Updated: Nov 27, 2017
Simply doing these two things will help you relax and actually enjoy your time off. (Yes, even you, my fellow Type A personalities.)
It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I have difficulty relaxing. I am high energy and I thrive when I am creating and feeling productive. I'm going to venture to say that I'm not alone here. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that *most* educators are this way to a certain extent.
True, we all got into this profession for varying reasons, but I stand by the statement that most teachers are energized by connecting with students and colleagues. Teachers who aren't people-people do exist in the world, and, frankly, they baffle me.
I am fulfilled when I know that I have made a difference for someone else.
Teaching, counseling, coaching, working with kids - it is all difference-making. It is also EXHAUSTING.
Over my 10+ years of teaching I have developed many tricks, strategies, and routines to manage the stress and stay productive during the school year. I am able to stay on top of grading, keep up with my lesson plans, and fulfill the other professional obligations I have without stressing out and losing my mind over how little time there is in a day. Note I said developed, as in over many years, as in lots of trial and error…
The structure of school is just that - structured - and adding more rigidity on top of the existing structure through systems and routines can be a bit suffocating. For many years, when it would come time for a school break, I would go the polar opposite of how my life was when school was in session. I would stay in my sweats all day long, eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and take each day as it came.
While liberating, this means of “relaxation” was not at all relaxing for a do-er like me. My house was a mess (lying around in sweats isn’t really a motivator to clean), I was a mess (nor are sweats a motivator to shower), and I normally didn’t feel too hot after eating whatever I wanted for days on end (although delicious, Red Vines aren’t really a well-rounded dinner).
Basically, when I stopped completely like that for days on end, EVERYTHING STOPPED. Plus, when it came time to go back to work again, the transition back to rigidity and routine was always a painful one. On the complete flip-side of that, I have had the breaks where I try to get ALL of the things done I’ve wanted to do, but didn’t have the time and/or energy while school was in session. I don’t think I need to explain how those breaks left me feeling like a needed a break from my break…
So, if doing nothing was actually stressing me out, and doing too much was just further exhausting me, how was I going to find a way to actually enjoy my time off from work??
I’m just so glad you asked. (Or was that me who asked? No matter…)
You know that moment when you realize something that was right in front of you all along, and you can’t believe you didn’t see it even though everyone and their mom was telling you about it AND you aren’t dumb a a box of rocks? How do you feel? Dumb as a box of rocks, I know…
The two secrets I’m about to share with you aren’t really secrets at all - they are just ways of living that many successful people have realized and live by and have plastered all over Pinterest. They are so simple and obvious that you’ll likely read them and say “I know, I know…” and that’s the beauty of it. Just actually do them and you’ll have a whole new lease on your life during breaks.
SECRET #1 Maintain a Routine/Schedule Each Day
It’s that simple. You already have a routine for yourself each day, you wouldn’t make it out the door in the morning and be on time for school without one.
I’m not saying that you have to wake up at 5:00 each morning and complete your whole morning routine like you would on a school day, but go through the same motions. Maybe you decide to get up a bit later each day you have off (must be nice - I have two creatures who serve as human alarm clocks regardless of the day), but be intentional about your morning routine nonetheless. If you usually get up and work out, do that. Nobody says you have to put on a full face of makeup on a day off, but maybe brush your teeth and put on pants.
On any day off from school (weekends included) I get up on the early side, have my coffee like normal, and go through my normal morning activities. This is my time to work out and get ready before my kids wake up, so I make sure to do just that. And let me tell you, I really feel the difference on the days when I don’t go through my normal morning - I’m scattered and everything just feels a little hectic.
While I know the morning is the most important part of maintaining routine for my life, there are other parts that help, too. Making sure I pick up around the house every so often helps it all stay manageable. (People I know who stay home with their kids or work from home look at me like I have two heads when I say something like this because it is so painfully obvious to them. I work outside my home, though, so my normal is coming home to a house that’s been empty all day long, and there is a big difference when we are home all. day. long. Let’s just say the house feels and looks a lot more “lived in” on these days.)
SECRET #2 Meal Plan
This one I still find myself being resistant to sometimes. I spend all day every day making and then executing plans, both at home and in my classroom, so why would I want to spend my time off making and executing more plans?!?!
Well, lemme tell you why. Because it takes the guess work out of it. When you’re in the middle of an amazing Netflix binge, do you want to stop to figure out what to make for dinner and then make it? No, no you don’t.
When you’re finally finding the time to work on that teacher blog you’ve been dreaming up in your head, do you want to put it all on hold to make yourself some lunch? Don’t forget the kitchen clean-up and dishes you’ll have to take care of after!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have nice, healthy meals and snacks planned and prepared so that you can spend your precious time off in other ways??? Yes, yes it would.
Our meal plans are normally a lot looser during breaks, and we don’t always prep breakfasts the way we normally do, but we also don’t abandon it altogether. And I’d be lying if I said we don’t plan in more take-out/restaurant meals...
To be honest, I think both of these “SECRETS” come with just growing up and being a real adult, and many people out there will tell you that these are in fact just common sense. If you’re anything like me, though, and have been living on a school schedule since you were first put in preschool, self-regulating time off isn’t so easy or obvious.
Now that I am intentional and purposeful with my time off, though, I find it incredibly enjoyable and even (dare I say?) relaxing.
What tricks and tips do you have to share for enjoying time off? Please share in the comments below so we can help each other work smarter, not harder!