We’ve all been there, the end of summer is here, you may or may not have spent your summer frantically trying to prepare for heading back into the classroom but no matter how organised we are most of us feel that feeling in our stomach; worrying about what the new year will have in store. Some of us feel it stronger than others. For some of us the days or weeks before heading back into the classroom can be hard; you can’t sleep, you can’t focus, you feel anxious. For me I’m heading into my last term teaching permanently school based, we’re expecting the dreaded Ofsted phone call any day and I have new staff to train up. These things just add to the normal anxiety I would feel.
I don’t want this anxiety to ruin my last week of holiday or feed into my transition back to work, so it will be important for me to have things in place to manage this. Today I’m going to share my top 5 tips that I am using/going to be using to manage my anxiety in the next few weeks.
Getting my Ducks in a row
One of the things I always struggle with in my anxiety is ‘what-if’ thinking, my brain always has to anticipate every possible scenario for every situation or interaction, while this can be helpful to a certain extent sometimes, it can’t also be exhausting a lot of the time, especially if I let it go to far.
Mindfulness (paying attention to the here and now) is one of the best things I’ve learnt how to do to manage this, but sometimes it needs a little prep to help it along. This Sunday I sat down to create a ‘to do’ list…this is one of my favourite activities to do (sad I know). Actually, I wrote 2 lists, one for the week coming (last week of the holidays) and one for the first week back. I literally brain dumped every tiny last thing onto a piece of paper. Now once that was done I made 4 boxes – Do first, schedule, delegate and don’t do (yes there’s a don’t do box) and I sorted my lists into those boxes (this is actually called the Eisenhower Matrix…yes after the US president). Being the creative little sole I am I used this as a mindful moment to make it all arty.
Yes this is future planning but once I’d done it I’d released all those thoughts running round my head. Each day I can now look only at the red box. I can email out the jobs I’m delegating and I can add scheduled activities to my diary. Now when I sit down to a task I can focus solely on this task and when it’s complete I can carry out other self care activities that keep me grounded in the moment – exercising, meditating, drawing, gardening.
I go on about this a lot I know but it is important. Everyone has their own ideas about what self care is and that’s the point it should be personal to you. In the last week of the holidays it’s a good time to book in some of your extra special self care activities in addition to your daily ones; for me this is getting my hair done, having a manicure and most importantly for me having a Reiki session. It helps me to release any of those negative feelings I might be having, it relaxes me and brings all of my sense of contentment and joy to the front.
Taking care of your body
In anticipation of the stress that I’m going to be feeling in the first few weeks of term it’s really easy for me to start comfort eating in anticipation and hit the wine, at the end of the holidays but something I’ve tried to start for the last couple of years is being particularly mindful of what I eat and drink in the last few weeks of the holidays. Both me and my mum have our birthdays in August so it’s generally an indulgent month. So the healthy eating/detox usually starts in the last 2 weeks of August. I also make sure that I exercise generally in the holidays, this year with all the COVID I’m not yet comfortable with hitting the gym or pool and that has been a problem so at the start of the holidays I signed up to do one of the Conquerors Challenges to walk 249 miles, I’m going to be using the last week to make sure I’ve completed that by the end of the holidays.
Often over the long holidays we don’t keep in touch to much with work colleagues and this can sometimes add to anxieties…what are other peoples mindsets? What issues may arise? How are previous dynamics going to play out? Although I’ve met up with my friends from work, it’s sometimes those we’re not that close with who can give us the most anxiety. We have a group what’s app for my team at work and I’ll start posting funny memes in this or arranging to go for lunch, a walk or have a team get together with people to catch up prior to heading back to work. Encouraging that team spirit and positivity.
Go into work
There’s a lot of different views on this people often assume that teachers have 6 weeks off when we sit around drinking cocktails by a pool and do nothings as teacher we know this isn’t true and we head into work throughout the holidays. Recently though with schools becoming more aware of wellbeing they try to encourage this by discouraging us from going into work in the holidays. While this can be helpful in some ways not being able to go in without the children to prepare your classroom get displays ready etc can be frustrating (I find this particularly true as an EYFS practitioner) and actually add to your anxieties and workload. It might be you go in every week through the holidays, I certainly used to, or it might be you wait until the end, this is what I’ll be doing this year. It gives you chance to make sure you know your surroundings, you feel comfortable and ready to go when the children arrive.
Final mention…think long term
By this I don’t mean planning months ahead but I mean examining your feelings. Now I know I suffer with anxiety and so for the last 20 years I’ve trained myself to examine times when my anxiety is high and the causes but if you are feeling especially anxious returning to work think about why that might be. Also look back at the last time you returned to work after a long absence did you feel the same level of anxiety or was it more/less? Is there something specific causing it or is it a more general sense of dread? The reason it’s important to do this is to establish patterns to help you create routines to manage this. As I’ve shared my personal top 5 tips above you might have different things that work for you and it’s important to figure out the best sustainable way to counter the negative feelings you may be feeling. If you feel that your anxieties are becoming to much for you to manage even with routines in place then it is important to speak to someone; start with your GP, work place assistance programme, counsellor or coach.