In this episode, we are going to give you some strategies on how to survive the rest of the school year. The two of us are feeling quite tired and run down, so we are sharing some of our ideas on what we are going to be doing to make it to the end of this school year.
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This week, we are going to talk about some strategies to get through the rest of this school year. We are getting close, but still have some weeks to go! This wasn’t the plan for this week, but our exhaustion has set it, and we know we aren’t alone. With that in mind, we figured we may as well talk about it and brainstorm how we are going to make it to the end of June.
The longer daylight hours, and the reappearance of the sun as really helped us to wake up in the morning, and to enjoy our days and evenings. However, there are so many events and activities happening in our buildings (both during the day and in the evenings) at this time of year that it can be overwhelming, and completely exhausting!
This year, we have found that the students are feeling it as well. They are definitely tired and ready for summer break to begin – and when it’s still May, that is not a good sign!
With this in mind, we thought we would share some strategies that we will be using, and that we recommend you try, to help get us all through to the summer break with our sanity intact!
It’s okay to say no – don’t stretch yourself too thin!
This one is difficult, but it’s an important lesson for all teachers to learn. When there are so many different events and activities going on, it isn’t always possible to attend them all – so don’t feel badly saying no to things when you have a lot going on.
Katie has had to do that quite a bit lately. She is taking her Masters of Education part time, and this term her class runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 3 hours each evening, for 6 weeks. This has forced her to turn down attending and helping out at various events, and while there’s some guilt and/or disappointment involved, it’s also a matter of balancing everything in a healthy way.
Rachel has been struggling with her health quite a bit this year, and the late night events at school can really throw off her body and health, making the following day extremely difficult on her. With that in mind, she has had to be very picky and choosy about the evenings that she is attending so that she can balance her health and her career.
You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin, especially if you are already feeling tired or rundown, so be okay with saying no to some of these events! Go to the ones that you are able to, but don’t feel like you have to do them all.
Take care of yourself – even if it means a nap or a mental health day!
If you are tired after a long day, don’t feel badly about having a mini-nap or a nap. It can be a great way to re-energize at the end of the school day so that you can do all of the things you need to do around the house, or run errands, etc.
When Katie is exhausted and in need of a nap, she’ll take a 26 minute nap – that’s her magical number! It avoids waking her during deep sleep, and tends to be at the right time in her sleep cycle to wake up refreshed.
You’ll need to figure out the number of minutes that is perfect for your sleep cycle!
And if you are at a point of exhaustion where you’re really struggling to function, take the day off to rest and recover. If there’s anything that we have learned over the last year or so, it is that teachers are replaceable. If something happens to you, there will be another teacher in your place the following day.
So take the time you need to be well – we have sick days for a reason!
Give yourself permission to not be the best
When things are tough, and you’re exhausted, it’s okay to back off on all of the extras you do in your daily job. We don’t have to be the best educator possible every single day.
Trying all the new strategies and classroom models is exhausting and requires a lot of planning and problem solving, so take a break – it’s okay! All of the new things we implement is amazing, and has been great learning, but sometimes we need to take a step back and let things happen, even if they aren’t perfect.
If you have a course team, then rely on them to help you out when needed. While you may like things done a specific way, or you may have preferences for font and layouts, etc. (ahem! Rachel!), but it’s okay to let those go for a bit.
This is the first real school year since the pandemic, so we have had a couple of years where events, teams, clubs, etc. were not all running. This allowed us to get a taste of work-life balance. Now that this balance is gone again, it is exhausting, and it’s difficult to keep forging ahead with all of the new ways of teaching, etc. Give yourself permission to take a step back.
Avoid the news and social media
This can be difficult to do, but sometimes we need to take a break from the news and social media. Teachers in Ontario currently do not have a contract, and so the news and politics on social media can be exhausting. Teachers are often vilified, and it takes a lot of energy to try to deal with all of the negativity out there and all the hatred towards teachers.
