As many of us prepare to go back to school, August tends to consist of either squeezing in all of those last summer experiences we haven’t made time for yet or waking up in a cold sweat because you already started to have first day of school dreams where you showed up to school in your pajamas (or worse…no pants). If you’re like me, August usually means a combination of both of those scenarios!
So in an effort to help the transition, this week’s blog is all about trying to help us avoid some stress and anxiety as we head back into the school year. As all of us have probably experienced, the first day of school is here whether we are ready or not so we might as well try to make the transition as painless as possible.
In the event that you don’t have time to read the entire blog because you are too busy checking things off the summer to-do list, here’s a quick rundown of five mistakes to try to avoid when going back to school…
If you are reading this while relaxing at a pool, a cabin, or the beach…here’s a little more in-depth look at these five mistakes to avoid…
Continuing to be Superwoman (or Superman)
During the summer we have more time and we may be more apt to prepare dinner, go grocery shopping consistently and do laundry before we’ve gone through all of our favorite socks and underwear, but that doesn’t mean that this needs to continue to be the case when we go back to school. We need to avoid putting undue pressure on ourselves to be a superhero and do it all. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay if you don’t make a gourmet meal every night for your family. It’s okay if your kids go to school with mismatched socks once in awhile. You will be much happier and your family will be too when you don’t try to put so much pressure on yourself to continue doing all the things you had time to do during the summer. One great thing about our profession is that we will probably have another summer break. When that time comes, find your superhero cape and wear it with pride. Until then, put it away and let yourself off the hook.
Scheduling weekends in advance
I don’t know about you, but I always have really good intentions when it comes to planning my time. Somebody will ask us to do something, go somewhere and we say yes far in advance. Maybe there’s a concert or an out of town event on a weekend that sounds fun and we buy tickets or book a hotel. Most of the time I don’t consider how I’m going to feel and what I’m really going to need when I first go back to work. And what I really should be scheduling for those first few weekends is some time to do whatever I want to do, not overcrowding it with obligations I no longer have the energy to do. Now some people would argue that it’s good to get out of the house and do things and I would absolutely agree. But when you first start back at school, it might be better to make those decisions based on how you’re feeling right then, not based on how you felt in the middle of the summer when you said yes to all invitations and activities.
Not front loading your week
Even if you aren’t a planner, it may be helpful to try to plan a little more when going back to work. A big mistake I’ve experienced in the past is not planning ahead at the beginning of the week and then by the end of the week I feel like a scatterbrained mess. So if you can, take some time to plan your week and front load tasks so that you won’t have much to do at the end when your feet start to drag a little more.
It may be helpful to try organization apps like To-Doist or Trello to create ways to plan more effectively. My husband and I use Trello for grocery shopping and meal planning. We are able to both put in our grocery item requests and share meal ideas on the same list. This way, whoever does grocery shopping will always have the most updated list and we also know what we are making for dinner each night. Even this simple routine has helped with not having to spend time thinking about dinner or groceries. We’ve already done it and my time can be spent on other things.
Forgetting to ask yourself “How important is __________ ?”
This is an easy mistake to make at the beginning of the school year because we are bombarded with so many things it’s often difficult to decipher which ones need attention and which ones can be filed away for a bit. Before taking on another project or when you find yourself feeling anxious or worried, pause for a moment and take a time out. Take a deep breath and maybe even close your eyes. Think of the project or the conversation or the task that is causing you anxiety. Picture it in your head and ask yourself the question, “How important is __________ ?” See what comes up. Then ask yourself again, “How important is it REALLY?” and pay attention for how you feel.
Not everything can be important right at that moment. So, part of this process is to start to slow down enough to listen to what is really needing your attention and what is just a squeaky wheel trying to get your attention. You will save your sanity and lessen your anxiety and stress level if you learn to differentiate between something that is vying for your attention versus something that is actually important.
Letting your self-care routine dwindle away
You have probably found some way to care for yourself over the summer months that seems to be working in some capacity. Maybe it’s going for a walk, exercising regularly, eating more healthfully or spending less time on our phones. What often happens is the very routines that serve us well, are the first things to go away when we get busy. So a big mistake to avoid is letting your self- care routine dwindle away. Sticking to your self-care routine (even if you have to modify it), despite being busy, is the biggest gift you can give yourself, your family and your students. So try to heed the advice in the previous four sections, so that your self-care routine won’t have to suffer. If you notice it slipping away, try to modify something, change something or enlist the help of a friend or coworker to jumpstart it. The key is once you notice that you aren’t taking time for self-care, that’s precisely when you should try to do something about it. As teachers, we need to take care of ourselves. It truly should be part of our job description.
So hopefully this list will help you avoid added stress and anxiety as you head into your school year. If you want a little extra support, consider signing up for Teaching Well’s free gift “Twenty Minutes to Wellness” which offers support to create daily mindful moments and useful habits into your routine. Above all, Teaching Well wishes you a great start to your new school year!!