You are sitting at your desk after a LONG day of teaching, recess duty, IEP meetings, and fighting the copy machine. At least you think you are sitting at your desk. I mean, you can’t see the desk since it is covered in paper, coffee mugs, teacher manuals, Flair pens, and binders. You feel so exhausted and you know that you should go home, but you still have emails to answer, lessons plans to write, and tests to grade. It’s overwhelming.
Let’s face it, teaching can be a stressful job. Teachers play many roles in the classroom, which builds up a lot of overwhelm and stress on a daily basis. We are human, and of course we have personal things that cause us stress outside of the classroom as well. It can be a challenge to set this all aside and be 100% available for our students.
Recently, I listened to an interview Jamie had on the Not So Wimpy Teacher Podcast. The interview was with Dawn Pensack, who is a former math teacher who got burned out and ill after facing too many stressors. She is now helping kids, teens, and adults manage stress in their everyday lives. On the podcast, she shared 5 daily techniques that teachers can implement to manage their stress.
1. Mindful Breathing
As I listened to the podcast, my Apple Watch happened to go off with a reminder to breath. I used to think this feature was kind of silly… but now I completely understand the benefits of mindful breathing. (Yep, I totally stop and practice my breathing now when my watch reminds me to!)
Dawn suggests that we set aside time in our day to just be mindful of our breath. Make a point throughout the day, maybe on your break, to set aside 30 seconds- 1 minute to practice this.
To do this, stop what you are doing and simply inhale, then exhale and focus on your breath coming from your belly. Be sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. Dawn shares how this activates your bodies’ relaxation response. You are reprogramming your brain to calm down, which slows down your heart rate. Dawn even suggests trying this as you are walking to your car at the end of the day. Maybe take 3 steps to breathe in, and 5 steps to exhale. I love how easy these ideas are to implement in our day, without adding anything extra to our to-do list.
I recommend doing this with your students as well. Consider practicing mindful breathing after a challenging math lesson, at the start of the day, or after recess. I had a previous student who benefited from this. I never considered trying it with the rest of my students until now. I taught this particular student to open up her hands and trace along the outside of her fingers as she breathed. She inhaled as she traced up her fingers, and exhaled slowly as she traced back down. This simple activity helped her calm down when she was getting overwhelmed in our classroom.
Dawn also suggested trying the Calm Breathe Bubble on YouTube, which has a good visual to help students understand when to inhale and exhale.
You don’t have to put on the tight pants, roll out a mat and get in the downward dog position to get the benefits of yoga!
If I can do this, so can you!
When my students needed to refocus, or we had a particular challenging lesson, I always found that the Go Noodle yoga activities helped us regroup.
This is the 2nd tip that Dawn shares with us in the podcast. She recommends giving your brain something else to think about when you start to feel the stress and overwhelm pile on. Some simple yoga exercises, like balancing poses, help redirect your brain. You can do this by yourself behind your desk, or even try it with your students. Practice standing on one leg for 30 seconds. This will shift your emotional thoughts over to thinking thoughts as you concentrate on balancing.
3. Bright Spots
As Dawn described this practice, I found myself shaking my head in agreement with her. She explains that most of our life, we focus on our weaknesses and how we can improve those. However, this can be overwhelming at times.
She suggests that we take time to focus on what we do well and what we can do to make that even better. It feels good to shine at something, so it makes sense to grow even more in that skill.
Dawn and Jamie discussed how teachers may even want to consider supporting each other with your strengths. If you are really strong at developing STEAM lessons, share these with the teacher who is excellent at running writing workshop. Share your ideas and collaborate. Celebrate your bright spots!
Your students also have their own personal bright spots! Be sure you are finding time in your day to let them explore, grow, and shine in these areas as well.
4. Time Management
Jamie recently did a podcast on time management and batching that I found very helpful. Dawn shared the same idea in this episode. They suggested that teachers consider batching their daily tasks. Instead of doing a little grading, a little lesson planning, and a little organizing and copying each day, consider delegating specific days to each task. You will find that you will be more productive when you are not jumping around from one activity to another. Remember that you can’t get everything done in one day.
Prioritize and make a to-do list that you can check off each day to manage your time.
I love my pedicures and coffee splurges. These self-indulgences are totally okay to have! However, we have to remember to balance out our self-indulgences with self-care.
To do this, Dawn suggests trying what is called, Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT tapping. To do this, you want to put pressure on a spot of your body (like your eyebrow) and tap it for a few seconds. As you tap, you want to say a positive statement to yourself. Dawn suggests learning where the tapping points are and practice this a couple times a day.
Teacher stress and overwhelm do not have to overtake our daily lives.
I learned from listening to Dawn that we need to pay attention to our emotional wellness. We get to decide how far off track we get thrown. Our students need teachers that are taking care of themselves. The techniques Dawn shared will help us focus our energy back on managing the stress, as opposed to feeding into it.
You don’t have to try all of these every day. Maybe start with one, or find one technique that you prefer, and focus on that to help you in the long-run.
If you would like to get more information about Dawn and these techniques, you can visit her website at www.dawnpensack.com. You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram at The Resilient Teacher.
Have a Not So Wimpy Day!