As a new school year begins, teachers come armed with new or revised lesson plans and renewed excitement ready to give our students the best of ourselves so that they can be their best selves. Sometimes giving the best of ourselves comes with a price. In our quest to be a great teacher as well as parent, partner, caregiver, or one of the many other titles each of us wear, we often put our own needs last, which is the worst thing we could do to ourselves. In my quest to redefine my work/life balance and reduce school year stress, I read many self-help articles and had several conversations with my daughter and sister, both of whom work in the mental health field, and found many commonalities. Here are a few strategies that stood out to me. I hope at least one will work for you.
- Prioritize – Be sure that you differentiate between what “must” and what you would “like” to get accomplished.
- Be realistic; you cannot do everything.
- Make a schedule to help you use your time more efficiently.
- Schedule “Me Time” – If you don’t put yourself on your calendar chances are you will not make or take time for yourself.
- Get a massage.
- Take in a movie.
- Meet up with a friend.
- Read for pleasure
- Manage Your Mind – The most important voice in your life is your own. Listen to your body and practice positive self-talk. Don’t beat yourself up. When feeling stressed take a mini break.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Take a walk.
- Listen to music.
- Look at cherished pictures – your kids, grandkids, a favorite vacation spot.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal – At the end of the school day or before you go to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on your day and write down a few things for which you are thankful. Not only will this help you to focus on the positive parts of your day, but on a difficult day you can revisit your entries and assure yourself that “this too shall pass.”
- Establish Boundaries – While you may not have a “job” that allows you to leave work at work, you do not have to be available 24/7.
- Decide on a reasonable time to “unplug” each evening to stop checking your work email.
- Establish a time limit for grading or engaging in social media.
- Stop saying “Yes,” to every request. Be selective with how you use your precious free time.
These are just a few suggestions and strategies. Obviously, you may not be able to do this right away but choose one and start small. If you have others to add to the list, please share them in the comment section below. Teachers do important work. We can’t make a difference in the lives of our students if we don’t treat ourselves with respect and kindness. We are all in this together!
Rita DiCarne is a 2000 PAWLP Writing Fellow. She teaches 7th grade ELA at Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School in Maple Glen, PA. Rita married her high school sweetheart 39 years ago and with him she shares two wonderful children, their fabulous spouses, and four fantastic grandchildren!