For a lot of us in Texas, it’s spring break, our much-needed rest before the craziness of test season. For the rest of you, I know you are anxiously awaiting Easter, which is still a month away. Whatever your situation, it’s the time of year when we need to talk about stress- yours, your students’, and pretty much everyone’s. Today, I want to focus on the adults. Here are my tips for handling your stress in a healthy way.
- Believe in yourself! You’ve done a great job this year. If you teach a testing grade, remember that your worth does not rest on those exams. Go in to each day with a positive attitude. Give yourself a mantra or other affirmation to say to yourself . “I am a super educator!” “I make a difference!” “I can doooooooo it!” Whatever works for you.
- Don’t take it out on the students. The kids are just as stressed as you are. They’re worried about the test too. They may have situations at home that are making things even harder for them. Whatever you are feeling, and however they are acting, do not let your stress influence how you treat your students. If you feel your emotions rising, take a deep breath. If you have a moment when they are working independently, go to your desk and take a break. If you do overreact to a situation, take the time when you are calm to apologize to the students. It will model how to make amends when a mistake is made, and will show that you care about your relationship with them.
- Vent to colleagues, but with purpose. Our colleagues are the best people to talk to because they understand the demands of the profession. If you need to vent, make sure it is short, and moves into a more productive conversation. If all you do is talk about what is upsetting you, you will likely not feel any better. Shift the conversation into a problem-solving brainstorm, or if you think you already know the solution focus on the positive aspects if your work. This will give you the focus to deal with the area that was bothering you to begin with.
- Leave school work at school. There are papers to grade, report cards to write, lessons to plan. You may have students who you worry about at the end of the day. As hard as it may be, there need to be a separation between work and the rest of your life. I’d rather spend an extra half hour at school ensuring everything is done so that my personal time can be my own. If you can give your full attention to your family, your hobbies, to whatever you are passionate about, you will be happier and more able to manage what is waiting for you at school the next day.
- Take care of your mental health needs. Sometimes the stress is more than you can handle on your own. You may also have other personal factors impacting how you are handling the stress of your job. Please talk to your doctor if you feel that you need more support, or find a therapist or other professional to talk to. Some districts have employee assistance programs, or EAPs, that can connect you with confidential services. Getting the help you need will help you and, in turn, help your students.
Remember, your kids need you at your best every day until June. You’ve got this!