When work consumes your life
he beginning of the school year can be unbelievable hard for teachers. and really, there is not much balance in any field of work nowadays. Americans are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. Our society has built us to believe to achieve the American Dream we must work our asses off. For many people, they never achieve this "dream" and stay exhausted until they retire or die. That is incredibly morbid, but it's the truth of the system. Everything in our lives centers around work; what we do in the evenings and on weekends; how early we wake up; what we have for dinner (if work is tiring and we are too tired then it's take-out).
And frankly. I'm pretty tired of being tired. I want to enjoy my work but enjoy and actually live my life too. And some of you may be feeling this way too. Our lack of work-life balance creates crippling anxiety and depression. We can't quit our jobs because we need money. But what can we do with our jobs to make them slightly better and more manageable? That is my goal!
If you work in a high-stress job like me, you likely end up working longer hours than you are paid and take work home. So stop. When your paid time it up, or at least close to it, then stop. In some countries, like Germany, teachers are legally not allowed to work outside of their contract hours. Can you imagine how amazing that would be? After learning this, I've tried to take baby steps to get closer to this goal. Of course, I am not perfect. I work and extra hour here and there. I respond to texts from my parents or my boss in the evenings. But I have tried to put in a system that helps me be more productive during the day so I have less to do in the evenings and weekends. Being an avid adventurer, a grad student, a book club member, AND a teacher means I have to stay super organized.
1. Create a daily to-do list. Simple, but incredibly effective. It's so satisfying to mark things off the list. If you find this to be too much, then chances are you are overwhelmed and need a mental break to even think. This is where I say step away from your work. Even if it's just a brisk walk to the other side of the school, down the street, anything. Your brain needs to check out from what you are doing in moments like that when you are too stressed to think. When you come back, even if it was just for 5 minutes, you will be able to think more clearly. Chances are if your stress levels are that high, you will not be able to be productive even with the work you are currently doing. So take that quick brain break and get back to work. TRUST ME. I've been there, and this works wonders for me.
2. Take a break. Get up and stretch. Go for a walk. When you are stressed it is hard to think clearly and be productive. A little jaunt down the street could make your mind feel at ease and ready to take on the next task.
3. DRINK WATER. This is hard to do when you are in the zone but you have to literally to live. When I am tired and sluggish, I realize it's always when I am dehydrated.
4. Don't overdo it on the coffee. Yes, it might help at the moment, but there is always a crash afterward. Opt for a cup a day and add in some tea instead of some lighter caffeine.
5. Practice mindfulness. I am finding myself depending on a lot of breathing exercises throughout the day to help keep my mind clear and focused. Often I get frustrated, and my mind gets jumping. Breathing exercises are helping me to set my intentions.
6. Stop working when your shift is up. I'm serious. Close your computer and enjoy your life. Work is not the end all be all. It feels like it a lot (especially as a teacher when so many depend on you) but just stops working. Don't be afraid to tell a coworker, boss, or stakeholder (like a parent for teacher) that you will get to it in the morning. We are all human and we all need rest.
I hope some of these tips help you to set boundaries and take care of yourself. Enjoy those evenings and weekends. And work productively but don't overwork yourself!
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An elementary school educator by day, grad student by night. And I somehow manage to live life to the fullest in-between.