The summer holidays have finally arrived! It’s been a long year (straight off the back of a very long year) and its time for a nice, well-deserved break. It’s easy to slip into a six-week sleeping and Netflix binge, which is a tempting way to switch off and unwind, but is it the best way to take care of yourself? Spend the summer rebuilding after that burnout with a few simple self-care strategies:
Don’t sweat the small stuff, just sweat!
Exercise is a great way to release stress and get the feel-good juices flowing again. Now you’re not up to your neck in marking, spending half an hour a day exercising could be just what you need to feel yourself again. The treadmill isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it doesn’t have to be yours either. Find an activity that gets a sweat on but that you enjoy – what about rock climbing, walking in the countryside, clubercise or even hula-hooping? Let’s face it, it just feels like another job on the to-do list if it’s not fun.
Cut the caffeine
Take a break from the coffee and energy drinks. They might have kept you going throughout the year, but strictly speaking they’re not the best thing for you. Cutting out caffeine can reduce anxiety and calm your nerves. The summer holidays are the perfect time to implement better, healthier habits into your day-to-day that you can take with you into September. Failing that, there’s always decaff.
Stop with the screens already
Last year would have been screen-overload with online learning being at the forefront of education. This year – not so much, but we still spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the laptop inputting data and popping those commendations onto the parent portal. Stop scrolling for a second, stretch your back and get up and go do something. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes to your mood.
One hour of whatever you want
Do something you love for an hour every day. What do you wish you had more time to do? Reading, baking, singing or something else – it’s your time to do whatever you please. We often use the excuse of ‘I’ll do that when things are easier’ or ‘When things calm down then I’ll do it.’ Don’t wait! Seize the moment now when the sun is shining and you’re not in work.
Sure, haven’t we all been cooped up for far too long? With restrictions easing and more places to go opening their doors again, take the opportunity to stretch your legs and explore somewhere new. Take a walk in the woods with a friend (who preferably has a cute dog), find wellbeing activities that have classes outdoors like yoga or meditation. Or just pull that old lounger out of the shed, dust off the cobwebs and stretch out in the sun with a good book.
Out of office means out of office
Ditch the emails from your phone until the week before you’re due to go back. You’re not at work, you’re on annual leave. Disable the notifications, delete the app if necessary. It can wait. Period.
Spend time with friends and family
Who? Oh yeah, those people you don’t work with. Whether it’s planning a getaway or just popping round for a cuppa, fill your diary with hanging out with the people you love. Get out of your comfort zone and go on an adventure with them. Try something new together and make some memories! Go ziplining, pottery painting or clay-pigeon shooting – or try one of those rage rooms everyone keeps talking about…
On the other hand, if you’re not feeling very sociable (which you’re entitled to feel) perhaps it’s time to just sit still. Teachers are always on the go and there’s minimal opportunities to take a moment to breathe. Meditation is a great way to relieve stress and be present. A bit of peace and quiet can go a long way.
If you’re a parent or carer, these top tips for staying positive this summer may be useful too!
You may have fallen into the habit of grabbing a quick carton of cheesy pasta and those incredible cakes you only find in a college canteen at lunchtime, or not eating at all and just surviving off a flat white and a Belvita. There’s only one thing for it over summer, and that’s fruit and veggies my friend.
Avoid negativity (and talking shop)
It can be an all-consuming role, and you’ll find yourself talking about the stresses and strains of work life on a regular basis. There’s nothing wrong with hashing it out, it can even be a good thing to get it off your chest. However, if you find yourself in a pattern of always talking negatively about work, or listening to someone who’s negative, take a step back. You don’t need that draining energy when you’re trying to recuperate and feel positive about returning to the classroom. Change the subject and find something to laugh about. Nothing beats a real belly-laugh.
Set boundaries for September
No one wants to hear the dreaded ‘S’ word over the holidays, but it’s important to reflect on what didn’t work for you last year, and what needs to change come the start of a new term. Write a list of boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself and your time. Make boundaries that work for you, that are achievable, and you can set for yourself, so you don’t fall into old routines and bad habits again.
Plan in advance
It’s a nice idea that you won’t think about lecturing until the start of term, but it’s unlikely. You care about your job, and your students. Instead of worrying about it throughout the holidays, plan when you’re going to set aside time to get yourself ready. Figure out what you need to do to be prepared and stick to the plan.
Whatever you get up to this summer, let it be a good one that leaves you feeling refreshed and revived, rather than resembling a permanently exhausted owl.
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About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.