Imbalancing Your Life during the Holidays

The need for balance in your teaching responsibilities, personal life, and other family events in the holiday season is coming up fast! Since time “in” school (actually at the workplace) is obligatory, what we’re really talking about is how we deal with all of the rest of the time “outside” of school. 

Over the next couple of months, you’ll be immersed in the “extra” things that make this time of year both memorable and…well…horribly stressful.  Between family, kids, kids’ events, and significant others’ events, we often overextend ourselves in order to avoid confrontation or hurting anyone’s feelings.

I won’t pretend I have a magic method to deal with all of this, but I do have to confess: I enjoy myself during the holidays. In fact, I MAKE SURE I do because then I can come back to my students renewed, refreshed, and ready-to-go.

What’s the secret to balancing all of these aspects of your life?
                                             Knowing that it’s not a balance.

Things aren’t even. Everything isn’t equally weighed.  For example, I made my personal fun and my family’s fun the priority.  We tipped the scales, and I made sure that things that restored me, personally, took the ultimate priority. 

We struggle with that concept, though, putting ourselves first, particularly over the holidays. But I’m sure you’ve noticed how rejuvenating even one afternoon or one evening for yourself can be. And when YOU are feeling restored and relaxed, you can more meaningfully deal with others.

One strategy that can help you out is to use a version of Covey’s Matrix as a decision-making tool. Our focus, here, is for you to be able to prioritize yourself. Instead of Urgent and Important, we’ll think in terms of Personally Restorative things that bring us back to well-being) and Fulfilling (things that make us feel happy and satisfied).

What this matrix helps us do is deal with things that are in more of a “grey” area. 

For example, if someone you love is in the hospital, you’ll obviously prioritize that situation. Though that situation is stressful, it’s a different kind of stress. One that is more concrete. The stress of other situations, those “iffy” events, are the ones that can really drain us.


Another strategy is practice effectively saying “No.” You’re going to have to practice saying this, probably, in front of the mirror. You’re going to practice saying, “No, I can’t [do whatever] because [I’ve set that time aside to__].” Give it go, right now! 

What you’re NOT going to say is:

                “I’d love to, but….”
                I’m sorry, I can’t….”

You’ll want to take those apologetic cushions out of your “no-ing.” Not because you aren’t sorry you can’t do whatever (maybe you are, probably, you’re not), but what that apology does is create a gap that a manipulative person can use to get you to change your mind. 

Plus, know that you do NOT have to do everything that is asked of you. It is okay to say, “No.” It is okay to say, “Not now, but (next week, tomorrow, etc.)…” 

I know it might feel counter-intuitive; it might feel too selfish. And you can continue to exhaust yourself year after year, trying to be all things Martha Stewart and Gandhi to all people. But at the end of the day, if you do not feel happy and at peace, then what is the quality of what have given them?

Consider how much more effectively you might be able to do for others, if you put yourself, first. 

Let the holidays begin!


Guest Blog Post: Working through Panic Attacks and Stress in the Classroom

Randi Tolentino (@mizanoa on Twitter)

Randi is the PD coordinator and Technology Trainer in her district. First in her family to graduate from college, she went into teaching ten years after graduating after working in the corporate sector. She is a busy lady with three sons andhas coached JV and Varsity softball. Like most teachers, she has a hard time saying no! Hi, Stress. My name is Randi.

What my schooling didn't prepare me for was how to handle all the anxiety of the school environment I was in. During my first semester, I developed health issues and was put on several medications (including one for depression and one for anxiety).

I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, and couldn't even enjoy a surprise family vacation to a beach over fall break because of the intense panic attacks I suffered.

I truly believe had I been in a different school, or larger district, my first year may have been more positive; however, I wouldn't trade my experiences, since they have helped shape the educator I am today.

And, more importantly, our classes wouldn't have reached the level of trust we did.

I was having multiple panic attacks a day, and it wasn't until the most severe of the attacks (and several doctor visits later) that I had my realization.

Some of my students must feel exactly the same way. Being expected to learn about the Civil War when they don't have a place to sleep, haven't eaten in a week, have to work at night to support their siblings-- these were just some of the numerous situations that they were experiencing.

It was at that time I realized I needed to find ways within the relationships of my students to work with them to find ways to help them be successful, without compromising the high expectations I had for them.

Gaining the trust of the kids I worked with was not an easy thing to do-- many of them had come to rely on people leaving them and not caring, so it took them a long time for them to believe that I did care and would not leave. Once that trust was established, and they knew they were safe in my room, they were able to tell me some of the heartbreaking stories that were their lives.

At that point, we were able to adjust due dates when necessary, rework assignments to meet the various learning styles (without them realizing that was what we were doing), and whatever else I could do to help them find success.

Once they truly believed I was on their side, they were willing to work hard for me (and themselves).

On those days when the panic would take over, I would feel overwhelmed and like I wasn't going to make it.  I was able to tell my kids it was a rough day, and through our mutual respect for and trust of each other, they understood, and would take themselves down a notch -- but it took us quite awhile to get to that point.

Up until then, I was a basket case-- crying every night and jittery every day due to my nerves. Those kids have a permanent place in my heart and reaffirmed the reason I went into education in the first place. Those kids are the reason I advocate for meeting kids where they are, while still holding them to high standards. Those kids are the ones who need to know someone cares because all their lives they have been told that no one does.