7 Ways to Manage Teacher Stress

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I have heard different sayings along the lines of “If you love what you do, you won’t feel stressed.” However, in my opinion, that just isn’t true! Teaching is indeed a passion and I love every (well most every) minute of it, but I would be lying to you if I said I never once feel stress in this profession. Here are 7 ways to manage teacher stress that I am currently trying. While I don’t succeed at them all – they are a start!

Here are 7 tips to manage teacher stress for even the most dedicated teachers.

7 Ways to Manage Teacher Stress

In my journey as a teacher, I have tried to find successful ways to manage stress so that I can enjoy this fabulous profession and not let anything get me down! I hope you find these tips to be helpful – even if it’s just a little!

If possible, turn off the notifications and disconnect from school related technology at home.

Last year, I finally decided that my work email had to stop coming to my phone. Or at least the notifications had to be turned off. It was convenient to have it on my phone with my other email accounts, but it became intrusive.

I would be at home in the evening and the phone would show an email from a parent or co-worker. They were often things that could wait, but I would see them and think “oh I will just quick answer it” which wasn’t always quick… and before you know it my evening time with my husband was more about answering emails.

So, I turned off the notifications and I try my very best to only check my work email at work, or just once at night from the computer.

Leave the bags at school as often as possible to limit teacher stress.

#2 – Try to leave the bags!

I think this one may be impossible for many teachers, and it still is for me sometimes! I am trying so hard to leave the bags at school. Even though carrying bags and looking like a pack mule is one of the 7 signs you are a Kindergarten teacher, I think there should be some limits on this.

Teachers often go to work early or stay late but we know that even all the bags in the world won’t finish our job. The work of a teacher is truly never done! Even though I do enjoy the occasional lesson planning at home and lamination cutting party, I really try to limit myself to one or two days a week of that.

It’s so hard to turn off our teacher brains, but we have to find a balance somehow!

Try not to live at school. This will help you to find a balance for home and work life.

#3 Try not to live at school.

It took me a few years to get this down and I am still working on it every year. I used to go to school every weekend and stay until or past dinner nearly every night. Well, even though I do enjoy it (Saturdays in the building are pretty quiet, I can get a lot done) I also realize that in this profession we will never be “done” with our work. Sometimes we have to be ok with that.

Forcing myself to work and work until it was done was a never ending cycle, and I never want to lose my joy of the occasional Saturday bulletin board redo or lesson planning. I just work hard now to keep my weekends for family. It definitely isn’t easy and sometimes I do go to school!

RELATED ARTICLE: Self-Care Tips for Teachers (by teachers!)

When you accept that things will not be perfect you can enjoy yourself and your students so much more!

#4 Accept that things will not be perfect.

I used to want everything to go perfectly in my classroom. This greatly increased my teacher stress. I would pride myself on organization and great classroom management and I would work so hard to make everything seem, well, perfect.

I like to give Kindergarten credit for the change in me and I am no longer that way. My management is still strong but we have off days because we are learning how to do school. I am organized but sometimes we are a hot mess because we are busy learning. And you know what? It’s ok!

When you let go of trying to be a “perfect teacher” you can enjoy yourself and your students so much more!

Teacher stress increases when there is not enough time to plan. Make time!

#5 Have a plan for planning time

This one is hard for me. If you do have assigned planning time, I highly recommend planning for your planning time. Sounds silly, I know. But trust me!

If you are like me, it will be “planning time” and then you will spend half of it doing 875 different things (because there are 9000 to do). Nothing will get completed because you were bouncing all around like a crazed rabbit.

This year I actually wrote in my plan book what I would accomplish during my planning periods. It made a huge difference! I felt less stress because things were getting done!

Sleep. A tired, worn out teacher simply isn't as effective as a well rested one.

#6 – Sleep!

Well, if you know me, it is funny that I even have this in here. I am a major night owl and I also have insomnia quite often. Sleep is not really my friend, except in the morning when I wish we could stay together longer.

However, this is a big one on my list this year to work on. I am trying to wind down each night, set myself a bedtime, and turn off that teacher brain (but sometimes it wins and I am thinking about teaching at midnight).

A tired, worn out teacher simply isn’t as effective. At least I am not! When I am tired I get headaches and am more irritable, which makes me feel stressed about things I shouldn’t be. So getting some zzzzzz’s is important!

Keep your joy for teaching and make it a point to enjoy time with your students.

#7 Enjoy your students!

This is my favorite tip of all. Sometimes, when the day is crazy or I am stressed out by requirements or testing or meetings, etc. – all I need to do is remember my students and who they are. I try to take the time to enjoy them.

Whether that means we have a random read aloud “just because” or we take a brain break and dance silly “just because” – I love finding those moments to just be with them and enjoy them for who they are.

Teaching is a wonderful profession and far more than a job. It truly takes special people to be teachers! I want to keep my joy for teaching and enjoy my time with my students, so this year, I am trying to implement these tips to prevent teacher stress.

Which one is easiest for you to do? Which one is hardest? I would love for you to let me know!

Want to stress less with even more “must-try” tips while learning how to create a “Playful Learning” environment?

(even if you “aren’t allowed to play”)

If you’re wanting to incorporate playful learning, free-flowing centers, effective routines, and more in your Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, then you’ll definitely want to join us in P.L.A.Y. (Playful Learning All Year)!

This P.L.A.Y. course is a deep dive into practical ways that you can create a playful learning environment in your classroom!

This course is a deep dive into practical ways that you can create a playful learning environment in your classroom. Be sure to request an invitation so you’re the first to hear when the virtual doors open!

