Holiday Tips for Teacher Wellness
It’s December and we are quickly sliding into the Holiday season. For many of us, the Holidays are a wonderful time of year filled with excitement and joy. But there are also many others who experience an increase in anxiety and stress around this time of year.
There are many reasons why not everyone looks forward to participating in the annual festivities but it’s safe to say that the holidays can be downright difficult for some of us.
For teachers in particular, personal challenges can further be amplified in the weeks leading up to the holiday break. There are often many additional professional responsibilities, such as school plays and events, testing and grading requirements, as well as social commitments, that can throw even the most carefully planned schedule into complete disarray – placing additional demands on a teacher’s ability to manage their own personal health and wellbeing.
It is important to recognize that not everyone is equipped to or has the stamina to dive head-first into the holiday season. So, whether you’re a festive fanatic or not, here are some tips to help any teacher navigate this holiday season, so they can return to the classroom feeling a little more recharged and a ready to tackle the rest of the school year come January.
During this season of giving, don’t forget to give yourself what you need.
Keep setting boundaries.
There are a lot of additional social commitments around this time of year that even the most social of social butterflies can struggle to keep pace with. Family expect to see you and sometimes to travel long distances, which can be both physically and financially taxing. If you have kids, you tend to feel a little more like a chauffeur than you usually do as their social commitments increase as well. Not to mention the fact that all of these holiday parties and gatherings with family and friends tend to include late nights and overstuffed bellies, leaving virtually all of us feeling a little run down. Remember that during this time of year, it is important to maintain your healthy boundaries. Throughout all of this, remember that it is ok to say "no" sometimes. If the mere thought of your jam-packed December calendar sends you into cold sweats, choose the one or two events YOU most want to attend and go from there.
While it probably shouldn’t need to be said, we know it does; make sure you are taking time for yourself. It has been a long slog since August and it's time for some downtime. It is natural to want to pack your time with social events and festive experiences, but the goal of this holiday break is to get back to school in January feeling as rejuvenated as possible. And, if you are going into the break feeling overwhelmed, run-down, or tired, maybe this isn't the year to host a week-long family holiday fest at your house? If even one day of intense family celebrations at your home increases your stress beyond what feels good for you, at a time when you want to destress, it might be best to problem-solve other plans.
Likewise, if you can manage it, try to carve our 20-30 minutes each day to focus on your own needs. As this time of year can be quite busy, schedule your personal time if you have to. This time of year is as much a time to show love and compassion to others as it is to show love and compassion to yourself. During this season of giving, don’t forget to give yourself what you need.
Do things that are fun.
This is the time to do the things you haven’t had time to do over the last few months; the things that give you balance over the longer term. Don't let the weather prevent you from getting outside, if that's what makes you feel refreshed and recharged (within reason of course). Re-acquaint yourself with the things that make you feel most like yourself, whether it be spending time with your favourite people or your favourite activities, or both.
Re-acquaint yourself with the things that make you feel most like yourself, whether it be spending time with your favourite people or your favourite activities, or both.
Don’t sacrifice your wellness for others.
Enjoy the season if it’s your thing but don’t allow yourself to get caught up in it if that will cause you issues in the long run. An example of this is going into debt to participate in the season’s gift-giving traditions. Some people can manage the extra financial pressures of the holiday season in a healthy way, but there are others who can’t – either way, that’s ok. But, if you find yourself feeling that the added pressures of gift giving, sometimes to an extravagant degree, is both personally and financially overwhelming, try to make the conscious choice to participate in other ways or not at all. If your group of friends does a Secret Santa every year and you can’t swing an expensive gift, try suggesting hand-made gifts this year. If your colleagues do one and you just can’t afford to participate in 3 different gift exchanges, simply opt out. Yes, there are traditions but there are also no rules saying you have to do it all – especially if it negatively impacts your wellbeing.
Get caught up.
This is the one that the most people will disagree with but the truth is the holiday break is a good time to catch up on the things at work that you haven't had time to get to, and that are causing you stress or anxiety. It is totally ok to do some work over the holiday, if it means you are going back in January with less stress and feeling more in control of your assignment. The key here is to have structure and stick to it. Schedule, in your calendar, a few 2-3 hour work blocks where you can address those to-do list items you’d really like to check off and then be sure to shut it down at the end-time you set. Work efficiently and then move on. Also try scheduling something fun for the time right after your work hours are done, to help provide you with bit of extra motivation and as a reward for working over the holiday.
Take a little extra time in the last week of school to tidy up and organize your classroom. The only thing that feels better than leaving a tidy, organized classroom on the last day of school in December is returning to one on the first day back in January. This will also set the tone for the second half of the school year. So, if you can manage it – even if only for a few hours spread over the last week before the break – try to calm your space.
The only thing that feels better than leaving a tidy, organized classroom on the last day of school in December is returning to one on the first day back in January.
Avoid resolutions; set goals instead.
The thinking on resolutions appears to be shifting these days but we feel it should still be said: avoid poorly thought out New Year’s resolutions. If you feel like this is a good time of year to evaluate your personal and wellness goals, by all means, do so. But, be sure to take your time to think through your actual needs. Think about why you are setting these goals and plan how best to achieve them. If there’s something you’d really like to achieve but you’ve set it as a “resolution” in the past and fallen short, try to reflect on a different approach that will allow you to be successful this time. Remember that The Well Teacher Wellness Plan & Goal Flow are great tools for helping you assess your readiness to set and achieve your goals, by helping you identify concrete steps that will help you along the way.
What are your favourite ways to foster wellness over the Holidays? Have you been thinking about turning this year’s “resolutions” into actionable goals this year? Share your own teacher wellness tips and goals with us in the comment section below.
Original published on 9 December 2019.