You’ve been in school for a few months now and the work is starting to pile up. Between lesson plans, grades, report cards, parent-teacher conferences, and your personal life, it’s easy to get lost in the endless “to do” list. But it does not have to be like that. There are some simple steps you can take to relieve stress and a busy schedule:

1. Prioritize:

To get it right, you’ll have to be honest and realistic with yourself. Look at your commitments and daily agenda. Decide which activities, committees, and tasks are non-negotiable, and then take a hard look at everything else. Ask yourself questions like: do you really have to grade all homework assignments? Or can you check in occasionally and still have a pulse on where your students are? At home, can you cut a TV show or two to give yourself more free time (or just to have time to sleep?). Decide what is important to you and make sure these activities are part of your “non-negotiables” list. Although certain items may seem unimportant because they don’t warrant a state of emergency, if there is an activity that reinforces your core values, it would be beneficial to spend time on this, rather than spending time on things that are less important to you. You may be spending precious time on commitments that have become more of a habit than something you really need (or want) to do. Perhaps you have overcommitted yourself and need to say no to activities or organizations until you get your schedule back under control.

2. Take some time for yourself:

No matter how busy your life gets, take some time for yourself…and then guard it fiercely! Treat this time as you would any important appointment, and be sure to use this time to nurture yourself with activities you enjoy. You can decide to exercise, take a nap, play an instrument, discover a new hobby, read, take a class… basically anything you enjoy will work!

Be sure to choose an amount of time and frequency that is realistic. For example, you may feel that fifteen minutes a day works well with your schedule, while another person may decide to allocate one hour every three days. What matters most is that you’re being good to yourself, because then when you go to the classroom or spend time with friends and family, you’re a more likeable (and interesting!) person who has more to give.

3. Write “plans” that include fun:

This could mean planning a fun review game for an exam that breaks the normal daily routine, making class time new and enjoyable for you and your students. Or plan to do something fun right after work once or twice a week – having something to look forward to can make any day a good one, no matter how many curveballs come your way.

Sometimes something as simple as ordering an exotic cup of coffee on the way to school can perk you up and start your day on a positive note. The more you seek to infuse a little fun into your day, the more fun you will have and find that irritating people and circumstances don’t bother you as much as they used to.

4. Delegate when possible:

This goes for home and school. If you find yourself spending hours on bulletin boards, consider asking students for supplies to help you – most kids love extra chores and would jump at the chance to lend you a hand. Or collaborate with colleagues and split your workload. If you are teaching similar units, take turns making copies, creating tests and quizzes, etc. If two or three of you get together and divide up the work, you’ll cut your prep time in half, or more.

At home, look at the things that take time and decide if there is someone (in your family or that you could hire) who can help. Perhaps hiring someone to clean once or twice a month is an option, and this alone could save you hours of time, freeing you up to do other jobs…or relax for once! If you live with other people, come up with a plan to share household responsibilities. For example, a spouse or older child who can help with carpooling can be a lifesaver and stress reducer.

Sometimes people are reluctant to give up control of certain tasks, fearing that they won’t be done “correctly.” Think about it: would you rather have ironing “your way” or have a few extra minutes because a generous family member is willing to pitch in and do it for you, even if it’s not perfect?

5. Listen – to your body:

You know the signs of an impending cold, right? Unfortunately, many teachers feel that they simply “don’t have time” to get sick. Sadly, allowing yourself to be worn out and exhausted simply means that you are opening yourself up to disease. In that state, you are operating with less power. How can you expect to do your best, at school or at home, when you’ve lost your voice, everything hurts, and all you want to do is put your head on your desk?

At the first sign of illness or fatigue, do whatever it takes to incorporate healthy measures into your routine: go to bed a little earlier, increase your vitamin C intake, etc. The more you can slow down until you build up your immunity, the less chance you have of getting so sick that it stops you in your tracks. And if you are really sick, take the time you need to stay home and recover. You’ll recover faster, be less likely to pick up more germs at school, and keep your germs contained (instead of spreading them to your students).

Being a teacher is no easy task, but with a little thought and determination, you can lower your stress levels and make your days healthier, more fulfilling, and more fun.

What ideas have worked for you?

Let us know how you reduce stress in the classroom and at home!

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