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  1. This is such a great post, Alex! I may print it out and put it near my desk at home so I remember to be good to myself this year. I particularly appreciate the part about accepting that things will not be perfect. I’ve been in education for a long time — retirement is a handful of years away (and I really can’t wrap my head around that yet, LOL.) What part is hard for me? While I am pretty confident that I know my stuff, I occasionally kick myself that I still don’t do this or that “exactly right”. As for the other points, I am a night owl too, so although I do conk out when I get to bed, I don’t always get enough sleep. And I’m a single workaholic type with only a cat at home, so the staying way longer than I should I’m also totally guilty of. I do enjoy the heck out of my class though. I just love being around kids, especially littles, even when I’m not at work. I get so much joy just watching them be themselves.

  2. Wow, I’m joing everyone else in saying THANK YOU for writing this!! This was soooooo helpful! Every single thing you wrote spoke to me, & I’m going to use all these tips this year. I’ve been teaching for a while, but I’m currently a 5th-yr Kindergarten teacher & getting QUITE burned out. One thing that doesn’t help is that I don’t have any planning time (no pull-outs) except a few minutes at lunch, so I always end up staying late most days. I also have a really hard time transitioning from the classroom to home life — I just want to come home & collapse. I’m going to print your list out to pin on my walls at home & at school — I can’t wait to try your ideas! Thank you again!

  3. I WISH #1 was a possibility, but we can only get work e-mail at home, I am unable to get it at work. Frustrating to us as well as parents. I always tell them that if it is urgent, they need to contact me through the office.

    We are open year-round. The last day of summer school is August 14, then we jump in & prep/train for the new school year. Kids visit August 20th and new school year officially begins for them on August 21.

    As for the “if you love it you won’t be stressed” statement, I don’t believe that at all. I think that if you love it you get even more stressed because you want everything to be the best it can be. I am blessed with a wonderful assistant during the school year (solo for summer) who has helped so much to take away some of the stress.

  4. This was so good for me to read! I Often go in on weekends and like you, do 875 other things then plan during planning time. Remembering to leave things at work and to also turn off my teacher brain are things I am going to work on too!

  5. I would have to say that #7 Enjoying my students is the easiest one for me to do and# 5 Have a plan for planning time would be the hardest. I always seem to get new and exciting ideas and have a hard time setting time aside to get other things finished or done. I also have people coming in my room to chit chat or ask for suggestions, which I love to help when or wherever I can, however then I just can’t get always get the things done that I would like. This would be another reason why I take many things home and like you said sometimes untouched. Others have suggested that I shut my door, but I don’t like to do that. Thank you for this wonderful post. It makes a person stop and think of what is really important and how we can develop less stress in our lives.

    Happy (almost) New Year!!

    1. Hi Brandee! Thanks for sharing your teaching struggles and successes with us! It really can be hard to get everything done. I feel like there’s always 2 different “to do” lists. List A which is immediate and has to get done and then list Be which is more like my wish list of things to get done. It seems like we teachers are always trying to conquer more than possible. I think it’s most important to enjoy the students like you said, and also accept that not everything is going to get done and it may not be done perfectly. Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

  6. Thank you for this! I am a first year teacher in Kindergarten. It’s so hard to just leave school and not keep working (I don’t have tried & true materials yet) since I feel I need to catch up… I used to arrive early and leave late. Now I set my times to leave every day and times to stop working at school (I lnow only do light planning or hunt Pinterest for ideas at home).

  7. Thank you so much! I need to post every one of your steps next to my desk. Especially #5! I cannot imagine how much less work I would have if I had #5 figured out.

  8. Love this!! This year I’ve made it a goal to not check my school email (that means check it only once) at night. I used to check it 3/4 times nightly and that would cause me to obsess about school issues when I should be enjoying my family. I’ve finally learned…. Things. Can. Wait.

    Enjoying the kids is also something I identify with. When I start to lose my sense of humor and patience, it’s a sign for me to slow down and remember, they are 5 years old. I need to get a grip and enjoy them!!

    Thanks for a great post!!

    1. I can totally relate to the over checking of school email! I have gotten MUCH better about it! I still peek at it now and then from home, but I really try to keep work email at work. You are right, it can totally cause us to think about school issues when we need to be enjoying our family!
      I just read in a FB group the phrase “they are 60 months old.” When I think of it that way I am reminded how little our students really are and how new they are to this whole “school thing!” 🙂

  9. Dear Alex, thank you for being so kind and writing such a lovely post! I totally agree with you, the great teacher is the one who loves and enjoys his students. When you feel that there is no pleasure to work anymore, you should have a break but never demonstrate your anger or personal problems in the classroom. Teachers’ mission is to be an example of humanity and gentleness. I appreciate the tips you’ve suggested, it is so simple but extremely important to manage stress. Recently I’ve read another relevant article: https://unplag.com/blog/teacher-stress-8-strategies-to-manage-work-pressure/ and found it useful for me. After reading yours I’m deeply inspired to give my students more knowledges, love and care. I’ll start to sleep 9 hours instead of 7, let’s see how it’s gonna work for me 🙂

  10. Great article. Sharing it on my Stress Relief 4 Teachers board. I especially like where you said, “Have a plan for planning time.” Easy to forget and then it’s rush, rush, rush.

  11. This is such a great post Alex and it spoke to me. I can relate to each and every one. My goal is to work on #3 and #4 this year. I am also a perfectionist and want things to be “just so” before going home. However, I want to be able to leave this year without staying late all the time, and so being able to accept that things won’t be perfect, will allow me to walk out the door and be OK with it. #7 is the easiest – that is really what it is all about!

    1. Thank you Suzanne! It is definitely hard to get out the door of the classroom and be ok with leaving a few things not perfect – I am always trying to improve on that as well. Teaching/life balance is tricky, but maybe we can support each other and figure it out! 🙂

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