What can you do to look after yourself?
With the obvious workload that teaching brings, and the other potential time pressures of family life, could you try a month or fortnight of something different to make time for you?
It can be very tempting in the age of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter to spend extended periods of time escaping from reality and catching up with what others are up to in the online world. Other than the obvious negative aspects of social media (ranging from anxiety and depressing to disturbed sleep patterns), the time you use on social media is also time that you are not properly taking care of yourself. As difficult as it may be, why not try a digital detox? You can use one of the many time limiting apps now available or simply leave your phone at home when you go out at the weekend.
So what could you turn to as a distraction?
1. Create secret time to read a book
Too often, the only literature practitioners are able to read is either produced by students or related to the subject you teach. Why not break that habit and set yourself weekly reading targets?
As well as helping to maintain healthy sleep habits (as above), reading is also an excellent source of relaxation and will help you to wind down throughout the week. Even better, why not form a book club with friends and spend some quality time discussing that new book.
2. Eat well and drink lots of water
It’s difficult to make sure you are eating and drinking well during the working week with books to mark and lessons to plan, and a quick snack/ chocolate bar can be just the ticket to get you through the day. The effects of this can be hugely detrimental however, so it’s important to make sure you fuel your body correctly. Preparing meals days in advance and buying a water bottle to leave at work, however, will save you both time and money in the long run. This can be difficult to begin with (and meals can be boring), but simply cooking half a dozen chicken breasts, steaming a range of vegetables and distributing this into Tupperware will pay dividends in the end.
Again, building exercise into your daily routine is the best way to ensure you keep it up. Can you run or bike part or all of the way into work? If this proves too challenging, why not build up to doing this and start with doing more walking at work – get the stairs instead of the lift, use the printer/ toilet/ staffroom slightly further from your office/ classroom or simply park your car further away than normal and enjoy those extra steps.
It can also be helpful to buy a basic step tracker with a screen that does not rely on you checking the mobile phone app, and add some motivation.
This can be one of the most difficult aspects of maintaining a positive wellbeing routine. With anxiety and stress around topics such as workload (or even Ofsted), it can be difficult to maintain healthy sleep patterns. As difficult as this is, however, it is vital and setting strict routines and times for sleep will help in the long run. Try to ‘switch off’ from work by creating a sleep timetable, checking the temperature in your bedroom and that you have a quality mattress. Also, avoid alcohol, smoking and heavy meals before bed. There are some more excellent tips here.
5. Spend time with friends
It can be challenging to take your mind off the job during the working week, so why not recruit the help of your friends to do just that? Spending one night from Monday – Friday visiting the cinema, watching the match or just getting together for coffee could provide some much-needed downtime in an otherwise hectic week.
6. A hobby or take up a class
Whether it is spending time in the gym, joining a sports team, learning a new skill or turning your hand to a new hobby, making time for something you’re interested in is vital for your health and wellbeing. Search “adult learning courses” to find out the evening courses available in colleges and adult learning centres can leave you with great new friends and even a new qualification, or you could try something as small as spending 10-15 minutes per night unwinding completing a simple, stress relieving task (such as completing an adult colouring book).
7. Find the news on TV or radio…
Instead of relying on your phone for it. You may find that shouting at politicians on the television is just as satisfying as typing your comments!
Whatever you do to unwind, it can be difficult to find time during a busy work week, but the above are just some of the examples of activities you can do to make sure you stay full recharged without turning to the tablet.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Hartlepool College of Further Education. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher . He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.