Tips on How to Calm Yourself in the Classroom

Jessica Shaffer
Jessica Shaffer
5th grade teacher; M.A. in Administration, Leadership, Georgian Court University, NJ
Young teacher sitting at a desk with her eyes closed.

Feeling stress is par for the course with teaching, but during this past year, stress and anxiety levels have skyrocketed. Stress can give you headaches, make you more irritable, give a feeling of being overwhelmed, and make it hard to sleep and concentrate, amongst many other things. It can make your heart race, make it harder to breathe, and make you feel overall exhausted. There are many negatives associated with stress which is why you need to control it.

Why is Managing Stress Levels Important?

As a teacher, it is important to try to be the best version of yourself each day. Students can pick up on your mood easily, and if you are stressed out, it can tend to stress the students out. For example, one day I was very stressed out about something outside of school, and my class asked within the first hour of the day if “I was okay.” They just knew something was off and were worried. Stress can affect your instruction and patience levels, can lead to anxiety, and oftentimes to burnout. How can we avoid letting stress overtake our lives?

Strategies for How to Calm Yourself Down

Breathing Techniques

This is such a simple, yet effective way to calm down. You can pay attention to your breathing and take deep breaths. If you have an Apple Watch, you can do the one-minute breathing exercise along with the app. You can make this a class activity at a certain time each day and you can model good de-stressing exercises with the class.

Take 5

Just take a quick five-minute break to get yourself back together. Trust me, the class will not complain! This is a great way to model for students to take time to get yourself back together. This is an important life lesson for students, as when they see an adult and a teacher practicing something such as this, they are more likely to feel comfortable to ask to do this themselves.

Re-Organize

Sometimes stress gives you feelings of being completely overwhelmed, and you want to shut down. In this case, the “Take 5” technique is great, but another idea during these five minutes is to re-organize yourself. Take the time to create a “To-Do” list and give yourself direction with what you need to accomplish in the day. Personally, I have to make lists because I am much more productive with my time. Time is very valuable (we have all learned this twice over this past year) and using it to be as productive as possible is important. It can help you to have less work to bring home which can in turn help you relax more, sleep more, and create a less stressful work day for you.

Stress Balls

An oldie but a goodie! Keep a stress ball in your desk and just give it a few good squeezes when you are feeling overwhelmed. Again, this is an activity you can make common practice in your classroom by having students keep one in their desks. It gives not only you, but your students, an outlet when you feel stressed out.

Walk It Out

If you have time in your school day, carve out twenty minutes to take a walk. Since the weather is getting nicer, you can put on sneakers and take a few laps around the fields outside your building. You may even get a few co-workers to join you on this journey. When the weather does not cooperate, just walk the halls and get your heart rate going! Taking a short bit of time for yourself can have extremely positive results!

Talk It Out

Talking to your co-workers or other teachers you know can make you feel better! It is so easy to get overwhelmed and feel that you are “in this alone”. There have been so many times this year I think I’m about to lose it, and talking to people has really helped me out. You realize it isn’t just your school or district, it is everywhere right now. Swapping stories can have a therapeutic effect as you realize you can do this, and you are certainly not in this alone.

Don’t Forget About You!

I think I have heard the phrase “self-care” more this past year than ever before! How do you practice this though? Reading a book, working out, getting a manicure, hiking, watching your favorite show…self-care looks different for everyone! Taking this time for yourself can make a difference in how you feel in the classroom. About five weeks ago, I had to re-evaluate the way I was spending my time because it was all work, and I was starting to feel the effects on my stress levels. I made a few simple adjustments where I carved out “me time” and it has completely changed my mindset. I started to make sure I took time for myself, and it made my stress levels decrease and productivity increase. Sometimes you just have to reset!

The Wrap Up

It’s been a year of many lessons for students and teachers alike. As Catherine Pulsifer stated, “One of the best lessons you can learn in life is how to remain calm.” There have been many challenges that can create stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed this year, but if nothing else, we have learned how to better control these feelings and bring ourselves back to calm. It has made us better educators and helped us to show our students that we are all human and it’s okay to have a bad day. Maybe, just maybe, teachers understand that a little bit more now, and we are better helping our students reach their full potential.

*Updated April 2021
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