Maybe you’ve said or thought it, too, but I find myself mumbling the same question. When is Groundhog Day going to end? Like the character Bill Murray plays in the classic 1993 film, many of us have been stuck in what feels like an endless cycle. Are anyone else’s dishes multiplying when their backs are turned?
As we travel through this strange school year, there are so many unique challenges that I suspect it’s going to be easier than ever to get stuck in a rut. Sound counterintuitive? While every situation is different, we’re all united in being obscenely busy, adapting to new circumstances, altering plans and then altering them again, trying to remain flexible, learning new things, etc. In all this chaos, it won’t take long to lose sight of our mission–our kids.
This post is dedicated to all you teachers and parents out there. When you find yourself considering talking to the squirrels (or groundhogs) in your yard, cursing the day the computer was invented, or having ghost-mask sensations at 2:00 AM, it might be time to take a break or to mix it up for both you and your kids! If you’re like me and prone to putting yourself last, don’t forget to download the free de-stress-reminder PDF at the end of this post. Put it somewhere to remind yourself to be, well, yourself.
First, a disclaimer. Nothing in this blog should be construed as medical, mental, legal, or other professional advice. This blog is informational in nature. Before starting, stopping, or changing your exercise or other routines, please consult a medical or other professional. If you are experiencing concerning thoughts, uncontrollable feelings, excessive stress, or mental or physical health problems, please seek help from a doctor, hotline, or other professional immediately.
Little Breaks Make a Difference
It’s impossible to take care of our kids and students if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. I know! I know! Before you throw your keyboard at me and scream, “There’s no time!” Know that the following suggestions are small things–tiny de-stressing techniques that only take a few minutes and potentially pay huge dividends.
Recent research indicates that spending time in natural environments has many benefits, which may include things like stress hormone reduction, increased alertness, better mood, and even improved creativity. Happily, getting to nature doesn’t have to involve long hikes or taking days off to drive out of the city. A natural urban park, a favorite tree in your backyard, or a garden where you can get your hands a little dirty is often enough to break up your day and take a break. According to some researchers, just five minutes can make a difference.
Listen to or Make Music
According to Medical News Today, music has the ability to reduce anxiety and stress. Take a quick break with music that speaks to your soul or brings back happy memories. For an added boost, incorporate movement, stretching, or dance, especially if you’ve been sitting in a chair or in front of a computer.
If you’re musically inclined, play a few chords or your favorite song or play something for your kids, students, or friends. Research seems to suggest that different music affects us differently, so even adding “relaxing” or “dance” into a quick YouTube search can yield a huge list of potential music to match your mood and preferences.
Most of us know that exercise helps reduce the risk of negative health conditions and unwanted weight gain, but according to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has other surprising benefits. Even a quick walk or a few minutes of dancing can potentially boost energy and mood, improve sleep, and more.
Try a Hobby or Craft
If you have lots of time, obviously there’s a hobby out there for you. But, if you’re in a hurry, there are still some quick hobbies that can reduce stress and even work well with classroom learning. For example, virtually anyone can draw quick, funny pictures. (It does take 15 minutes to learn the gist, but after that . . . ) Don’t believe me? Try this Ted Talk, which someone was kind enough to dub in Spanish (embedded below):
Rest Your Eyes
While resting your eyes may be a euphemism for sleeping, research suggests your eyes really do need rest. WebMD offers some useful suggestions, such as following the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. If you happen to get up while resting your eyes, it will be easy to add stretching or other movement.
Shift, Stir, Stretch
Many of us are sitting more than we used to. Try shifting to a new place, such as a porch or another room. Or, consider creating a homemade standing desk. Another idea is to embrace a secondary definition of stir by creating some noise. Have noise makers? Pots and pans to thump? How about a pillow fight with your kids?
Finally, don’t forget to stretch! Don’t know where to start? Try something short and simple like this five-minute “at-work” video from Fitness Blender or one of the dusty DVDs that, if you’re like me, is floating around your house somewhere.
Laugh and Share the Joy
You probably know the saying about laughter being the best medicine. Well, research suggests that laughter really is good for us. Have only a few minutes? Try a quick video from Dry Bar Comedy (which is considered a “clean comedy” channel but is definitely aimed at adults). Or, incorporate Spanish jokes into your lessons.
In a future post, we’ll talk about mixing up lessons and instruction for students. After all, if we’re restless, our kids probably are, too. In the meantime, download your free de-stress reminder page and shake off some of that excess stress–a few minutes at a time.