George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teacher Wellness

Simple Tips for Boosting Teacher Resilience

Try these quick and easy ways to build resilience and relieve stress.

December 4, 2018

By this point in the school year, you’re tired and don’t need another long list of self-care strategies. At the same time, perhaps you’re worried about burnout and are experiencing the negative effects of stress. Perhaps you’d also like to do something to boost your reserves of energy so that you can make it through the year, and even experience joy.

I’ve been studying resilience in educators for a long time—for my own sake and to support the educators I coach. The following are small ways to assist with managing the daily stresses of teaching. When I take action and do any of these, l know that I’ll feel better emotionally and physically and also that I’m filling my reserves of resilience.

Strategies for Managing Daily Stress

Sing a song. Perhaps during your morning shower or while you’re driving to school, belt out a high-energy song that you find empowering. My latest favorite is Pink’s “I Am Here.” This tactic works because it makes you use your full lung capacity, and breathing deep is energizing—and there’s research on the positive impact of listening to music. Time needed: four minutes.

Eat a handful of almonds or a high-quality protein like a protein bar. Around mid-morning, our blood sugar drops and we can start feeling physically tired. Protein helps to level out our emotions. Time needed: two minutes.

Take 10 deep, slow breaths. Close your eyes, sit with your feet planted on the ground, and focus on the sensation of air going in and out of your nose. Say to yourself, “Breathing in, breathing out.” Make your exhale longer than your inhale. Breathe at recess or lunch time, or before school. Just one minute of mindful breathing will help you feel calmer and more grounded. Time needed: one minute.

Describe three good things. Record a voice memo at the end of the day in which you describe three good things that happened and your role in making them happen. This will remind you of your power to influence your life. Burnout is often a symptom of feeling deeply disempowered—remind yourself of your ability to make choices every day. Time needed: three minutes.

Make yourself smile. Try putting a pencil between your teeth and hold it there for 20 seconds. Smiling releases endorphins, and doing this exercise will make it more likely that you’ll smile at others during the day. Time needed: one minute.

Have a short interaction with someone at school that you don’t usually talk to. The person can be a student, parent, colleague, or other staff member—lunch servers, custodians, crossing guards. This will strengthen and widen your social circles, and community is critical for resilience. And yes, do this every day. Time needed: five minutes.

Notice and name three emotions you experience during the day. Say to yourself, “I’m experiencing sadness (or anger, or joy).” Here’s a list of emotions to print out and reference. Circle the emotion when you notice it and note the date. You don’t need to dig into the emotion—just notice it. Time needed: five minutes.

Write down something for which you’re grateful. It can be just one thing, or more if you find yourself on a roll. But one thing is enough. You can do this at any time of the day. Just do it every day. Time needed: five minutes.

We know there’s a difference between feeling stressed or a little burned out and depression. Many educators deal with depression, so if you have any concerns about your mental well-being, please speak to a professional right away.

Resilience is built one thought and one action at a time. It’s the slow and steady strengthening of our resilience habits that makes it easier for us to manage challenges and rebound after setbacks.

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