Are you wondering how to deal with your back-to-school stress? Let me start by saying, going back to school isn’t easy. The summer spoils us with a slow pace and the freedom to go to the bathroom whenever we want. Going back to school is like jumping into an ice-cold bath. We shock our bodies and our brains into new routines. To put it simply, it’s stressful.
Here are 10 tips for dealing with back-to-school stress.
1. Let Go of Perfectionism
It’s easy to want a Pinterest-worthy room, but will it really matter when you’re teaching phonics? Remember that B’s and C’s are still passing grades, so it’s okay to settle for just okay when it comes to decor. But it’s not just about decor. Know that this year will come with mistakes from not only your students but from you too – and that’s okay.
Instead of focusing on being perfect, focus on progress from both you and your students, and you’ll feel more successful. The feeling of success is important because it’ll help you avoid burnout!
Growth mindsets are built from failures – NOT perfectionism. Model it!
2. Don’t Gossip
Administrators and district professionals sometimes send memos, training, and to-do’s haphazardly through email. It’s easy to get frustrated and talk to your neighbor about your frustrations, but oftentimes this leads to exaggerated gossip. If you’re upset with someone in your building, talk to them first. Chances are there’s a misunderstanding!
Always be aware when gossip is happening.
If you find yourself in the middle of a conversation where gossip is sneaking in, then change the subject by asking them a question about something else or tell them, I need to run – I’ll talk to you soon! Another strategy to stop the offender is to reply with something positive. For example, “I heard she’s on an improvement plan.” Reply, “She’ll get there! I believe in her.”
3. Identify Your Stressors
It’s important to understand what exactly is stressing you out. I recommend keeping a journal and writing in it daily for one week. When you have a week’s worth of journal entries, you can look back for patterns and identify what caused you to get stressed. Be specific in your journal with the emotions you’re feeling and how they made you react. Then, talk to a trusted person to find a solution to how you can change that.
Writing in your journal will also bring you mental clarity and peace.
4. Get Organized
The best way to destress is to get your mind off whatever keeps you stressed. I do that by tidying my desk. I set the timer for 15 minutes, turn up some Lauren Daigle, and start the Elsa Method – a tested method where I Let it Go.
Seriously, if it’s collected dust, then it’s gone! I don’t look for someone else to take it; it just goes in the garbage. It may not be eco-friendly (sorry), but getting organized helps my brain to relax. It’s conducive to keeping stress away.
Consider what it feels like to walk into a cluttered classroom. It triggers stress! Walking into a clutter-free classroom is like a breath of fresh air. It’s such a good feeling!
5. Ditch Your Negative Thoughts
We’re all guilty of being our own worst critics. Be mindful of what things you’re saying to and about yourself in your head. Just like words are a choice, so are your thoughts. Your thoughts will motivate your words and actions. You could try two strategies: flip the script or make up a story.
Here’s an example of flipping the script: Let’s say you think a student is hopeless. Try flipping the script by saying, what haven’t I tried yet?
Another example of making up a story would be saying something like, “He’s only frustrated with himself because he doesn’t understand it.”
Whatever you do, don’t be sarcastic because that will make your thoughts and actions so much worse, and your students don’t understand it!
6. Show Gratitude
For four years, I taught in inclusion classrooms. Every day was a new challenge. We experienced outbursts, tantrums, defiance, and many impulsive choices. Every day, I began the day the same way – with gratitude.
A few minutes before class began, I’d start by looking at the empty desks. I would pray over every single chair and thank God for that child. Your morning doesn’t have to be a prayer (I encourage it). But instead, it could be showing gratitude by saying out loud what you’re thankful for.
Finally, set your intentions for the day before your students come through your door. Let those intentions be your mantra for the rest of the day. Write it down on a post-it note and keep it at your desk or on a clipboard. Somewhere you can see it throughout the day.
It makes a huge difference!
7. Get Healthy
One of the best things I ever did was start an afterschool workout club with my peers. We didn’t call ourselves anything spectacular (thinking back, we probably should’ve), but we’d get our sweat on every afternoon at 3:30 PM. Kicking and punching in the air after a long and stressful day was nice.
Try starting an exercise group in your school or ask if you can join one. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, but it’ll get you moving and increase the dopamine levels in your body. You could even opt for an after-school walking club.
In addition to moving your body, you should prioritize your food choices. Eating well and ensuring you have all the right vitamins and minerals your body needs will support your brain function and get your digestive tract on track. Plus, eating healthy in front of your students is an example of being a good role model!
8. Time Management
Being a good timekeeper will certainly save your sanity. Start by getting to school on time. Not too early and definitely not too late! Ensure you have morning work prepared, your morning message, and all the copies necessary to start your day.
When it’s time to leave, make sure it’s time to leave.
Avoid spending your afternoon planning period chatting with your neighbor (yes, it’s fun, but it’s a huge waste of time). Instead, set a block schedule for your planning periods. Include a day for what you do, such as grading, organizing, printing copies, writing lesson plans, writing newsletters, report cards, etc. Limit distractions and honor your time.
I would often lock my door and turn the lights off so I wouldn’t get interrupted by others. It’s not mean or rude; I love my peers, but my family is my priority.
9. Set Boundaries
It’s okay to say no! Remember what I said early? You’re human – not a superhero.
Parents and coworkers may want to call, email, or text outside of school hours. Set boundaries by letting them know when you will and won’t be available. Respect your time by honoring your schedule. If you don’t respect it, nobody else will either.
When making your schedule, make sure to have at least one day per week where you do absolutely NOTHING with your job. This will help you recharge for a new week.
10. Talk to Someone
If you’re overcome with stress, it’s important to talk to someone. Keep your conversations confidential and out of the public. Avoid talking in places like restaurants or coffee shops. That’s because bypassers can eavesdrop on the conversation.
Find a trusted friend or coworker to who you can talk. If you have a partner or spouse who’s willing to listen, talk to them. I highly recommend talking to a qualified therapist. They will help you organize your feelings and give you actionable tips. Plus, they have to remain confidential!
Going back to school is stressful. Stress isn’t always bad, but when it is, try these stress management tips.
Want to try my September Self-Care Challenge? Click HERE to download your free calendar. Also, you may want to try these amazing free resources that are perfect for your back-to-school season!
- Back To School Checklists and Forms from Simply STEAM
- Vocabulary Activities for Any List of Words from Simply STEAM
- Math Addition Facts Table from Simply STEAM