Reducing Stress in a Stressful Environment

Stressful. No, that is not the #OneWord22 that I chose this year, but that certainly describes the state of things right now, doesn’t it?! It seems that just about every conversation, interaction, or even just life, in general, is stressful right now. Have you experienced stress more than usual lately? Work stress. COVID stress. Travel stress. Even grocery shopping stress. Heavy sigh.

Don’t let the stress take your joy away. Just breathe. Stop for a moment. Take a deep breath through your nose and slowly release it through your mouth. Did you do that just now? If not, I’ll wait. And I’ll breathe deeply, too.

Do you even realize that you are stressed? Or is it only when your shoulders are tight and you have a headache at the end of the day that you acknowledge that you’ve been holding all that stuff in your shoulders and neck? Hopefully, you just moved your shoulders and released some of the stress hiding there.

Am I good at de-stressing? Not all the time. Okay, maybe not even some of the time. I get working and forget to get up and move away from the desk, or table, or wherever I’ve landed to work at the time. I work in multiple different schools and locations, so getting up and doing some kind of gyrating, stress-relieving dance doesn’t really go over too well. Dancing in my vehicle when driving is kind of a problem, as well. Although that doesn’t always stop me!

So what is the solution? That will be different for you than it is for me, but here are a few of my strategies.

Set a basic routine and stick to it. Get up at the same time so that you don’t feel rushed in the morning. Seems simple, but a lot of us keep hitting the snooze button and then have to rush around to get ready. Me included. So I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier and give myself permission to hit the snooze button a few times. Then I set another alarm just in case I shut off the first one. No sense stressing over whether I’m going to sleep through the alarm!

My morning routine consists of doing the same basic things in any order I want to. But coffee always comes first for me. Even if I don’t drink it right then, I make it and go about my business. I use the same two travel mugs for my water. I prep my lunch a few days ahead for grab-and-go food that I don’t have to think about. Clean my glasses. Put in eyedrops. Have a protein-filled breakfast – always.

Am I a creature of habit? Well, I’m much less stressed when my habits are consistent. I put things in the same basic location(s) so I’m not running around stressing over where they are. I try to start my day at the same time when possible.

If this sounds too restrictive for you, that’s okay. Maybe this stresses you out more! Find what consistencies work for you. Try to include some time to step away from your tasks and schedule some time with You. Deep breathe. Stretch. Walk around. Dance. Listen to positive messages in music or online. Take control of what you can and let go of what you can’t.

There are some apps that you can rely on as well. While that isn’t one of my strategies at this time, I’ve used them in the past and with students and teachers alike. Here is a list of 10 calming apps that you might find helpful: https://www.creativeboom.com/resources/10-calming-apps-to-help-you-beat-stress-and-feel-more-relaxed/

No matter what your calming space or time looks like, be mindful of taking that time for yourself. We are all stressed. I’d love to hear your strategies for a calmer life, too. Just comment on this post. Oh, and follow my Mother’s advice “Make sure you drink your water and eat your vegetables”. ~B

A Blustery Monday After Vacation: A Teacher’s View

It’s always difficult to return to work after a vacation. Especially a long vacation. Especially one where you unplugged, destressed, and slept until, well, let’s just say later than one should. The rude awakening to “back to work” was exacerbated with howling winds, heavy rain, and an overall gloomy start to the day. Ugh.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Today was especially difficult because I had trouble falling asleep last night. Something that is very rare for me. So when 3:30 AM arrived and sleep was still elusive, I had almost resigned myself to just staying up all night. But the sleep hit me over the head at 3:45 – so my Fitbit tells me – and the 6:30 AM alarm really was a rude awakening.

I can’t believe that I couldn’t sleep! But, truthfully, I was thinking about getting back to work. Getting back to doing what I love. Being on a schedule. Connecting with my colleagues. Figuring out new challenges and handling the old ones.

I crave structure. While I loved my two weeks off, I need purpose. I really didn’t think about work hardly at all for two weeks. I even stopped doing some of my routine things around the house. My sourdough starter didn’t get fed for half of the break. (Don’t worry, he’s fine!) I didn’t schedule any big projects to DIY. Due to concerns about staying healthy, I didn’t really go anywhere. No lunch dates with friends. No holiday parties. A low-key kinda time.

