It should come as no surprise that stress is a significant health concern for teachers, with most reporting experiencing stress on a daily basis. With commitments to your students, your colleagues, and the administrators at your school, as well as a growing personal to-do list, it can be difficult to balance it all while still having time for yourself.
In fact, stress can be so common that it can be hard to even recognize the symptoms. A rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, changes in mood, or trouble sleeping can all be ways for your body to tell you that you’re under stress. And when your body talks, it’s important to listen, because stress can lead to long-term health consequences, like heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Finding ways to manage daily stress is critical to your health.
Treating yourself with care can help you achieve a positive work-life balance and approach stress management in a way that balances your needs and the needs of your students. Summer is a great time to take a step back, evaluate your self-care needs, and start practicing beneficial behaviors so they become habits before school starts.
Here are three self-care strategies to help you combat stress and improve your work-life balance. Practicing these approaches over the summer can help you prepare for the challenges of back-to-school, so you’ll start the school year more energized, more rested, and ready to give your students your best all year long.
A lack of sleep is linked to decreased cognitive function and other mood difficulties like anxiety and irritability. No one functions well when they’re tired, and summer is a great time to catch up. So after a long school year, treat yourself to some well-deserved sleep. You’ve earned it!
Make your bedroom your sacred place. Eliminate noise, bright lights, and other distractions. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual that involves activities such as reading and doesn’t involve checking your phone or tablet right before bed. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You might be surprised by how much impact good sleep hygiene has on the rest of your day.
You heard right. Laughter and humor can have an enormous, tangible impact on stress.
Like exercise, laughter can help detoxify emotions like sadness and anxiety. It can be easy to get so caught up in everyday worries that you can lose your sense of humor. But building in laughter can uplift you, helping to sustain you and your students throughout the day. It keeps things in perspective and can serve as a much-needed break.
Treat yourself to laughter, in whatever form it takes. Whether it’s watching a funny show on television, reading a book that makes you laugh out loud, or spending time with loved ones who always know how to make you smile, take your humor where you find it. And like any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. If you prioritize finding humor in situations this summer, you’ll find it easier to find humor during the school year.
Solitude can be a profound tool of nurturing for teachers. Getting away from constant contact—whether in person or on the internet—can be uncomfortable at first. An easy way to achieve this solitude is by exploring nature. Head to the wilderness, your backyard, or a patch of sunlight in a park.
Getting away allows you to come back with vitality and a renewed sense of passion for what you do. Scheduling a personal or family vacation during summer break is another way to take time to yourself and do the things you enjoy.
It can be tempting to prioritize other people over yourself, but making time for yourself will actually help you serve your students more effectively. Make these small changes and see how much better you feel!