Stress Management Tools for Teachers: 7 Tips for Surviving the Rest of This Year

Spring has sprung, April is upon us as we are already a week in. Easter is a week away, and for many teachers and students around the country, that means a much needed and well-deserved Spring Break.

Once Spring Break is over, everyone comes back to school with a single purpose in mind:  get through the last weeks of school as quickly as possible. I have written before about how some teachers and students begin a countdown until the end of the school year, checking off each day as one day closer to “freedom.”

counting the days

The hard fact is that teaching is an increasingly stressful occupation. I receive calls every day from teachers all over the country who confess with some chagrin and no small amount of regret that they are experiencing symptoms of burnout. They need to escape, and while I can help in that area, the more immediate concern is what to do about the stress until they can make their getaway?

Unchecked and uncontrolled stress will make you sick!

Because I want to help, I have developed a short course on how to keep your sanity and navigate these final weeks of school with some sense of peace and ease.

Want to know more?

Take a look at this video, and I will explain.

In this short course, I cover 7 specific strategies designed to help you manage your stress more effectively…not just during these final weeks of school, but all the time. The strategies are:

  1. Mindset (Attitude)
  2. Healthy habits (staying physically strong and well)
  3. Controlling your environment
  4. Managing your workload more effectively
  5. Using the 5-Second Rule (thank you Mel Robbins!)
  6. Setting better boundaries
  7. Asking for help when you need it

Each module in the short course includes information and instruction along with recommendations and suggested resources selected to help you implement the strategy for the week.

Each module is designed to help highlight areas where teachers, in particular, tend to fall into certain traps.

For example, get a group of teachers together and listen to their conversation. I can guarantee that in less than five minutes, the complaining will start. Not that the complaints aren’t legitimate because I would venture to guess that they probably are. The trouble is that complaining without doing something about the object of the complaint is not only not helpful, but it can also become counterproductive.

I hope you have new complaints

The trouble with complaining with a friend about things at work is that it validates your perception of reality, and if you feel aggrieved, it adds to your sense of righteous indignation. Venting can be healthy, but too often, complaints devolve into gossip which can be dangerous and even more counterproductive.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not above gossiping. (I am human, after all.)

I was especially guilty of it when I was teaching, however. The lounge invited gossip of all stripes. Gossip about students, their parents, the principal, and anyone who happened to be out of the room at the time.

Here’s the thing about gossip. While it can seem harmless enough, sometimes, it becomes harmful. Especially if it turns out to be wrong or untruthful, it can certainly hurt the person who is the object of the gossip.

Gossip seems to be built into our DNA. I don’t know anyone who is above engaging in it although my grandmother was pretty good about avoiding it. In fact, I never heard her say a single negative thing about anyone. She would listen silently to a conversation about someone in the community or at church, and invariably, if she did speak, it was to offer something positive about the person in question. But she was the rare exception.

In fact, if you think about it, we thrive on gossip, don’t we? Why is the National Enquirer so popular except that people love the juicy headlines on the cover each week. Even if you don’t buy it, you take a look at the cover as you wait in line at the grocery store, don’t you? Magazines like People and others thrive on gossip about celebrities, and we are eager to hear all the details.

Too often, teachers thrive on gossip about each other. And it is hurtful to the culture of the school in general.

Women gossiping.

I would like to suggest that one way to better manage your stress between now and the end of the year is to become mindful of your own habit as it relates to gossip…even gossip that seems harmless.

You see, it is not just an empty phrase that mindset is critical to your success or that attitude is everything.

Your attitude creates the frame through which you view your life. If you are constantly on the hunt for something that you can criticize or complain about, you will find plenty of things about which to complain and criticize and you will be extremely unhappy with your life.

During these last few weeks of school, strive to find positive things to say, and look for the positive in each situation that arises. It may feel hard at first. But it will become easier with practice. Changing the way you view things can make a huge difference in your attitude, and once your attitude changes, everything around you changes…like magic.

If you would like to know more about how to manage these final weeks of school with ease, click here and learn more about the program I am offering. It is a great deal as far as your investment of time and money, and it may make a huge difference in how you wind up this school year.

