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The Three Rs for Stressed Teachers to Rejuvenate

Perhaps you were one of many teachers who spent your first week of the holidays recovering from the stress of the year – sleeping late, flopping about all day, staring at your to-do list you’ve saved up all year, re-starting your book or movie as you hadn’t taken anything in, even not wanting to go out particularly. 

If you finished the year feeling that there’s no point, that you’re not good enough, feeling stressed every day and forcing yourself to go to work and resisting the temptation to call in sick, your mind racing preventing you from sleeping at night and focussing on your work in the day, you could be heading towards burn out. 

In May this year, the World Health Organisation officially classified burnout as a disease “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burn out is not just about long hours, because people who love their job will work long hours and not suffer burn out, although long hours will eventually take their toll especially if they lead to lack of sleep and lack of social interaction. It’s when you don’t have control over how you do the job, for example goals and targets that aren’t yours, tasks that seem unnecessary, lack of support, and endless accountability and checks on how you do your job. And these all cause resentment to build. 

Burn out is not about weakness either, actually it’s a disease of workaholics when they aren’t paying attention to the fact that what they are doing is no longer in alignment with their values, yet they keep going because what they are doing is important. And it’s a disease of perfectionists who keep doing everything that is asked of them to the best of their ability rather than just getting it ‘done’, let alone ‘saying no’.

According to the NFER report in February this year, teachers endure greater stress levels and lower work-life balance than other professions due to the intensity created by the term structure. However, we can use that same structure to create intentional breaks and opportunities to refresh and rebalance from work, and along with daily renewal exercises, that can be key to helping combat burnout, rather than just collapsing at home or even on a beach.

Plan to use your break to rejuvenate not just recover, to renew your passion and purpose by changing the way you think about work and home and build new life affirming routines to counter both mental and physical exhaustion during term time too.

1. Reflect

Taking the opportunity to reflect on the root causes of your stress is the key to making change. It can be an uncomfortable process as it’s about accepting responsibility for your role in the stress that you feel. 

When we accept responsibility for how we react, we can learn to respond and that gives us back some control over the situation. 

The ‘five whys method’ developed by Toyota is a helpful method to get below the surface symptoms of a problem by looking at the cause of the problem at each level and digging down as far as you can – at least five levels. From an NLP perspective, we always use ‘what’ questions rather than why.

For example;

Five what questions

Remind yourself what is important about your job – what your purpose is in doing this job. Write down a list of at least 20 things that you love about teaching and working in education. Highlight the your three key values and keep your list in your planner, on your office wall, or somewhere else that you can see it every day to be reminded of why you do what you do. 

Notice if there are areas that you previously found important and they no longer ring true for you as this indicates your values being out of alignment. Ask yourself what you could do to bring it back into alignment.

2. Renew

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish term for ‘cosiness’ that they use for wellbeing: nurture, friendship and family, living in the moment, beauty in simplicity, essentially self-care. The Danes frequently appear in the top 10 happiest countries in the world so we can learn from them.

Rather than collapsing and doing nothing, choose an activity each day that will boost your mood. In addition, create yourself opportunities to daydream over the holidays, enjoy the ‘now’, don’t just focus on ‘getting things done’. As they say, stop and smell the roses. 

In addition to embracing Hygge over the summer, create a Hygge routine for the new term and for the autumn: identify one renewal activity for each day and for each weekend that will ground you and focus you. 

Some ideas for ‘hygging’, comforting and soothing yourself, this holiday:

  • Cooking and leisurely eating.
  • Using something you’ve saved for a special occasion.
  • Fix the thing that’s been niggling you.
  • Do something fun.
  • Get outside with nature.
  • Breathe – good long deep breaths
  • Enjoy the silence.
  • Partake intentionally in your guilty pleasure – with no guilt
  • Connect with your best friend.
  • Take an afternoon nap.
  • Get up early and watch the sun rise
  • Start a savings account.
  • Take cooking lessons
  • Buy a journal.
  • Pick your own strawberries.
  • Rent an open-top sports car for a day and drive to the country or seaside.
  • Walk in the moonlight on a balmy night.
  • Drink chilled wine by the chiminea or fire pit or bonfire.
  • Have a PJ day.
  • Pull out your favourite holiday photos and create a display or album.
  • Take an afternoon nap in a hammock.
  • Make a mini wildlife pond and hand paint little rocks for it.
  • Glamp for a night under the stars.
  • Swim in an open air pool.
  • Do a random act of kindness or volunteer. 
  • Move or stretch. 
  • Recite or write poetry.
  • Create an uplifting playlist for on your way to or from work.
  • Deep clean the kitchen.
  • Do that thing that’s been on your to-do list the longest.
  • Take surfing lessons.
  • Go seal watching.
  • Bathe before bed.

3. Routine

It’s tempting over the holidays to sleep late to catch up on lost sleep. Not only can you apparently not catch up on sleep, but our bodies like routine so you are better to practise going to bed at the time that would give you enough sleep (7-9 hours) and get up at the same time as you would usually. Building a healthy sleep habit will help you manage stress when you go back to work. 

Eating nutritiously and drinking plenty of water will also help reduce some of the effects of a high-stress job, so rather than indulging in cream teas, ice cream and wine all summer, start rethinking your food and listening to your body, not your mind, and giving it the nourishment it needs to thrive. 

Rediscover ways that you enjoy exercising. Make the most of the opportunity to build a new habit of a 20-minute walk each day, join a team sport or the park run phenomenon or find a local stretch or low impact exercise class. Try different things until you find the form of movement that’s right for you – physically and mentally. Start small because small changes have a big impact and are more sustainable. 

Gradually build yourself new habits – supportive daily and weekly routines that you can take into the new term. Create yourself a hygge way of life to be kind to yourself … so you can break the cycle this year. 

Rather than holding your breath while you count down to the end of each term, rejuvenate ready to perform at your best while enjoying each day.

If you’re trapped n a cycle of overwhelm, negative thinking and self-doubt and would like help to unwind and refocus and break out of the cycle of exhaustion, why not book a one-day retreat with me. We’ll re-wire your beliefs, re-focus your thinking and de-rail that inner critic. We’ll develop a bespoke plan to reduce your stress, recover your passion and reset your goals so that you can thrive and lead with confidence and clarity next year. Message me here on LinkedIn to find out more.

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