Just what my mind and body needed.

Although it looked and sounded like the end of the world was near this early Monday morning after a restful vacation, the routines and schedules have returned. Email notifications are back on. Cleaning up unfinished business from before break and starting new projects that have deadlines have me ready for what lies ahead.

I just flipped my daily inspirational calendar to today’s date and saw this:

“Life is full of challenges and problems for which solutions need to be found. Rather than looking at that as a negative, look at it positively – as an exciting daily opportunity!”

Richards, Jessie, and M.S. Fontaine. 101 Mottos for Success. Switzerland, Aurora Production AG, 2013.

Truth! So, even though it’s a rainy day AND a Monday AND the first day back after vacation, I’m grateful that I have a job I love and the structure I crave. I’m blessed to work with amazing, creative, knowledgeable people. And I’ll continue to look for solutions to the everyday issues of life. Guess I’ll have to create my own sunshine! ~B

Friday Night Musings

teachers at training As I reflect back on the previous week, I find myself returning to the same conclusion. Using technology and using technology well is an ongoing goal. While some might think I know a lot, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I have so much more to learn.

Maybe it’s age. But the more I work with teachers and principals, the more I realize I need to learn much more than I know.

I have never considered myself an expert. I know a lot about certain things but I have so many areas that still need so much work.

Where are you in your Digital Learning? What are you doing to build your skills?

Fortunately, those that I work for have a vision of building capacity and reaching as many teachers as possible. In our 24 schools, we have worked with more than 475 teachers since the creation of this position. We have begun building relationships that I hope will sustain the work that we have started.

After three days as part of the NCTIES Conference as a learner, partner in education and presenter, I am further convinced that I have so much to learn.

#NCTIES19

How will you sustain your excitement about your latest professional learning? Will you share your excitement when you return to the classroom? Or will you tuck your knowledge away in the “been there, done that” file?

Let me encourage you, no, implore you, to extend your experience. Step out of your comfort zone. Take a risk. Fail forward. Model this growth mindset for your students and colleagues.

Public education is an amazing place. You make it an amazing place. WE make it an amazing place!

Spread the word, the ideas and most of all the enthusiasm that you have for each child, every day. You’ve got this!!

Developing a Growth Mindset

“I just can’t do it!” proclaims a second grader in my technology class. Everyone else in the class yells out “YET!” and keeps right on working. They encourage each other to not give up. There are many tasks that are frustrating for my “littles”. They often have the attention span of a flea and the same inability to sit still. While this is a generalization,

mindset-743163_640
Used under a Creative Commons license

more often than not, my younger students give up easily. Instant gratification is the phrase of the day for many of these students. I daresay that it has become a part of the culture for many of us, little or not.

 

Changing our thinking to one of Growth Mindset is not always easy.┬áI used to find myself saying, “You’re so smart!” when I should have been saying, “I can see you really worked hard on that.” Children that hear those around them seeming to get it when they don’t, begin to label themselves NOT SMART. My answer? You just can’t do it as well YET.

“But, they all got it right away and I can’t do it!” “Of course you can do it. You just can’t do it YET. Did you learn to walk at the same time as everyone else? Did you learn to talk at the same time as everyone else? No! We’re all different. With a little practice, you’ll get it too!” (By the way, the tears almost stopped at this point).

Technology can be frustrating for everyone. The teachers I work with often struggle the most because they think they should “get it” right away. Well, that just isn’t the case. Oh, and even though they seem to think I know everything, I make sure that they hear me say, “I don’t know how to do that YET, but I’ll see what I can find out.”

No one likes to fail. But, I tell my students that FAIL is my favorite word. Or more correctly, my favorite acronym. First Attempt In Learning = FAIL. I would give credit to whoever came up with this, but I don’t know where it came from. So, “Thank You” if it was you that invented this great acronym!

Safe failures that happen at school encourage our students to grow. The more they fail in our environment and get built up for trying, the less they will fail in the real world when it can become dangerous. Talk to your students about the need for failure. We all have small failures every day. People need strategies for handling those failures without it being a devastation to them.

Where can you FAIL today?