This is one of my favorite times of the year, and at the same time, it’s not. I love the change of seasons; pulling my jeans and sweaters back out from the depths of my closet and going on super predictable fall outings with my family. Along with fall, though, comes back-to-school time, and as a teacher, this season carries a lot of extra work and stress.
Even before I officially go back to school, I start to get anxious about it in early August. I can’t help it! There is so much anticipation that comes with preparing for a new school year and a new batch of kiddos that are bound to be completely different than every batch from years prior. The unknown is both exciting and terrifying. After the year starts, paperwork and assessments begin to pile up at an unparalleled speed, followed closely by Back-To-School Night, formal observations, and Parent-Teacher Conferences. It’s non-stop, literally, until early November.
Something I know about myself is that I crave routine, and when given too much time to dwell, I start to panic and add unnecessary things to my to-do list. Then it’s as if I have multiple tabs open in my brain, in three different browsers. One incomplete project inevitably leads to another, and it takes awhile to feel like I’ve “accomplished” anything (like while I sit here writing this post, and a pile of uncut lamination beckons from the coffee table…). I’ve really worked on trying to keep this stress in check, but I’ve also accepted that it is part of my personality. Accepting that, on its own, is tremendously helpful. My husband reminds me: We’ve been here before (like, every back-to-school season), you get it done, and you actually enjoy it (despite the exhaustion and complaints).
A few things that help me during back-to-school time (or any time I feel stress, for that matter):
1. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
Over the summer and during less busy seasons, I typically exercise every day (hello, 5am alarm). The fall is the hardest time for me to fit it in, but I try to at least a few days a week. I’ve made it a priority, though, because it makes a world of difference for my mood. I am constantly switching what I do to exercise…I love walks and runs outside, barre, and yoga, but what works best for me right now is something I can do at home before anyone else is awake. I usually stream a workout routine from my computer. Working out makes me feel SO much more energized, even when I’m exhausted. I make better, more health-conscious choices all day long, and it works to keep stress and negative energy at bay. It’s seriously not easy, but it’s worth it.
2. Accepting help.
I’m so lucky to have help during this season of life. My mother-in-law takes Cora twice a week, and Cora goes to daycare the other three. It’s really hard when I need to get things done after school and can’t be home right at 3:30, but sometimes it is necessary. On those days, I’m so grateful to have help, and I feel so much better and more present at home once I get a few things checked off my to-do list. I try to schedule at least one day a week that I can stay at work a little later, even just until 4:00.
3. Brain Dump.
I’m a paper person. As nerdy as it sounds, every Sunday I plan out the things that I need to get done through the week and try to prioritize by day. I make lists for what needs to be done in each area of my life and just try to get it out of my head. If I don’t write it down, all the things just simmer and cause unnecessary anxiety. I’m a huge fan of my Erin Condren planner. This is my second one (didn’t buy one last year and I missed it so much!). For school-related tasks, I use the list-making system from Angela Watson’s 40-Hour-Teacher-Workweek Club (if you are an educator, this club/professional development is a game changer. I can post about this another time!).
4. Journaling and practicing gratitude.
Logically, I know that I AM and HAVE enough. I am incredibly fortunate in this life and thankful for all I have and for all of my opportunities. That is not to say that there aren’t times where I lose sight of that and get down on myself. I try to write a gratitude list every single day. Sometimes I do it at night, and it cuts off any negative thoughts as I get ready to fall asleep. Other times I wake up and do them first thing to set a positive tone for the whole day.
5. Getting out.
Go for a walk, go get a smoothie, get your nails done and listen to a podcast, go on a date-night or girls-night, or take a field trip to Target. Whatever. Just get out of your house, change the scenery, and reset your brain.
Just like journaling, blogging helps me to clear my mind, express frustrations and joys, and do something creative that is totally mine. I set a rule for myself to keep it fun right now — if it starts to stress me out (which it did for a little while), I shut it down and come back to it later. I started it as an outlet, and I want to keep it that way. Once I hit publish on a blog post, I really do feel a surge of accomplishment and adrenaline that makes me come back to do it again. As I start to wrap up the busiest part of my year and get ready to enter another one (holidays!), writing about my anxiety helps bring me back to earth. It’s all good!
Now, to take my own advice and go workout…
What helps you to decompress during stressful times? Would love to hear what helps you! Leave me a note below!