Written by Natalya Ganchina M.Ed.
There are great emotional rewards to being a teacher. However, there is also a high rate of stress, emotional depletion, and burnout. TIME magazine also reports that a teacher’s stress level affects student stress levels, which affects learning. This is why a great teacher must take care of both body and mind, and know how to boost their energy when needed to finish the day. These simple self-care techniques are helpful for everybody, but they are especially good for teachers to build energy and motivation for their classes.
1. Learn breathing techniques. Breathing is one of the basic bodily processes. Learning to control breathing is a quick way to help control stress and anxiety. Try this example breathing exercise at your desk the next time you are stressed in the classroom.
2. Try daily yoga exercises. Yoga is based on breathing, but also stretches and relaxes your body. Daily yoga helps your body handle stress. Try it for at least 21 days in a row, just 5 – 10 minutes to start with, and you will feel the effects. There are many good instructors on YouTube. Here is an example of a morning exercise, and this video is good for the evening.
3. Take a walk outside. If you can go outside even for five minutes, whether it is lap around a football field or a walk around the block, you will feel refreshed. Looking at trees, feeling the sun, and breathing fresh air helps put your classroom in perspective.
4. Be thankful for what you have. Think about why you do this job, and what you have to be grateful for. Be thankful for food, for housing, for loved ones, and for the pleasures of being alive. Teaching is not the only thing in life.
5. Keep in touch with students as they grow up. If possible and appropriate, encourage students to keep in touch. It is always inspiring to see how you impacted their lives, and it is especially wonderful to get an unexpected visit or email years later from a previous student.
6. Remember that stress is temporary. As the saying goes, “this too shall pass.” Every day is different. Every class is an opportunity. Every year, there are new students, new challenges, and new reasons to be excited again.
7. Practice meditation. Find a quiet space and sit for as long as you can, observing your breathing. Taking the time to process a difficult classroom situation and acknowledge any thoughts and feelings can help put things in perspective and uncover alternate solutions.
8. Take a break from the news. While it might sound impossible or irresponsible to ignore the news, it can be good to take a break for a day and let go of the wider worries to focus on what is in front of you. Also, the most important news tends to be shared among colleagues and friends. It will give you a chance to connect with them too.
9. Listen to music to change your mood. This can be a way to relax after a long day, pump up for your first class, or just get in the right mindset. The commute to and from work is a good time to listen to music and relax.
10. Turn off your phone. For an hour each day, try turning off the distractions and worries that come with having your phone and email constantly nearby. Having time away can help focus thoughts, get more done, and really relax.
The most important self-care tool is learning how to recognize stress. How does your body tell you it is stressed? Maybe headaches, or sweaty hands, or a racing heart. When you notice these feelings, take action. Do not give stress a chance to grow. As Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”. You can use the tools above, like breathing, gratitude, or music, to change your attitude and relax when needed.
Stay positive and good luck!