5 ways to handle first year teacher stress

As a first year teacher you may feel like you have no time for anything but lesson planning and grading, but if you limit your life to school and only school your health will suffer and so will your work.

You cannot serve your students or colleagues if you are physically or mentally exhausted. In order to take good care of others, you must learn how to take care of yourself. Here are 5 ways to handle first year teacher stress:

1. Sleep

Sleep well, be well to prevent first year teacher stress

Sleep may not be very high on your to-do list, but it should be. Without sleep you won’t be able to think as clearly and even put yourself and others in danger when you are behind the wheel. There are countless resources out there with lists of how lack of sleep negatively impacts a person, but I like WebMD’s list.

If you’re like me, the more stressed you are, the harder it is to sleep, especially when your to-do list is buzzing around in your brain. A while back a massage therapist actually recommended Melatonin Gummies to me and I found they actually work. It’s not like taking a sleep medication, but the melatonin relaxes the mind and body allowing you to go to sleep more easily. Here’s more information about how melatonin works to help you sleep if you’re interested. I keep Melatonin Gummies in my medicine cabinet at all times.

2. Exercise

woman exercising to prevent first year teacher stress

Exercise may be the last method you think of to handle your first year teacher stress because you’re already so tired after a full day of teaching, but exercise can actually increase your energy.

The Mayo Clinic has a great resource on 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Getting regular, moderate exercise (think biking, walking, swimming) can improve your mood, your body’s ability to fight of germs that spread sickness (of which you’ll be exposed to in large quantities at school), and even help you with tip #1, sleep.

You can even get exercise at school. I like to grade a few essays, then take a lap or two around the building. Then I’ll grade a few more essays and repeat. Wearing a fitbit (I wear this one) or smart watch can really help you make sure that you’re not staying sedentary for too long.

3. Eat well

eat well to prevent first year teacher stress

You might find the fast food drive through very appealing on your way home from school. Don’t put on your blinker unless you’re getting a salad or a yogurt parfait. One of my colleagues gained ten pounds her first year because she drowned her new teacher stress in McDonald’s french fries.

You will feel better, sleep better, and get sick less frequently if your nourish your body with plenty of healthy foods. Eating healthy has even shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. That means eating healthy at school and at home. Check out my post on snacks for ideas to keep you going throughout the day that won’t damage your body with unnecessary fats and additives.

Make sure to stock your fridge and freezer with healthy foods that you enjoy so you don’t come home to an empty refrigerator leading you to reach for the phone to order Chinese takeout. Eating healthy takes some forethought, especially if you are a young first year teacher.

Need more convincing? Check out the Medical News Daily site on the benefits of eating healthy.

4. Meditate or do yoga

Meditation and yoga are scientifically proven to reduce stress levels and improve physical and mental health, but so few of us practice either one.

As a mom of two trying to follow rules 1-3 (sleep, exercise, and eat well), time to meditate or do yoga is pretty much impossible to find. Then I realized that I’m not the only one who needs it. My students do too.

Four years ago I started incorporating Zen Time into my classes’ daily procedure. At the beginning of the year, I teach my students basic meditation and yoga techniques (as well as other relaxation techniques). After we’ve practiced together, they get 10 minutes at the beginning of class to practice one of these techniques and I do it with them. They love it and fuss if we have to skip Zen time for some reason. Plus I get the benefit of it as well. Win-Win!

5. Talk

talking to relieve first year teacher stress

It is important to have someone to talk to about the stresses in your life and your job. That might be another first year teacher, a mentor teacher, a friend, or a spouse. You need to have someone you can share your trials and your triumphs with.

Check out this article by Psychology Today about how talking can help relieve your stress.

Whatever you do, don’t forget about your own physical and mental health as a stressed first year teacher.

The first year is the hardest and you WILL get through it! Come back here for more support. Subscribe to get the twice weekly posts sent directly to your email.

If you found this helpful, make sure to pinpost, and tweet to share it with other new teachers who might also benefit from it!

A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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