For the past month or so my family and I have been moving and settling into a new home. Moving is incredibly stressful for me. I tend to be a “nester” and when the nest is disrupted, boy, I feel out of sorts. I found myself relying on a lot of things I did when I was teaching and under stress to make myself feel better. If you are anything like me and all of the teachers I have ever met, you are overworked, over stressed and under rested. It is so vital for teachers to take care of themselves on a daily basis. You know how flight attendants instruct you to put the oxygen mask on yourself BEFORE attempting to help other people? Well, teachers have to get in the habit of taking care of themselves so that they are better able to serve the children in their classrooms. I know firsthand the damage that classroom stress can have on your life. I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have relied on over the years to beat stress. Afterall, what you do is so important, you need to feel good!
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This is what I use most often to lift my spirits. I have playlists for every mood. First thing in the morning, during my planning time or as soon as kids leave my room I am searching for my phone so that I can cue up my bluetooth speaker. I used this speaker in my classroom for 5 years and it works great. (although mine was a pretty green) See the picture below. The type of music is obviously a personal choice. The key is to find music that makes you feel good! One year, I started listening to Christmas music in early October because I just needed a boost of Christmas cheer! Depending on the group of students I had, we sometimes played music when students were working independently because it has a calming effect on them too. (I usually ask if they listen to music while they work in a profile survey at the beginning of the semester) At the risk of revealing too much about myself, here is what is currently on my “sassy” playlist. Have a listen. These songs just make be feel inspired and happy, they never fail to lift my mood.
Right Now – Van Halen
Better Life – Keith Urban
Blessed – Martina McBride
The Climb – Miley Cyrus
Comeback Kid – Brett Dennen
Roar – Katy Perry
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Nothing More – The Alternative Routes
I won’t back down – Tom Petty
Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
It’s My Life – Bon Jovi
I will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & the Waves
I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
Fight Song – Rachel Platten
Stand in the Light – Jordan Smith
I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas
I Call the Shots – Hannah Huston (from The Voice)
Try Everything – Shakira
Don’t You(Forget about me) – Simple Minds
Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
I Believe I can Fly – R. Kelly
Fighter – Christina Aguilera
Hall of Fame – The Script
Stand – Rascal Flatts
Carry on Wayward Son – Kansas
Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
All Right Now – Free
Stand By You – Rachel Platten
Here I go Again – Whitesnake
Happy – Leona Lewis
Change your environment
I learned a long time ago that my environment plays a huge part in my mood. I won’t even shop in stores that have bad lighting or have an “icky” feel. Try turning off the overhead fluorescent lights and turn on a desk lamp when its just you in your room. You’d be surprised how much this changes the feel of the classroom. Smell is another factor that affects how you feel about a space. I went out and bought several plug-in type air fresheners for my classroom and use seasonal scents to give myself a lift. It’s just nice to walk into your room in the morning and be greeted by your favorite scent. Plus, anytime someone walks into my room, they say “your room smells soooo good!” Another thing to try is creating a cozy spot to kick back and relax. I put a comfy chair in one corner of my room. During the day, kids that have earned “king of the lab” status get to sit in this chair. But when they are gone, I get to sit in it and put my feet up! The picture below shows our comfy King chair with a cute pillow and fluffy blanket. I have spent many planning periods grading in that chair! So have some care with your environment, not just for the kiddos, but because it can help put you at ease as well.
Take walks, get out of your room. Chat with your friends in the office, greet students in the hallways. Interact with people! This never sounds like a good idea before you get started because when you are stressed you tend to lack energy. However, getting up and moving has a way of making you feel better and clearing your head. This trick works especially good when the stress you are feeling is related to frustration or anger. Walking helps you burn off some of that anxious energy and return to your classroom in a much better state of mind for your students.
Sometimes, though, all you may need is 10 minutes of silence. Shut the door, turn off the light and get comfortable in your chair. Slip off your shoes and close your eyes and just rest for 10 minutes. Don’t let your mind wander to your to do list, or dwell on that one student (you know which one). Instead, focus on listening to the sounds your classroom makes, feel your heart beat, feel the chair under you. Just be present in the moment. I keep a pair of ear plugs in my desk drawer to help me shut out the sounds of a busy school. It may also help to focus on a time when you felt completely relaxed. I usually conjure up the feeling of laying in a beach chair in St. Croix with my friends. I can even hear the waves crashing on the beach. Find your memory and bring that feeling of peace into the present.
Do something kind
Sometimes we spend so much time being stressed and overworked that we forget to pay attention to the people around us. Send a nice text or e-mail to your spouse. Or try to improve on someone else’s day. Put a small snack or thoughtful gift anonymously in another teachers mailbox. It’s nice to offer to make copies for your neighbor teachers. You’d be surprised how much it will cheer you up to know that you brightened someone else’s day.
I’m not advocating binge eating your way through the semester, but one piece of chocolate isn’t going to kill you. The teacher that taught next door to me would buy herself chocolate to keep in MY desk drawer for emergencies. When she was having a particularly bad day she would walk over and grab a piece of chocolate and vent about her problem. It was a good system, and one of the things I miss most about teaching. (Love you Bren!)
Say a prayer
God is with you wherever you are, so take a moment to talk to Him. Thank Him, ask for strength or guidance, or just say hi 🙂 Just making that connection can bring a sense of peace to your day. Maybe you talk to Him all the time, maybe it has been a while or maybe you’ve never said a prayer in your life, in any case, He will listen.
Get lost in a book
If you are an active reader, stepping into a book is the quickest way to turn your mind away from your troubles. I love books. Actual paper books or downloaded electronic versions, either will transport you to a world of your choosing. Want to feel productive? Choose a content related book or one about boosting productivity. What to just escape? Choose your favorite genre and get reading.
Create a happy wall
Somewhere in your room, public or private, bulletin board or cupboard door create a place for you to collect things that make you remember when you are standing in that room. For me, this involved pictures of myself with favorite students, e-mails from students, and letters/notes from students. Most recently I would screenshot and save tweets from them. (the good ones, lol) It’s important to stay connected to the fact that you are making a difference even on days when it doesn’t feel like it. Remember the kids that you made a connection with, and use that to get you through. Below you can see some of a board I created in my room.
This is a big list and obviously we can’t do all of these things everyday. Most days, I was lucky to slow down long enough to have ten minutes to myself. Start with those ten minutes and guard them! Do not let anything intrude on those ten minutes for anything! Think of them as vital to your teaching force. You need those ten minutes to beat stress and recharge you for the rest of the day. If you are able to carve out ten minutes and stick with it, try to increase to 15 – 20 minutes. You will be a much healthier human being and healthy people make better teachers, parents and spouses. Do yourself this favor because what you do is so vitally important and you deserve it!