Happy Spring!

 

It’s TESTING TIME for Teachers and Students

If you are a teacher, you are probably already feeling the pressure of testing time, and it isn’t even April! I have started getting messages from teachers who are too busy to think about what they might want to do next year career-wise. They are in simple survival mode.

And I get it.

During my last 20 years of serving as a library media specialist at the elementary school level, I served two schools. The first school struggled for the first year or two after testing mania took hold in Virginia, but once we figured out what we needed to do and we actually had a curriculum to follow, we got accredited and it was fairly smooth sailing each year. Teachers were concerned, of course, and the spring drill began there just like it does most other places, but nobody was losing sleep worrying about whether the school would meet accreditation standards.

That changed when I changed schools in 2001. I moved from a fairly affluent suburban community to a Title I school with a majority minority population. The year I arrived was the year after the school had finally reached accreditation status after years of being on the state department’s list of “failing schools.”

The photo below sums up how most of my colleagues felt for half of the school year.Business man in office with burnout syndrome at desk

In fact, I recall the tension beginning to build as early as February…months before the tests were to be administered. The climate on our campus changed dramatically. You could feel the tension as though it were a palpable substance. Teachers worried…would they be able to get their kids through this year or would we go back to being blacklisted by the state?

I was there for eight years, and that anxiety from February through June never stopped. Each year, teachers and administrators brainstormed new ways of trying to drill the standards into the children so they would pass the standardized tests.

I wasn’t a classroom teacher, so during each spring testing season, I was called upon to proctor. It always made me sad. I watched the teachers fret and the children struggle. The students all knew on some level that the stakes were high. They tried very hard. And each year, from 2001 until I left in 2008, they managed to pass, but that never alleviated the concern that they might not.

This is the time when stress really ramps up for teachers. They begin to lose sleep, staying up late making lesson plans or grading papers, or brainstorming ways to get their kids to understand better what they need to know for the tests.

They begin to eat more because they are stressed out. They begin to forget about exercise. Who has time? They start to gain weight but are too busy to do anything about it.

They leave off getting together with friends for the same reason. They are just too busy and preoccupied to be very sociable.

I get it. I’ve lived it. But here is what I know for sure. Taking on the weight of the world during this season will maybe mean the difference of a point or two on a student’s test, but it could ultimately make you sick.

Stress gone unchecked can raise your blood pressure, cause early onset diabetes, bring on heart attacks, and gastrointestinal issues.

This is the time of year when you need to take better care of yourself. It is more important now than ever!

Download my FREE eBook, Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain Overwhelmed:  a Guide to Managing Your Stress and Creating a Greater Sense of Work-Life Balance. 

I can’t guarantee that you will feel as stress-free as this woman:  

stressfreewoman

But I can guarantee that you will learn some strategies that may help you cope more effectively during these last few months of school.

I also invite you to attend a live, FREE workshop entitled, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers.” 

To register, click here.

During this 60-minute class, you will learn more about the seven specific strategies that I recommend for you in the book. These are strategies for you to practice not just during the spring testing season, but all year long. You need to take care of your health! If you wind up sick, what happens to how your students prep for their big tests that are coming up?

Don’t let the testing season bring you down! “Do your best and forget the rest” as Tony Horton says. You need to be present for your spouse and your own children, after all. Heck, your students will be negatively affected if you are stressed out and cranky because you feel overwhelmed with work responsibilities.

So what do you say? First download the free eBook here.  Report cover Final (1)

Then sign up for the workshop, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers” here or click the button below.

Big red sign up now button

Photos by Shutterstock.

Until next time.

 

 

 

A New Resource for Teachers Headed for Burnout

I am always 41sobhp5rl-_ac_us160_looking for information on teacher burnout. Not coincidentally, there are an increasing number of resources available because teacher burnout is on the rise.

