Teachers' Lounge: 5 strategies for handling school stress 

Woman taking a deep breath and relaxing with eyes closed

Has your back-to-school launch been more challenging this year than you'd like?  Your students and you may well be experiencing significant stress amidst COVID-19 concerns and other difficulties. Step into the lounge with us for some stress-reducing tips to carry with you through the year.

1. Be nice to yourself. Yes, as an educator, you are a SUPER HERO, but no one's perfect and you don't have to be either. Made a mistake, fell a bit short somehow? Keep striving and growing, just like you urge your students to do. Change negative self-talk to something more compassionate. You'll feel more empowered to manage your emotions and take positive action. "I can't do this" becomes "This is hard but I can handle it"; "I can't stand this" becomes "I can’t control this but I can manage how I cope with it." or maybe just the classic reminder "This too shall pass". Don't have a go-to phrase for a boost when you need it? Stop reading and think of one now that can help you feel calm and focused when needed. 

2. Move your body (and your energy will move with it). Find a reason to lap the halls when you can. Stretching for a few minutes here and there is great too. Many educators used stretch breaks with students to break up the (literal) strain of virtual learning last year; keep it up in person too. Even with your sneering older students; they'll secretly like it and everyone will benefit. Consider these activities or these, specifically intended for secondary classrooms.

3. Take a deep breath, or eight. It will help you slow your heart and feel more calm. Of course you know this but do you practice it? In moments of stress, be kind to yourself and model for your students what self-care looks like by stepping back a moment to breathe deeply and re-center yourself. You'll be better equipped to think and act more clearly if you do. Consider boxed breathing: breathe in while you slowly count to four; at the top of your breath, hold it while you count again to four; then slowly release your breath to a count of four; and finally, before your next breath, pause for a count of four. Repeat again. And again if needed! While you're doing this, put the stressor at hand on pause and just focus on your breath. Wrap up with a cue to your positive go-to phrase before re-engaging.    

4. Actually chew your lunch food before swallowing. Yes, lunch time is a crunch and some days it’s all you can do to eat at all, but give yourself the body and soul nourishment you need by putting yourself first. Let your students, and fellow educators, know your lunch time is sacred; most everything can wait. Then eat well to feel well; healthy food sets your body up best for handling the demands of the day. The trick to this is planning ahead. Got your handy list of healthy, fuss-free lunch ideas ready? If not, you’re busy so we Googled for you: try thisthis or this for ideas. Bon appetite!

5. Lean on your sense of peace and gratitude. Find it quick by sneaking a peak at that uplifting quote you keep on your walls; the photo of loved ones or beautiful image that soothes your soul on your desk or laptop; or even the ‘peaceful place’ in your mind – you know the one where you’re retired and fishing or lounging with a good book or whatever. Look beyond the bodies seated before you and into the future lives you’re helping become positive and fulfilling. While you acknowledge the demands of your profession, be grateful for holding such an important and influential role in society. We know we’re grateful for you!!

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” - Henry Brooks Adams

“It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” - Tom Brokaw

“If you can read this, thank a teacher.”  - American proverb