5 Steps to Help You Switch Off Your Teacher Brain
As a teacher, your mind is like your very own snow globe; flurrying around endlessly with ideas, worries and concerns. Now, thinking is obviously a valuable activity and is certainly worthy of our time. Yet, sometimes, it can become all-consuming and drain us of energy.
You may find that you struggle to go to sleep at night because your teacher brain is still in fifth gear, refusing to slow. You may be overridden with thoughts about how your lesson may go tomorrow, worrying about how you are going to find the time to do everything on your to-do list or fretting about the student who disclosed a safeguarding issue to you earlier today.
And even when you fall asleep, you find yourself dreaming about school! I once had a nightmare about having to teach clowns at school and I woke up more stressed than I’d gone to sleep!
You may then find yourself thinking about school in the shower, during breakfast and on your commute. The reality is, you may have already done a day’s worth of thinking about school before you have even reached the school gates.
And the result?
You feel exhausted, overwhelmed and already decision-fatigued. All of this adds up to another trying day at school as you navigate your way through the obstacles you may face.
To counter this, here are four steps that will help you to slow down your teacher brain and empower you to choose when to switch off from school.
1) Give yourself permission to switch off
This first step can often be the hardest one (great place to start, I know!) The reason for this is because culturally, teachers are not encouraged to switch off. It is seen as admirable to be switched on all the time and thinking and doing stuff related to school. It gives the impression that you are a dedicated, hard working teacher who has the interests of their students at the forefront of their minds, always.
When in actual fact, if you give yourself permission to switch off from teaching, this enables you to rest and recuperate. This is brilliant because it means you come back to teaching each day refreshed and ready to give your best. Your students benefit if you stop thinking about them once in a while.
2. Train your mind to slow
Imagine your teacher brain is a super cute, enthusiastic puppy that is easily distracted and excitedly chases after anything it sees. A thought crosses your mind and your puppy brain is off after it, chasing and tugging at the thought with its teeth, refusing to let go.
These are the moments when you need to train your teacher puppy brain to slow down. You are responsibility for your quality of thinking and so it is up to you which thoughts you allow your teacher puppy brain to pursue. With this, be aware of the thoughts that have your puppy brain tugging at the lead: are they worries about a particular situation? Are they concerns for a student? Whatever they are, your brain can’t identify between reality and imagination, which is why when you think about a stressful situation, you begin to experience stress within your body. Consequently, training your mind to slow is incredibly important in order to reduce your feelings of stress.
A tool that will help you to train your brain is mindfulness. I thoroughly recommend the One Moment Meditation (OMM) app for giving you short opportunities to train your mind to slow down. You can find it here.
3. Make a note
When a thought crosses your mind and you don’t want to pursue it, give it somewhere safe to stay. Keeping a journal or notepad with you at all times (including when you go to bed!) helps to keep these thoughts safe, giving you permission to let go of them in the moment.
4. Notice your triggers
There will be certain situations, people or activities that will trigger your teacher brain to run away into overdrive. Take time to notice what these are and ways that you can manage your triggers more effectively. You could do this through preparation, avoidance or even mindfulness. For instance, I knew that contacting parents was a trigger for me when I was a teacher. So, I would make sure I had a quiet space, had prepared what I wanted to say and encouraged myself to be open to the response I would receive. Although this wasn’t a trigger I could avoid, it empowered me to manage it in a way that reduced its impact on me.
Another thing that can help you with this is journaling. Journaling is an amazing resource that can help you to identify your triggers and find coping strategies.
By following these four steps, you can take yourself from overwhelmed to present. happy and in control. You are in charge of your thinking; it is up to you to take hold of the reins.
Let me know how you get on with these four steps to quietening your teacher brain. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed and unable to switch off from teaching, feel free to reach out and let’s chat.
Gemma Drinkall helps women in education to create clear boundaries so that they can love teaching again. Receive your free 6 Tips To Overcome Overwhelm resource here: subscribepage.com/overcome-teacher-overwhelm