimistic side.
Do try to model a growth mindset and ability to overcome barriers, but be genuine and sincere!
Do you ever feel like by the end of the school day you’ve collected a bunch of stories you just HAVE to share?
When your work involves helping others, there’s a high probability that you often experience or hear about difficult situations that you want to share with others. It’s completely normal to feel like you need to unload about your day. There’s even a name for it.
But if we aren’t careful when it comes to this kind of debriefing, it can have damaging effects on the person we are sharing this information with, which in turn, can create more stress for us.
So here’s a tip:
Breath before you debrief.
Before unloading about your day at school, take a moment to consider how the weight of your collected stories may impact the well-being of others. It’s still important for you to share, but make sure to do it in a way that is considerate of the mental well-being of those you share with.
Looking for a breathing exercise to use? Try this breathing guide.
I KNOW if you hear a student say something negative about another student, you consider that unacceptable behavior and immediately intervene.
But do you ever intervene regarding the words you’re saying to yourself?
It’s time to start paying attention because positive self-talk and affirmations have the power to lower feelings of stress and anxiety while increasing feelings of self-worth and self-compassion.
But that doesn’t mean you say one nice thing to yourself and move on.
Positive affirmations require regular practice if you want lasting, long-term changes to the way you think and feel. When you repeat a thought multiple times every day, your subconscious mind works to believe that thought and in turn acts in ways to align with your positive statement.
When you say things like:
• I am a GREAT TEACHER.
• I deserve to take a break when I need it.
• I am doing ENOUGH for my students.
• The work I do is important and valued.
Your brain starts to believe it.
And you can think of your brain like a muscle, the more reps, the stronger it becomes. The more you repeat these positive statements, the more your brain begins to think and act in accordance with that thought.
Your thoughts and feelings are POWERFUL. Take advantage of that power by being kind to yourself and making positive affirmations part of your daily routine.