Some people reading this might be thinking: “SHE is telling us how to manage our stress?” And hey, I get it. I don’t have the best past with stress. A year ago, I was 6 months vegan and felt on top of the world. I felt changing my diet had been the best thing in the world for me. And it really has been. I felt almost no anxiety or depression even though I was working full time and in grad school. However, I took on way too much at once, the curse of feeling good, and quickly became overwhelmed by the number of committees I was on and the different roles I had at my school.
Work-life balance has always been a struggle for me. I think part of it stems from wanting to be in control because I do have Khaleesi tendencies. And part comes from not wanting to let others down. I feel I have to give all of myself to something, which is a great work ethic, but it can wear me down incredibly fast. I found myself near tears at school and quickly losing that positive state of mind I started the school year out in.
So here are my tips:
It’s okay to say “no”.
Obviously this one is harder for me. I like being a boss babe and helping people but I have learned (see the above two paragraphs) that I simply can’t do everything. It’s okay to say no to things. It’s okay to not take on extra work. We cannot make extra time in our days so an easy way to be less stressed is to not over-fill our days. If it is not an immediate need, say no.
Lists have been a lifesaver for me. Being a teacher and being a scatterbrained human do NOT mix well. On top of that, I have a lot of different commitments that I need to keep track of to stay organized. When I am so stressed or overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, having a list, and getting to cross off items is very healing. It helps to calm some of the chaos.
Find your escape.
I firmly believe in finding an escape. This is something you can do or a place you can go that takes your mind completely off what is bothering you. It took me a while to realize it but I discovered my escape was being outside. It’s amazing what a little bit of sunshine and fresh air can do for the soul. An escape can be both mental and physical. I might need to physically remove myself from somewhere to readjust my emotions or I might be able to do it by escaping in a really good book. Everyone is different, find yours!
Leave work at work.
This one is so hard for teachers, but it relates to nearly every other profession as well. As teachers, it becomes part of our identity. Our work seems to flow into our being and it’s hard to shut off that part of our identity. I’ve had the sleepless nights worrying about students, staying up late lesson planning, cutting out labels, and sharpening pencils during dinner. I’ve answered emails on the weekends and talked to parents at any hour because they mean a lot to me. And some of that is okay. Some of that helps us do our job. But some of that work we need to leave at work. Only recently, I’ve discovered I really shouldn’t work when I am not being paid to work. Although that seems a bit selfish, and really it’s not about the pay aspect, but rather it’s about setting boundaries for myself.
Use your sick and personal days
This hits different in COVID times but prior to that, I know all of us have gone to work sick. One year I went to work when I (unknowingly) had pneumonia. I kid you not, I couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds because my lungs couldn’t handle it. After my diagnosis, I stayed home until I was better but I STILL got texts and calls from work. So take your sick days and do not work. Use that time to heal your body and soul.
Overall, we can all do a lot better at shutting off work and being more present in the here and now. It’s incredibly difficult for Americans who are so engrained with constantly pursuing the American dream or our fear of failure that we work ourselves to death. We can’t blame ourselves; our society built us this way. I was shocked when I learn how other countries around the globe view work. For example, I met a man from Germany when I took a solo trip to London. I bombarded him with questions about the education system in Germany and learned teachers are not allowed to work outside of their contract time. They just go to work and...go home to enjoy their life. What a dream! Although the U.S. is not there yet, we can all take small steps to be healthier and balance out the stress from work. If you have extra tips on what you use for work-life balance then follow me on Instagram and share them with me!