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The Reset Button Every Educator Should Prioritize

The Reset Button Every Educator Should Prioritize

 Immense empathy, immeasurable patience, unexpected flexibility, intentional creativity, immediate composure, and consistent energy—when such all-encompassing physical and emotional demands define the daily lives of educators, it’s obvious why they experience high levels of stress.

Many, unknowingly, are trying to effectively and meaningfully teach while their bodies are in “the red zone," or with an activated sympathetic nervous system. It’s no wonder they leave each day feeling completely drained—if their body is in survival mode, trying to fulfill those daily demands will certainly deplete them.

Our sympathetic nervous systems energize us in moments of danger by putting our bodies’ functions on high alert (rushing adrenaline, increasing heart rate, etc.). It’s our “fight or flight” state; it’s not conducive to teaching.

So what starts to happen when teachers try to do their job with a dysregulated nervous system? They might react without thinking, judge without clarifying, oppose without conversation, yell without warning—all of which happen at school and home. Their tolerance of stressful situations is lower. Students' comments and misbehaviors feel more aggravating. They lose steam to meaningfully communicate with their classes or coworkers. They feel annoyed for no particular reason. We’ve all been there. Think about it—your nervous system determines your thoughts, actions, and feelings—so, basically all of your human experiences. If a teacher’s nervous system is dysregulated, then of course they are reacting this way.

This awareness should be a nonegotiable for educators. Why? Because they are responsible for the students in front of them. Think about it—students feels safe when their teachers feel safe. Students feel inspired when their teachers feel inspired. Students feel happy when their teachers feel happy. Students are taken care of when their teachers are taken care of. Our future depends on our students. And our students depend on our teachers. If our teachers are constantly in a state of fight or flight, they will never be able to be the teachers they want to be, or the teachers their students deserve. 

The good news is that we can instantly (yes, instantly) shift our mental and emotional state by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), so that we can feel calm, grounded, and peaceful. How? Our breath. Yep—that’s it. This natural reset button is available anytime, anywhere. Your well-being depends on effectively regulating your nervous system, so it’s immensely important to consistently practice this, and summer break is the perfect time to start.

By practicing deep breathing techniques in the summer, you are building mind-body awareness. Your mind will start to identify the moments you are physically feeling dysregulated. It will become instinctual to react to these moments by breathing. This is key for preparing for those stressful moments that inevitably occur in the school year.

So, this summer, hit the reset button as often as you need to—give your body a chance to rest and repair and you will be ready to take on any stressors the upcoming school year throws at you. This is truly the first step to tackling teacher burnout. 

You deserve this! 

 

WHOLE TEACHER TOOLBOXAnswer this motivational question and implement these opportunities to grow your Whole Teacher toolbox. 

Motivational Question:

How do you know when your nervous system is dysregulated (consider your thoughts, emotions, and actions)? Are your reactions different in the classroom compared to at home?

Opportunities to Try:

    1. Building awareness is key to starting a consistent breathing practice. During the summer, when you have a bit more clarity and “space” to breathe, start to recognize what moments send you into overdrive. You might start to see some similarities—maybe it’s loud moments or moments where procrastination is winning. Maybe it’s moments when your to-do list feels too overwhelming or your confidence feels low. Start to consider which of these moments are also appearing during the school year.
    2. Once you can quickly identify the moments you start to feel dysregulated, practice breathing immediately. Particularly if you are a parent, quiet moments are not always going to appear during the summer (and they will definitely not always appear during the school year). So, even with chaos around you, practice closing your eyes, inhaling calmly through the nose expanding your belly, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
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