Balancing work, life, and wellness are difficult for everyone in every profession; however, for educators, that balance can be even more challenging. As a teacher, you are often pulled in many directions and need to work extra hard to balance your work life and your home life. Many times it seems there is little separation between the two.
This article looks at eight ways to balance your work, life, and wellness in the midst of your busy career, which daily impacts the lives of students and families.
Manage your digital life
It's best to set aside time to answer emails and complete your planning in a specific place in your home. Then when you're done, you're done. This helps you get away from work and spend time with family. And we all need to periodically totally unplug from our phones, tablets, and computers.
A teacher's life is a busy one with many tasks to be completed. You must set priorities and timelines (to do lists) to get your work completed. Make sure to have a calendar with deadlines listed so you don't overlook something. It's also important to take time to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate to keep your energy level high. You will need it to complete your teacher duties each day and give your students your BEST you.
Be protective of your health
If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will. You need to make sure you eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise. In a school setting, you are constantly around cold germs, flu, and other sicknesses. You need to work to keep your body healthy so you can take care of the students in your care each day. And don't skip your lunch. This is easy to do when you're trying to help 30 kids open their lunch or when supervising a group of middle school or high school students. Make yourself a priority.
Make time for things you enjoy
Make sure you plan activities during your "off" time that bring you pleasure. It can be reading a good book, taking a bike ride, planning a dream vacation, or spending time with your kids. You need to take time for you. It is easy to get into a "rut" and just work, work, work. Take time to do things you enjoy at least once or twice a week. It will help you stay refreshed and renewed.
Be present wherever you are
Many times we bring work home as a teacher. We feel that we have so much to accomplish that there is little time to do anything else. However, it is important to be present wherever you are. When you are at home, set limits to the amount of time you spend on work. Have a designated space for work when you are home. When you are with your family and friends, give them all of you. Live in the moment. Enjoy your life. You will be a better teacher when you can enjoy your life away from work.
Learn to say and practice the art of saying "no"
Saying "no" is difficult for many people. Most of the time, teachers are people pleasers and want to do everything possible to help others. It's okay to say "no" sometimes. When you become overloaded, you struggle to keep up with your work life and your home life. Learn to say "no" and delegate when needed to make your life more manageable. You often feel bad when you say "no" but you need to learn how to keep your life in balance.
Protect your family / friend time
It's vital to your well-being to protect your family time. Teachers have many responsibilities and after-school commitments. Use your calendar to mark those events and be sure to schedule some family time. Even if you are single, you still need to spend time with your family and friends. Make it a priority. You need to unwind and decompress from your busy days at school. You need to laugh and relax to keep your health in check.
Encourage a family member/friend to keep you in check
It's easy to become overwhelmed being a teacher. You can often get covered up with grading papers, planning lessons, and answering emails. Let's be honest. Teaching can be stressful but so rewarding. Have someone in your life who can identify when you are overstressed or overwhelmed and will call you out and make sure you find a way to decompress. Your dedication to your students and your job is admirable, but you need to take time for yourself.
Being a teacher is one of the most honorable professions on the planet. You affect the future and make all other professions possible. And while teaching can bring much joy and meaning to your life, it's a profession that demands a lot from you.
It's important that you take care of yourself. Take time to follow the eight steps provided here to find balance in your life, work, and wellness.
James Davis, Ph.D., is an associate professor and program coordinator at Coastal Carolina University, in Conway, South Carolina, where he works within the educational leadership department. He has been named both teacher of the year and principal of the year.
Published January 2018.
Watch for the February 2018 issue of AMLE Magazine with cover stories that highlight more ideas to help you find work/life balance.