Five Things Teachers Can Do to Reduce Stress

I rolled out of bed this morning, looked at the calendar, did a little math, and wept. School starts in a week.

My initial reaction was to return to bed and suck my thumb while lying in the fetal position. That only helps temporarily.

Instead, I made this list of five suggestions that help me remain sane during the school year.

In no particular order, here’s how to not want to drive your car into the side of your school’s gymnasium every morning between the end of August and the beginning of June.

#1 – Be organized. Notice, this doesn’t say Get organized. It says Be organized. There’s a difference. Getting organized is too stressful.  Being organized is a mindset. It involves having lesson plans done in advance (2-3 weeks in advance for a stress free drive to school), copies made. It involves planning the day, including your prep period, before school, and after school. It involves taking control of tomorrow, today. It might mean cleaning out a filing cabinet or two. By the way, there are tons of free lesson plans on this site, organized by Common Core category. You can also use the search feature at the top. Check out the teacher guide page for complete units, aligned to Common Core standards. Now there’s a start to being organized!

#2 – Use time wisely. This is closely related to #1. An organized person is more likely to use time wisely. Someone who uses time wisely is more likely to be organized. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, breaks tasks into four quadrants (pictured to the right). The more time you spend in Quadrant 2, the more productive and less stressed you’ll be. Notice that preparation and planning reside in Quadrant 2.

#3 – Establish a stress-free physical environment. There’s a fine line between establishing a stress-free environment and being so relaxed that nothing gets done. I’ve had a lot of success reducing stress by diffusing essential oils into my classroom. Not only do they disinfect the air naturally, certain types (wild orange, citrus bliss, lemon grass, serenity) have been shown to reduce stress and boost the immune system. Make sure you get the real stuff. I get my essential oils here. (By the way, don’t let anyone know I diffuse oils in my classroom. I have a manly reputation to uphold.)

Diffuse a little bliss into your classroom.

#4 – Exercise. What does exercise have to do with reducing stress? Just everything. In addition to reducing stress, exercise will make you more productive, healthy, and better-looking. Want more energy? Exercise. My colleagues often ask me how I find the energy to exercise after school 4-5 days a week. I ask them how they find the energy not to exercise after school 4-5 days a week. The keys to successful exercising include doing something you enjoy, not doing too much too soon, and bringing your exercise clothes to work.

#5 – Eat Healthy. Hungry teachers are stressed teachers. Unfortunately, many do the very thing that makes them even more stressed, eat unhealthy foods. I always have an ample supply of healthy snacks in my classroom. They include fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They do not include candy bars, soda, and ranch dressing. If I really want something unhealthy, there are plenty of options in the teacher’s lounge.

Although it’s impossible to account for all the things that create stress in the life of a teacher, there are certain things you can control.

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  1. Love this!!!

  2. Jeff Archibald says

    I like your suggestions. I also like the Healthcare/Lifestyle pyramid graphic at the bottom. Or is that more of a ziggurat? Regardless, some good tips.

  3. Trenton Lorcher says

    Jeff, ziggurats have been known to cause lung cancer, which would cause more stress.