As the school year winds down, I thought I’d take this opportunity to focus on the rest and relaxation many of us might be craving during our time off. (Of course I realize that not everyone who reads this blog is on a teacher schedule, but I’m hoping that the pace of life even for administrators, counselors, and others who work during July and August will be a bit more easy-going). It seems to me that this has been a particularly stressful year for those of us who work in schools, with additional emphasis on standardized tests for students, APPR’s, Common Core, SLO’s. the Dignity Act, etc.
Many of us in education and the helping professions spend most of our time responding to the needs of others; taking care of children, pets, co-workers, spouses; and trying to cram as much as possible into each and every day. So here are some suggestions for using summertime to rejuvenate so that we can start the new school year in September feeling refreshed and ready for new challenges.
- SLOW DOWN. Catch up on sleep. Or, alternately, use the non-work afternoons for napping, meditation, getting a massage or manicure. Try to have some time every day when you are NOT using technology. This can be a challenge with cell phones, wireless tablets, and every-increasing entertainment options in our own homes. My plan is to get out the hammock which I never even set up last summer and spend an hour or so as lying in it whenever I can!
- Get SUPPORT from family and friends. As I said above, those of us who are teachers or counselors or administrators may often put ourselves last on the list of priorities. And when we feel burned out, we may tend to isolate ourselves rather than make the effort to reach out to others. But sharing feelings with others can help us feel less alone. I already have a day trip planned with some of my friends, and I’m sure it will be one of the highlights of my summer.
- Work on some of those projects around the house that get put off during the school year. But try not to feel COMPELLED to do all of those projects, especially not during the first week or two after school ends. Remember that being productive does not necessarily equate with DOING things. Daydreaming, reading books for pleasure, going to a daytime movie — all of these are productive because they help recharge our batteries. Once again this summer I plan to resist my urge to use my first week off to wash the windows and curtains, paint the mailbox, shred all the paper that has collected since last summer, trim the shrubs, spread a load of mulch, etc., etc. What I plan to do instead is to have NO PLAN for at least that first week. Yippee!
- Try SOMETHING NEW in terms of hobbies, recreation, and creative projects. Maybe you’ve wanted to take a yoga class at your gym or take up bird watching or put together a scrapbook for your graduating senior. During the school year you might stick to your tried-and-true activities because you can do them without even thinking. Summer gives you a chance to branch out and explore. I have my eye on several classes at my gym that meet at times when I am typically at work. Maybe strength training or Body Combat will give me a lift!
- Take time to reevaluate your GOALS AND PRIORITIES. Are there dreams you’ve put aside or goals you keep putting off? Summer can be the time to really consider the future and whether the direction you are going is the direction you WANT to be going. As retirement is a getting nearer for me, I will use some time this summer to do research and talk to colleagues and friends about how they moved into retirement.
- Adopt HEALTHY eating and exercise habits. It can be easier to make these kinds of changes during the more relaxed pace of summer when stress levels are typically lower and there is more time for the inevitable adjustments that go with change. And if we start now, a new habit may be established by the time the new school year starts. With all the farmers’ markets nearby, my goal is to buy fresher, local produce and eat it on a daily basis.
I know that summer always goes too quickly and that before we know it, we’ll be getting ready for another first day of school. But with these suggestions in mind, maybe we can all start the new year with a positive attitude and renewed energy. What will you do this summer to refresh yourself?
(I consulted the online article Preventing Burnout from HelpGuide.org in writing this blog.)