TIC (December, 2019) The life of an educator is challenging! Everyone who works in a school setting is an educator in some capacity; therefore, self-care applies to all of us. Juggling the demands and expectations of family, relationships, and job related duties, along with providing the extra care that many of our students need, may feel overwhelming. In addition to life and career demands, the current rates of child trauma exposure is increasing¹, potentially creating higher levels of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Finally, the additional busyness of the approaching holiday season can further stress educators, students, and families.
The following tips from The Chopra Center² may help educators (and students) manage stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, which are especially important during the holiday season. The links provided below provide additional resources.
When the signs of feeling overwhelmed begin to show up in your life, an important first step is to recognize the need to put self-care high on your list of priorities. Don’t wait until your ship has begun to sink before taking action. At the first hint that your boat has sprung a leak, and you’re starting to feel a little swamped in workload, family, or personal concerns, you need to pause, assess the situation, and make a commitment to finding coping skills that will help you remain balanced and centered.
Shift Your Perspective
It’s important to remember that the stress of being overwhelmed begins with a perception. Perceptions are subjective interpretations of situations and events. How you perceive things determines how the situation will affect you.
When you feel overwhelmed, try to focus on reframing the experience and see it from a different angle. Considering different interpretations of the situation often helps you take things less seriously. Also, recall the wise saying, “This too shall pass.” Everything on the material level of existence has a beginning, middle, and ending.
Remember, what you think impacts how you feel and what you do. Thinking “I can’t do this!” or “This is too much!” will likely result in feelings of being overwhelmed. Change the thoughts to “I have managed before!” and remind yourself of other obstacles you have overcome.
The feelings of being overwhelmed and anxiety, by their nature get you “amped up”, and in so doing, rattle the cage of your body’s stress response. This increases your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, stress hormones, muscle tension, and a host of other physiologically damaging effects to your mind-body system. One of the best ways to counteract this sensation is to take slow deep breaths.
Meditation has countless benefits when it comes to countering the effects of feeling overwhelmed. First, it is a powerful antidote to the body’s stress response. Second, in addition to slowing your breathing, it also calms the overactivity of your mind and emotions that are so common during periods of being overwhelmed. As your mind becomes increasingly calm, your body eavesdrops on that stillness, creating a feedback loop of tranquility and balance that lasts long after the meditation itself. Third, as you become more of an observer of your thoughts rather than being owned by them, your perspective shifts away from being a victim of your overwhelm to being the witness of it.
Slow Down and Manage Your Time
By its nature, being emotionally overwhelmed often feels as if you are running out of time. Therefore, managing your time wisely is a very practical step to staying ahead of the anxiety and turmoil caused by too many competing priorities. Make a commitment to create a clear and efficient to-do list of tasks ranked by importance and tackle each one in a clear and methodical manner.
In addition, as counterintuitive as it sounds, try to slow down whenever possible. Rushing frantically only stirs up more activity, which degrades the quality of your work and relationships. Act deliberately and with awareness, and you’ll find that you are controlling your perceptions of time, rather than feeling like time is controlling you.
Another way to both lower the feeling of overwhelm and shift your perception of time is to practice mindful movement. Activities such as Yoga can shift your awareness and your emotions into a much more settled and grounded state. This grounding works directly to
counteract the “swirly” energy and help you feel rooted in your body and the earth. The conscious movements of these similar practices also help you feel like you have more time due to the deepened quality of your awareness.
Unplug–Go On a Digital Fast
The modern world has become increasingly technologically dependent. Information is everywhere. Unfortunately, the digital age with all its devices, screens, social medial, and 24-hour accessibility is only driving more activity into already overwhelmed minds. The high-information diet you keep yourself on can often starve you of the stability and balance you truly need.
Therefore, commit to a few hours, a day, week, or even longer of cutting the digital cord. Since you are probably so deeply plugged in, it may feel challenging at the start. But with time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how much more settled your awareness is when it’s not bombarded with unnecessary information.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Being overwhelmed can be mentally and physically exhausting. The inefficient use of mind-body energy brought about by prolonged chronic stress leaves you feeling wiped out; therefore, be sure to get plenty of quality sleep to restore and heal. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night is generally recommended for adults, but when you feel overwhelmed, longer periods may be needed.
In addition to regular meditation, consider adding a 20-minute mid-afternoon nap into your routine. Also, be sure to create a routine that helps your mind and body benefit from your time in bed.
Know When to Walk Away
Sometimes the most nourishing choice for body, mind, and soul is to simply walk away. You cannot be everything to all people, and it’s important to know when you have reached your limit.
Be willing to draw a clear line for yourself and know when to say no. Doing so can sometimes be a defining and courageous moment in which you assert your need to no longer feel victimized by external circumstances and situations. In doing so, you reclaim your power to
manage your life and awareness in a way that is nourishing and supportive for you, without the need to defend or explain yourself to others.
1. Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network (2019).
2. The information in the Tip of the Month was taken directly from the The Chopra Center website
3. Self-Care for Teachers of Traumatized Students