The most recent gem I found is a new book entitled, First Aid for Teacher Burnout:  How You Can Find Peace and Success, by Jenny Grant Rankin. I wrote a review for Amazon just this morning, and this is what I offered:

“I appreciated this book and the author’s approach to teacher stress and burnout very much. Dr. Rankin provides proactive suggestions for readers, and her research on the subject is impeccable. I found only a couple of suggestions to be slightly off the mark. For example, submitting an anonymous note to the administration is suggested as a tactic for “avoiding drama.” As a former educator who witnessed lots of drama that resulted from an anonymous note turned into my administration (a note I did not write), I believe that tip is particularly ill-advised. That reservation aside, the book is extremely well-organized, and I believe it would be a great resource for teachers who may feel that they are heading for burnout but are not quite there yet. The strategies may prove to be “too little too late” for those who have had that final moment of reckoning when they realize that teaching is not the profession it used to be. Dr. Rankin’s experience as a teacher and educator herself provides credibility to her advice, and I will recommend this book to my clients as a good resource for those needing strategies to ward off a complete break from the profession.”

I was impressed by the depth of the research Dr. Rankin did in preparing this book, and she has organized it in such a way that it can easily become a workbook for teachers individually or collectively in a study group. She offers numerous strategies and tips for handling the stress and overwhelm that increasingly go with teaching.

Many of the strategies are sound, and she is right in offering that some of the stress a teacher feels is sometimes self-imposed. Teachers who are perfectionistic or true Type A personalities often go the extra mile until they have run out of gas, and then they can’t go any longer. Those are the ones who are leaving in greater and greater numbers because they have just run out of the enthusiasm they once felt for the profession.

I hear from an increasing number of teachers every day who have hit that point. This book might have helped them had they found it much earlier, but it is too late for many of them. The ones who have hit the point of no return won’t find solace in this resource, but those who are just approaching burnout and need some solid strategies for cutting back on their workload or developing a different mindset about their situation may find it helpful.

If you have hit the point of no return and feel that leaving teaching is the only option left to you, there is help available. You can seek out the resources of your college or university. Most offer their alumni some level of career counseling and services.

And then, there is the option of hiring a career coach. There are plenty to choose from, so I suggest you do your homework and check them out. You need to find someone with whom you can relate and who will understand exactly where you are coming from.

Let’s be honest…some people don’t understand why you are unhappy with your teaching career. Perhaps you are even having a difficulty explaining it to your spouse or your family members. They may think you have it easy. You only work 9 months a year (a myth), and you have your summers off (unless you have to work to supplement your income or go back to school to keep your licensure current). You only work from 7:30-2:30 (another myth), and you have every holiday off (probably accurate unless you have a second job) with pretty decent benefits compared to those in the private sector (sometimes accurate, sometimes not, depending upon where you work).

Given all these perks, what’s not to like about teaching? That is what they may be thinking.

They can’t possibly understand or appreciate the degrading way you may be treated by your inexperienced or incompetent administration.

They can’t imagine that you can’t deal with 35 kids in your classroom built for 25, many of whom can’t speak English or have a variety of learning disabilities.

They don’t understand why you have to buy most of your own materials like pencils and paper and bulletin board supplies. Why isn’t the school supplying all of those things?

They can’t fathom that your classes have gotten so large you don’t have enough books to go around.

And on top of all of that, you must adopt a new initiative every few months whether it makes sense for kids or not because someone who hasn’t been in a classroom for years thinks it might be the next “silver bullet” that will make your kids suddenly top test takers.

So much is broken in our system right now that I think I may have to write my own book.

The point is that if you can find someone who understands what you are experiencing, and they are in a position to help you figure out what your options are, then you should latch on to that person and don’t let go.

Life is just too short to spend a single day of it feeling miserable.

That is why I decided to become a career coach and counselor to teachers instead of returning to a middle school classroom to teach English after my term at the Virginia Education Association ended in 2012. I had burned myself out on that job and had nothing of value to offer energetic (and often drama-ridden) pre-teens whom I knew were much different from the 6th graders I taught from 1977-1980. I just couldn’t make myself go back. I didn’t want to spend one day of the rest of my life feeling that I wasn’t performing in a career that lit me up and made me feel good about myself. So I took charge of my career.

