The end of the school year is exciting – and exhausting. Teachers are often experiencing stress and burnout. It can be a very stressful time for teachers as they struggle to keep their students, and themselves, engaged. The students aren’t the only ones who want to ditch school and get out into the sunshine.

In this article, we take a look at what is facing teachers and what they can do to reduce their stress.

Not a teacher? Don’t worry, all the strategies apply to exhausted parents and students too!

Spring is a wonderful time of year. It is a symbol of renewal and fresh starts.

But it doesn’t feel that way for everyone. For teachers, Spring represents an ending. The school year is coming to a close and State testing is about to assess whether their students have learned what they worked so hard to teach.

There are tons of activities happening. IEP meetings are scheduled and take up long afternoons. There is a final push to get through the curriculum. Spring performances and open houses take tremendous planning time not to mention classroom time preparing. Then there are the outside activities that are ramping up for the students making them more tired than usual.

It is common for teachers to feel frazzled and experience burnout by this time of year.

As an occupational therapist who works extensively with schools, I see how hard teachers work to make a difference in the lives of their students.

I see you, teachers, struggling to get report cards out on time. I watch you take on greater and greater responsibilities that keep the students, parents, staff, and campus organized and happy. I watch you continue to pursue perfection in ensuring that you pass on smart students to your friends at work who will be teaching them next year.

We in the community who forget (or don’t have the opportunity) to say thanks would now like to thank you very much. Over the course of each school year, you assist students to better learn how to learn. You teach them to problem-solve in their own unique style of learning. Most importantly, you stimulate an interest in curiosity and an interest in learning. A job well done!

As you wind up the school year, there are a few things you can do to minimize your stress and set the stage for a restorative summer break.

Keep Moving

The fastest way to down-shift the stress in your mind and body is through a mini health regimen incorporating daily exercise and healthy foods.

Keep exercise at the top of your list. Make this a priority, a “to do”. Yoga stretches in the morning, or a mid-morning walk with students around the track, or early evening in the gym need to make it into your daily program.

Getting exercise when your to-do list is full for work and for your own family is difficult, but worth it in terms of increasing energy and reducing stress.

Give Yourself a Break

We encourage brain-refresh breaks for restless children, but brain-refresh breaks can also promote mental cohesion, calmness and clear thinking in adults. Try these activities that have been shown to improve test performance in school-age children. These same activities are used in the field of sports medicine to promote mind and body focus in high school athletes.

In fact, brain-refresh breaks really come from the field of sports medicine. In professional athletics, years of research have been dedicated to the best way to focus the mind and body for high-level sports competition. Stimulating right brain/left brain activities prepares the whole body for learning as well as focusing attention.

Implement Right/Left Brain Activities

Many sports incorporate coordination of the right and the left side of the body and the right and left sides of the brain. Large muscle actions that cross the midline from one side of the body to the other, such as swinging a tennis racket, is an excellent example of whole body learning. Martial arts, swimming, yoga and many gym workout regimes serve as excellent brain-refresh activities and also improve strength and balance.

Improve Precision of Movement

Exercise equipment can help target specific muscles that stabilize to allow precision in the movement of our limbs. Sitting on a dynamic surface, such as an exercise ball, awakens the core muscles to stabilize so that more refined movements of the arms and legs can occur.

Using soft, ball-shaped weights to exercise the arms can further promote well-coordinated movement. When the body works well, the mind stays nimble.

Involve Your Senses

When we’re frantic and stressed, the body has difficulty operating coherently and the mind has trouble operating calmly. A brain-refresh break can employ any of our senses.

For example, have you ever eaten way too much chocolate when you’re stressed (sense of taste)? Neither have I.

How about turning up the music to distract our thoughts and lift our emotions (our auditory system). Maybe soaking in a warm-bath (the tactile system)? Aromatherapy candles calm us down through our sense of smell. Watching the birds putter in the trees is a pleasing and relaxing visual experience.

Tasting, listening, touching and feeling, smelling and looking; all our senses can be used to calm ourselves down.

Try different sensory strategies yourself. Some can be more effective in certain situations than others. Some are more convenient, others more “fussy”. Plan a whole spa day and notice the plethora of sensory experiences made available to help relax you.

Whatever you choose, make healthy choices and stay fit.

Though we often forget to say thank-you, we can’t manage without you!

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Suzanne Cresswell Administrator
Suzanne Cresswell is an occupational and physical therapist who has worked with unique learners for over three decades. Suzanne works to educate and provide proven solutions and strategies to those that parent, instruct and work with unique learners. By creating an understanding of unique learners and their learning behavior, she helps parents, teachers and the students themselves find the ability in learning disability.
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