Many teachers all around the country live with stress every day. When we live in constant stress, our brains start to downshift. According to scholars Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine, “downshifting is a psychophysiological response to threat that results in a sense of helplessness or fatigue. A downshifted person has a nagging sense of fear or anxiety and begins to lose the ability to feel excitement or pleasure.”
However, there are things we can do to upshift our brains by actively infusing joy into our work life. This floods the brain with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that overwhelm our primitive stress responses. Let’s talk about ways to add more joy to life as a teacher.
Get outside during the school day. Hold a collaboration meeting, coaching session, or class outdoors to shift the group energy. Movement can release endorphins and provide a much-needed brain break.
Bring music to your class or staff room. If it feels solemn, enliven it with your favorite music. Music releases positive neurotransmitters, calms the brain’s high-alert settings, and can build cultural proficiency as community members share their musical interests.
Write a card to someone who’s had your back. Appreciate others. It could be another teacher, the custodian who cleans your room, or the person who ensures that you’re paid each month. It will make you feel good and others at the same time.
Keep a joy journal. “What brought you joy today?” Ask this question of yourself and be sure to record something every day. Take time occasionally to go back and read old entries.
It’s hard not to let work take over because we have the job where we care deeply about our students. Make sure work doesn’t take over your life by trying any or all of the tips below.
First of all, don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’s. Your classroom is for your students. They will love you and your room when you make them feel comfortable and greet them with a smile.
Plan out your meals. This is something you need to do at home, on the weekend. Planning out meals ahead of time saves the agony of deciding what to make, the extra time of being hangry, and allows you to get to work fixing dinner right away.
Pick your stay late day. Choose one day of the week to be your day to stay a little later at work to clean up, grade an extra set of papers, prep for the next week ahead, update your class website, etc. If you pick one day a week in advance, then stay an extra hour or two after your students leave. Shut your door and GET. STUFF. DONE.
These are ideas that could make your life easier as a teacher. We all have to figure out what works best for us to help keep our joy.