Social Sundays: Strategies to stay de-stressed

Teachers are stressed out!  According to a recent report, 46% of teachers experience high levels of daily stress.  Stressed teachers are not good for student learning: "When teachers are highly stressed, students show lower levels of both social adjustment and academic performance."  Additionally, the teaching profession has high turnover.  Nearly half of teachers entering the profession will change schools or quit (many of those) within the first five years of teaching.  Teacher turnover is expensive for schools and let's face it, not good for teachers or students.

But let's say you are one of those stalwart teachers who stay in the profession.  You love the students!  You love teaching!  You are in it for the long haul.  Until real policy changes happen, your stress is not likely to get lowered by outside forces. Still there are some strategies you can employ to stay relaxed (or at least less stressed) all year long:

1. Eat the right foods for battling stress.  Studies suggest that high-protein diets help people feel less stressed (sugar actually aggravates stress).  You use a lot of protein when you are stressed, so load up.  Also avoid (okay, limit) caffeine.  I don't drink coffee, so this last one is pretty easy for me. I do limit my chocolate (dark only, please), though, which has a surprisingly high amount of caffeine.

2. 10 minutes (minimum) a day.  Take a moment 10 minutes a day that is just yours (with no distractions).  If you have to hide in the laundry room, go for it.  I get up extra early so I can go for a long-run, stretch, and still have some time to sit with a cup of tea and just chill.  My rule is no electronics during my 10 minutes.  I do sometimes read a book, because with my schedule that feels luxurious.

3. Do something that is just for you. Some of you already know how I divide my weekly to do list into 4 quadrants.  One of those quadrants is labeled "me."  These are just for me things.  Each week I fit in at least one thing that I want to do just for me.  It's one of the most valuable things I do to keep stress levels low.

4. Exercise.  Alright, so this one, I think everyone knows.  Exercise helps lower stress levels. Here's my one tip on exercise: do something you actually like.  I run.  I LOVE to run.  People say to me "oh, I should run."  And I say "no, you shouldn't.  You should only like to run if you love it.  Getting up to run in 32 degree temperatures shouldn't be something you have to do; it should be something you want to do."  I have friends who take ballet, rock climb, play tennis, play soccer, and more.  The point is that each of them finds something fun that ALSO is exercise to keep the stress away.

5. Take a mental health day.  I learned this my second year teaching from a veteran teacher I worked with.  About every 6 weeks, she would take a mental health day, usually on a Wednesday.  She discovered that the students survived just fine for one day without her AND that she came back rejuvenated and eager to teach.  Teaching is exhausting and exhilarating. When the exhausting takes over, it's time for a mental health day.

6. Be Mindful.  The concept of mindfulness, which I recently heard described as squishy, is popular right now in working with students.  Patricia A. Jennings argues that mindfulness isn't just for students, it's for teachers, too.  Jennings offers evidence-based skills for keeping you at peace.

Hope you take a moment for yourself this year and that these tips (that work for me) help a little.  Add your own ideas in the comments section below.

Social Sundays
 is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  



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