With this in mind, we have both been backing away from the news and social media for a bit, and trying to maintain a positive and energized frame of mind. It means that we are a bit behind, and are more reactionary with respect to world events, but it is difficult to constantly be surrounded by negative and difficult news.
Katie has also noticed that her phone use is significantly decreased. She had be wasting time watching videos or scrolling through social media, so once she decided that this wasn’t having a positive effect anymore, she really decreased how much she was using her device.
Spend time connecting with friends and family
One way to recharge or fill your bucket is to connect with the people that you are close to. Take a bit of time out of your weekend (or an evening) and spend some time catching up and connecting with others. It could be on the phone, a Google Meet (or FaceTime), or even meeting up for a meal or coffee. This is a great way to reconnect with friends and family, and to help you feel energized and happy.
Katie has been great about not checking emails after school hours – this has made a HUGE difference for her and her stress levels. With that in mind, consider creating your own boundaries, and finding ways to purposely unplug from work once you are at home.
You’ll immediate notice a decrease in stress levels! It’s amazing how something so simple can have such a big impact.
This one is a personal favourite for both of us. While it isn’t necessarily the best way to cope, it is definitely one thing that helps us to get through the day. Katie can’t have coffee after a certain time (12pm or so) or else she can’t sleep, so she is sure to only have her morning coffees.
There has been a noticeable increase in the amount of coffee being consumed in Katie’s workroom. Typically there were just a couple of colleagues using the coffee maker, however that has now increased quite significantly as we get closer to the end of the year.
If you do resort to coffee – don’t go wild with it – keep it to a manageable amount.
Keep up your hobbies
Having hobbies and routines is such an important thing to maintain, even when you’re feeling exhausted and rundown. Rachel has been keeping up with her workouts, but is listening to her body. If she wakes up and her body is completely exhausted, she gives herself permission to skip that day, but then she is back at it the following day.
Katie has also changed her eating routine and is focusing more on fresh veg and fruit, and this new routine has really helped her energy levels. It has made a big difference!
But more than workouts and food, make sure you do things that bring you joy! Make time for it, even if you’re feeling stressed or like you have to do marking, planning, etc. You need to create a space for joy, and it will help balance you out and make everything else feel possible.
Rachel has actually given up a couple of her hobbies over the past couple of weeks because of how tired she has been. She likes to knit, and had been working on it for weeks, but stopped. Same with learning to play the piano.
Katie is still taking her violin lessons and practicing. She injured her shoulder over March break, and it has been off and on painful since, so it has made it more difficult to practice because of the position required to hold/play the violin. It just means that she has been taking breaks.
She had also stopped playing the piano for a bit, but started playing again recently. She took lessons growing up, and it tends to be a great outlet for stress relief, so she’s happy to sit down again and hammer out some stress on the piano.
Vent with critical friends
When you’re working hard and feeling tired and rundown, it’s important to have an outlet and someone to talk to. Consider tapping a colleague and/or friend on the shoulder and chatting and venting every once in a while to help destress.
If you don’t vent or share your feelings and stress, it could end up being bottled up and then you’ll reach a point where you can’t bottle it up anymore, and it feels so much worse. So find your people, and schedule some time to chat together, share your frustrations, and support one another.
One last thing that is important, particularly when you’re feeling exhausted and burnt out, is to plan forward. We are both really excited for the summer break, and we have plans coming up that we can look forward to.
Rachel is getting a puppy soon! It will certainly be a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it. She is also planning some tent camping with her family and puppy.
Katie is planning another trailer camping trip with her family. She’s looking forward to creating some new memories with her kids and partner. She has been planning the trip, which has helped create some excitement about her summer, and she looks forward to getting away for a bit and relaxing.
Whatever you do, it’s important to find strategies that work for you, and that will help you to address your exhaustion, and maybe even help you to reenergize for the final push to the end of the school year!
Let us know what strategies work for you – we are always looking for new ways to help us deal with the stress and exhaustion of the job.