Everyone deserves to be able to that for themselves. So, if you are just beginning to experience twinges of burnout, get Dr. Rankin’s book. If you are already at the point of burnout, take a look at my website to see if you can find a resource there that might help.

I reinvented and retooled myself for a new career, and I have helped others do the same. The hardest part may be giving yourself permission to leave teaching while also giving yourself the permission to consider an alternative career. After all, if all you have always wanted to be was a teacher, making the decision to leave is scary. After making that decision, deciding on a path and having the courage to take the necessary steps to get you where you want to go is not easy, but it is so worth it in the long run.

I started out on my new career adventure 4 years ago this month. I have never regretted my decision, and my new mission in life is to help others find the same satisfaction in their lives that I have found in mine.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle holding you back is YOU.

This is a new year. What do you want to be doing a year from now? If you want your life to be different, you will have to start behaving differently. Why not start now?

Until next time.

 

 

Developing Healthy Habits for 2016

 

healthy habits

My mom used to say that if you had your health, you had everything you needed. She was a nurse, and she had seen people lose their health and subsequently lose jobs, families, and even their lives. She was a great proponent of preventative health care. She urged me to keep regular check ups with my doctors and my dentist. She also urged me to get vaccinations when recommended. To this day, with few exceptions, I follow her advice because I recognize the soundness of it.

Health is result of good genes to some degree, and as we get older, this is a factor, for sure. Another factor in health, however, is dependent upon whether or not you practice good health habits. Good health habits include eating for good nutrition, drinking recommended amounts of water, getting adequate and appropriate exercise, and so on.

During this time of year, with the Christmas holidays just behind us and the New Year just ahead of us, it is the time when we start to think in terms of fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions. Many of the most common resolutions are centered around health and fitness. I am certain that every fitness club on the planet is braced for an onslaught of new memberships that people will likely abandon almost as quickly as they sign up for them. That is a not a disaparagement…just a fact. Take a look at the graphic below to see why I make such a statement.

habits

Note that “85% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the first week.”

We don’t need to be resigned to bad health, however, just because creating new healthy habits is challenging. We just need to heed the two tips above, “Start slowly; Be consistent.”

I am starting a new program next week which I am calling “7 Months to 7 Healthier Habits for 2016.”  Click on the link for more information.

Are you as healthy as you would like to be? Consider:

  • Are you at your ideal weight?
  • Is your BMI (Body Mass Index) what you would like it to be?
  • Do you practice healthy eating habits regularly?
  • Do you drink the recommended amount of water most days?
  • Are you getting the exercise you need in order to be fit for your age and your current physical condition?

These are extremely important questions at any time of the year, but especially at this time. While everyone is thinking about making a “new start” in the New Year, why not think about how you might make 2016 a healthier year than last year?

If you have questions about the “7 Months to 7 Healthier Habits for 2016,” please let me know. I will be happy to work with you if you are interested in making this a healthier year ahead. In this program we will be working slowly and incrementally as we incorporate one new health habit a month for 7 months. In that way, the habits we create will last longer and by the end of July, 2016, we will be healthier, and if the adage is true, happier as well.

I invite you to join me.

Until next time.

 

 

It’s Almost Here

holiday list

The countdown is on. How are you doing? Are all the gifts purchased and wrapped?All the baking done? Any parties to plan or attend?

I don’t have to tell you that the litany of holiday activities and “to-do’s” is seemingly endless. And the pressure! Ever arrived for an event and realized you didn’t remember a gift for Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally? Is that the worst feeling, or what?

I watched the show “Black-ish” recently and was struck by the story line regarding the pressure we put upon ourselves–and sometimes the pressure others put on us–to make every holiday better than the year before. It is a tall order for many of us, but we continue to try.

