This year of teaching has definitely been the most challenging in my teaching career, well maybe not. It feels like each stage in my life seems to be “the most challenging” then when I look back, I think, that season was so easy, why was I was stressed.
For me the stressful part it that I am teaching my 3 children along side of running my classroom online. Everything I assign my students has to be assigned differently than in the classroom and I need to make videos just to help fill out an activity. In class it would be a 5 minute explanation, but at home it is a 45-60 minute set up, prep, record, upload, assign and then grade for most assignments.
The other part of the challenge, I feel is this is not what we went to school for. We were not changed to teach in a pandemic. I wonder if they will train teachers from now on to be prepared for this.
I have really tried to keep myself ahead a bit which means NO WORKING ON THE WEEKEND! My goal is to NEVER work weekends. I have been that route where I work on planning or grading all throughout the weekend and it is not healthy for me. I made a goal a few years ago to try and never work on school work over the weekend. There are exceptions like report card times and back to school season.
The added challenge to not working on the weekends this year is that since I am helping my kids with their school work all day, I am not finishing my work during the day. So then I am having to work extra hours because I feel like I owe it back to the school. I try to draw the line, but when my kids need help, I put them first.
Being a teacher is such a stressful career. I learned a lot this last summer about how much the stress in my life if affecting my health. The symptoms I have all started when I went back to work teaching. The weight gain, head aches, brain fog, various female problems, grinding my teeth, clenching my jaw… I could go on and on with all the many problems that arrived after I went back to teaching 6 years ago.
I have tried to tackle each issue individually thinking this is just the part of life, however, I was not having much success. I went to several different doctors and at one point I was so sick that I could barely get out of bed. I had horrible stomach aches, headaches, brain fog and was throwing up daily. I finally was able to get help from a doctor, but I still had many of the symptoms. For the next two years, I just figured it is just the way life is.
At the end of last school year, I knew I had to make a few changes, my stress was so sky high and my symptoms had started to really get bad.
I had heard a podcast with Dr. Heather Rhodes. I literally stopped folding the laundry and just listened to what she had to say about stress and the impact it was having on me and other women. She went through the symptoms caused by stress and I had almost every single one of them on her list.
So I did a deep dive this summer and actually took a course the Dr. Heather Rhodes was offering on reducing stress. This course has help me figure out what is causing my stress, how to manage those areas, how to keep track of my health, how to look for patterns, and easy strategies that I can do that affects my health daily. I love that this concept doesn’t promote a diet, an exercise routine, a special formula or pills.
Over the summer I set several plans in place to help reduce my stress, my move wrecked havoc on my plans quite a bit, but several of these I was able to keep in place that entire time. I have also managed to keep most of them in place even as school has started back up. I can feel the positive difference in this year.
What are some of the changes I have made to my lifestyle? These are all changes that I learned in the Stress Strategy Course.
Here are a few things that I have set in place.
- I go to bed at the same time every single day. Yes there are exceptions and honestly this is one I am still working on. My goal is 10:45-11:00. I use the bedtime app on my phone so that all my notifications are turned off. There is a new update called “Wind Down Time” and I love that feature. It reminds me not to look at my phone. I try to use my blue light glasses also to help the screen effect on my eyes.
- I get up at the same time, for the most part. I set my time for 7 hours of sleep. I experimented over the summer and 7 hours is the magic number for me. When I wake up, I tell myself your not tired, you got 7 hours, just get up. It works “most of the time”. Recently, I started sleeping an extra 30 minutes on the weekend.
- My school day ends at 3:00 and my plan is that by 4:15, I am done with school. I log off of my accounts, I don’t look at my email and I check out. I have had to work a little later some days if my kids were being extra needy that day.
- I actually stopped drinking coffee! Can you believe it? I am a Starbucks junkie. I could drink it every day. At one point about a year ago, I was drinking about 40 oz of coffee a day. Somedays even more! I had it in the morning, and I would make a double cup so I could sip on it all the way til recess. Then again in the afternoon and usually one in the evening time to get me through the rest of the day. Dr. Heather mentions in the course that the caffeine was actually contributing to my stress daily. I went to ½ caf, then decaf and now I am just on herbal tea. Guess what I never saw a decrease in my energy! Sure, I crave coffee still, and have an occasional Starbucks, but I have been completely off it for over 2 months.
- I eat breakfast first thing every morning. It is a light breakfast of Almond Butter and Jam, but it gives my body protein as soon as I wake up. I also have been drinking probiotic Kefir yogurt by Lifeway.
- Right after breakfast and making my tea, I have quiet time. I love this time, my kids are still asleep and it is time I get to just relax and sit. I journal, read and track my health.
- After my quiet time, I workout. It is not a huge workout, but I run on my treadmill for about 20 min and do weights. It is enough to get my heart pumping and start my day off right. When I get off that treadmill I have so much energy. I love getting it in the first thing in the morning because if I were to wait til the end of the day, I would find every excuse not to do it. Plus at my house, the mornings are cooler right now. I also do Pilates at the end of the day. It is a short 15 minute video. It is a great way to stretch my body out with slow and steady movements.
- I also have been adding times of breathing to my day, this is just a time to breath and relax my mind. I use the “relax” app on my FitBIt watch.
- I have chosen to reduce Social Media. I am posting less and looking less, especially with various Back to School posts that I keep seeing.
- I take Wednesdays off. Not off from work, but I sleep in (about 30-40 min longer) and I don’t work out. That evening, I do very few house chores and I watch TV and knit, paint my nails, open a new fun face products or do something nice for myself.
- I take one night off from cooking and we get take out. I like to do this on Monday – Thursday, when my days are the longest and then the next day I often get yummy leftovers for lunch.
It looks like a lot but there is more that I haven’t even shared. But each one of these didn’t start overnight, I added new ideas into my weeks as time went on. I worked hard making them habits.
There is various research on how long it takes for something to become a habit, but I was leaning towards the 21 days for something to become a habit and 2 months before it becomes just who you are. However, it takes just 3 days to break that habit.
Over the move time, I cut back on my Pilates. I had been doing it for about 2 months and had seen a lot of success in how I felt and looked, but it was pretty easy to drop that habit and is proving harder for me to pick back up. My brain and body don’t want to. But it is about carving the time and making your brain know it is a priority. It helps to keep the same routine, this is the part that I lost with our move. I am establishing new nightly routines and making Pilates part of it.
Well, these are my tips for help to keep me less stressed. Did you notice none of it has to do with the teaching part? It is important to find the root of your stress which is a lot of what this course taught me.
Part of stress happens behind the scenes in how you approach the day, what you are putting in your body and your mind, is your body feeling threatened, is your mind relaxed? It is a good place to start.
For more information on Dr. Heather Rhodes Stress Strategy course. Click here! The course is only open from October 5-14. It won’t be open the rest of this year.