It's no secret that teaching can be incredibly stressful. A 2017 survey by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association confirmed teacher anxiety is higher than most other professions. According to the survey, 61 percent of educators reported their work was "always" or "often" stressful—twice the rate of other professions.
If you're struggling with anxiety and stress related to your job, it can be hard to get things under control so you can be the best teacher you can be. Here are some strategies to help you manage teacher anxiety and feel more grounded and relaxed.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Anxiety is often caused by worrying about the future, so staying engaged in the present is a helpful antidote. Using your senses and identifying the sights, smells, and sounds going on around you at any given moment can help pull you from anxious thoughts back to the present moment. Taking deep breaths or focusing your attention on noticing the details of something nearby are also strategies to keep you grounded and present.
Practicing mindfulness is something you can do quietly while you're teaching, or you may choose to use it with your entire class.
2. Seek Companionship and Inspiration
Teacher anxiety is something many of us keep to ourselves, yet the previously mentioned survey shows that the majority of teachers are in the same boat when it comes to stress. Reaching out to coworkers and talking about your feelings can be a great relief.
Also, seek out books, websites, or podcasts for inspiration. Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers podcast has great episodes on topics like beating Sunday night blues and feeling rejuvenated over the summer, which can help when you need support or motivation.
Further reading: The Signs of Teacher Burnout
3. Care for Yourself
Taking care of yourself during the school year requires a focused effort. With days that are scheduled down to the minute, and work that often lasts well beyond an eight-hour day, it can be hard to find time to eat healthy, exercise, or even think about yourself. But as the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup, and many of us let ourselves run completely dry during the school year. Finding activities you enjoy and scheduling time for them in your week is key to beating teacher anxiety.
Additionally, you can create rewards for yourself—such as treating yourself to your favorite coffee or scheduling an hour to watch Netflix—to help motivate you through a difficult day or week.
4. Prepare and Plan Ahead
Feeling unprepared can trigger anxiety. It's easy to get caught in the vicious cycle of feeling unmotivated to plan on Friday afternoon, putting off planning over the weekend, and ending up feeling extremely anxious and unprepared on Sunday night. Teachers who plan in advance tend to experience less anxiety. Some teachers plan ahead for a unit, quarter, or even the entire school year.
Obviously, plans can change, but having plans definitely helps reduce anxiety. Many teachers commit to staying at school on Friday until their plans for the next week are complete. Others commit to planning on Thursday, so their weekends can start right away on Friday afternoon.
5. Change Your Mind-Set
Many factors that impact a teacher's job are simply out of their control. While this can be frustrating, it doesn't have to cause anxiety.
At my school, we teach our students the "big problem/little problem" strategy. Students identify the magnitude of their problem, then determine the appropriate size of their reaction. For teachers, I think this strategy can also be helpful, but I'd add a third option: "Not my problem." Your energy is too precious to spend on issues that are out of your control. Choosing not to let these issues occupy your mind will help reduce stress and keep anxiety in check.
Further reading: Stress Management Strategies Every Teacher Needs to Know
Incorporating these anxiety-reducing strategies into your everyday life will allow you to conserve your energy and help you enjoy your school year.