All of this activity can be stressful, needless to say. That is why I am offering a FREE webinar Tuesday, December 15th at 7:00 p.m. EST. Here are the benefits of my program:

  • You will learn what stress is. The fact is that “stress” means different things to different people. What stresses me out might not even register on your radar. What stresses you out might be something I deal with every day. Stress is different for each of us, but…
  • Stress has a definite effect upon each of us physically, mentally, and emotionally. I will help you understand what stress is and how it might be impacting you negatively and you aren’t even aware of it.
  • You will also learn how to recognize the stressors in your life, and
  • You will learn why it is important for you to understand stress to be…and stay…healthy and well.
  • Finally, you will learn 7 specific strategies that won’t cost you anything but might save your life. These 7 strategies are simple (if not always easy) and can impact your general sense of wellness and well-being.

So, what do you think? Is it going to be worth an hour of your time to check it out? If so, I hope you will register here.

I hope to see you there.

Until next time.

You Are Invited to a Special Online Event

You Are Invited to a Special Online Event

Holiday Gifts

Holiday Gifts

We have all heard the song about the holidays being the “happiest time of the year,” right? But this holiday season has already been overshadowed with tragedies and terrorism from Paris to Beirut to San Bernadino. The airwaves are filled with rancor and vitriol and personal attacks instead of messages of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

On top of what is happening globally, the holidays are fraught with other kinds of stress. We tend to overeat, over-drink, and overspend. We fret over whether we have gotten just the right gift for everyone on the list. There are parties to attend and host, there are end-of-year tasks to deal with at work, and last minute details often forgotten until, well, the last minute.

It all makes for a stress-filled time of year even though there are good times to be enjoyed.

I am reminded that it was ten years ago this Christmas that I left my home and started divorce proceedings. In fact, many of my moves have been over the holidays to accommodate my teacher schedule.

This year will be my first Christmas without my mom, and my 29th year without my dad. And my 7-year-old car has decided that it is time for some major repair work…ouch.

Let’s face it, in spite of the fact that this is supposed to be a happy time, sometimes it just isn’t.

In case you are feeling overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list, I want to invite you to join me for a FREE LIVE webinar that I will be hosting next week. The date is December 15, 2015. The time is 7:00 EST. The registration link is here.

I hope you will sign up and plan to join me and others who will be exploring how we can take better care of ourselves during this stress-filled season so that we really can enjoy ourselves and be happier and more ready for the new year.

So sign up now, and join me.

I Am Back!

I have been so busy with other writing and other activity that I have neglected my blog here. My apologies to anyone who was following this particular blog…I am going to be more active here moving forward. Thank you for your patience.

In my defense, I have been busy with numerous activities along with some life altering events.

For example, in April I launched my eBook, Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain Overwhelmed:  A Guide to Managing Your Stress and Developing a Greater Sense of Work-Life Balance. It is FREE, so feel free to go to the link to download it.

About the same time I launched the eBook, however, my mom got sick. I spent the better part of 25 days either with her in the hospital or running back and forth from home to her (a 3-hour drive one way) to keep up with the basics of running a business and taking care of things at my home.

She passed away on May 15. Frankly, nothing has been the same since. I know it is one of those things that happens to each of us if we live long enough. We lose our parents, and in her case, she was 86 years old and had had a good life. She had not been well for a while, however, and I know that she is in a better place, and she is not suffering which is a relief.

In spite of the fact that she is gone, and in spite of the fact that my dad died in an accident 29 years ago, I still think of each of them every day.

I am always mindful of the lessons they taught me. I am always wondering if they would be proud of the work I am doing today. I think they would be…but I miss them nevertheless.

I have also been writing a lot for an ezine called Careerealism. You can find some of my writing there if you like.

I have been working a lot lately as a career transition coach. I specialize in working with teachers who are experiencing symptoms of burnout, but I also work with mid-career professionals who have found themselves stuck in their job search. I offer resume review and LinkedIn help for anyone who needs to make sure they are on the right track in their personal job search.

If you happen to be a teacher who is suffering from job burnout (a teacher in distress), check out this new checklist I just released. Answer any one of the 7 questions about job burnout “yes” and you may need to talk to me.

Check it out. The checklist is available here. Download it and check it out. If you ARE suffering from job burnout, contact me for a complimentary consultation. Sign up for that here.

I  am sorry I have been away so long. I am glad to be back. Let me know what is going on with you.

Until next time.