There are few things more stressful for teachers than the start of a new school year. Now that you have some time off to relax, you might want to start thinking of tactics to keep your stress level under control for the upcoming year. Luckily, there are a few things we can do to make us feel less stressed. I found that taking time for myself, not comparing myself to others, and lowering my expectations were just a few habits that turned me from a stressed teacher to a happy teacher. Here the techniques I've found that keep me happy and stress-free throughout the year.
1. Don't Compare Yourself to Your Colleagues
This is a difficult but important first step. If you're friends with a lot of your colleagues, it's hard not to compare yourself to them when you're scrolling through your social media feed and you see how perfect their lives seem. I often wondered how some teachers could not only look fabulous and have beautiful families, but also have the time to create the amazing lessons they posted. It seemed hard to believe that they had the time when I was always scrambling to juggle my professional life with my family life.
After reading a study that linked Facebook with depression and low self-esteem, I decided that in order to be a happy teacher, I had to stop comparing myself to my colleagues. I focused on what I did the best, which was being a mom and a creative educator. I also had to remind myself that I was doing my best, which was enough to make me sustain happiness.
Further Reading: 5 REALISTIC Ways for Teachers to Get Healthier This Year
2. Take Time for Yourself
As a teacher, I know that many of us have a hard time taking time for ourselves because we're so busy taking care of others. A lot of our free time is usually spent thinking about or planning what we're going to do in the classroom, and then our personal lives get neglected. I found that in order to be a happy teacher, I had to make time for myself. I decided to make sure I did something for myself at least once a week. Instead of staying late after school let out, I'd take a yoga class or go for a walk with my neighbors.
3. Lower Your Expectations
I have very high expectations for myself. If a lesson failed, I would get so down on myself. One day, I was talking with a colleague about a lesson that flopped, and she told me that I was thinking about it all wrong. I shouldn't get down on myself when things don't go my way. Instead, when a lesson fails, I should think about it as an opportunity to learn from my mistake. We teach our students to learn from their mistakes, so we should take our own advice. After that conversation, I decided to lower my expectations. I let go of the idea that every lesson had to be perfect, and if things didn't go as planned, then I would learn from them.
Further Reading: 9 Stress Management Strategies Every Teacher Needs to Know
4. Fake It until You Make It
You've probably heard of the motto "Fake it until you make it." It means that you should fake feeling happy until you really start to feel happy. Any time that I felt unhappy or in a bad mood, I would remember this motto and try to smile. Soon enough, the more I was pushing myself to feel happy, the happier I started to feel. On days when faking it just didn't cut it, I would put on some upbeat music to get me in a better mood. Not only did I end up feeling better, but it also made my students happier, too! That was a win-win for me.
5. Dress to Impress
Anytime I was feeling blue, I would make sure to wear my favorite outfit to school. Dressing up always makes me feel better. Teachers have to be on their feet all day long, which usually means comfort over fashion. However, when my hair and makeup is done, and I have my best outfit on, I have confidence in myself, which makes me feel happy. Anytime you want an instant pick-me-up, reach for your favorite outfit and you'll feel better in no time.
In order to achieve happiness as a teacher, stop comparing yourself to others, take some time for yourself and do the things you love, try not to get down on yourself when a lesson flops, and pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and put on your favorite outfit and smile. Find something small that you can start doing for yourself every week and you'll soon be a happier teacher.