Teachers Need to Take Care of Themselves During the Holiday Season
Ah, the holidays….
For all the fun and joy the holidays are supposed to bring, the months of November and December have always struck me as perhaps the two most stressful months of the school year. Weather turns cooler, days become shorter and far-flung families, some with their own issues, come together for holiday meals and parties. While schools balance academic needs with preparation for holiday concerts and activities, the economic pressure of gift-purchasing weighs heavily on people’s minds.
It’s a perfect storm of stress, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring what the holiday season means for us as teachers and as people. I’ll also be offering ideas for how to make this time of the year the best for you and your students.
First, let’s focus on you…
Eat, sleep and exercise
Our natural impulse during the winter is to hibernate, and it’s not uncommon to feel the lure of the couch or the early bedtime. I recommend listening to this impulse and making sure you’re well-rested.
Along with the desire to sleep more, you may feel hungrier than usual. This is also nature at work, as our bodies want us to add a little bit of extra fat to get through the long, cold winter. Yet you should consider balancing out this extra sleep and food with spending as much as possible in natural sunlight, as that helps create Vitamin D. Regular exercise also helps to balance all these demands.
Watch the holiday fun
Starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s Day, the six weeks of the holiday season are filled with joy and merriment. And that usually means longer and later nights celebrating the season.
These events will throw off your internal clock (which may still be adjusting to Daylight Saving Time) and may cause you to feel more fatigued. Tiredness taxes your immune system, and resulting illnesses can derail your plans and attitude. Yes, it’s good to celebrate, but do your best to find proper balance between fun and rest.
Celebrate family and friends
A major theme of the holiday season is to think of and spend time with your family and your friends. Try to set aside evenings to get together with your loved ones and help them make the most of the season. Today’s fast-paced world causes many of us to lose sight of their important role in our life, and this time of the year serves as a good reminder of their connection to us.
That being understood, there will be certain family members who may stress you out. For those situations, you have to make a call between your loyalty to them and your need to take care of yourself. Keep in mind that for many of us, our friends are our de facto family. Be sure to set time aside for them.
Do nice things
Along with the importance of family, the holiday season helps to remind us of our obligation to be good to other people. You won’t have to look very far to find volunteer activities that enable you to practice kindness toward others. This could include volunteering at a holiday party for the needy, donating your time wrapping gifts or working with a social service agency to help families.
Most likely your school district or local community will have multiple opportunities to help others. If you really want to extend yourself, speak to your principal about a needy family in your school and work with your colleagues to supply presents and gifts for them. Doing all of this anonymously makes your kindness and caring all the more powerful.