By Alison Chiang
2020 has been a tough year for everyone around. The shift to online teaching is particularly challenging for musicians, and both teachers and students have had to adjust to new challenges as we navigate this new norm.
While working from home does have its advantages (family time, no need for traveling, more comfortable), these same advantages also cause added stress to your workload. Who wants their children barging in, or crying for a cookie during your teaching hour? Or feeling the confines of your home closing in and wishing to drive somewhere quiet for work? Or becoming lethargic and aimless as we start wearing pajamas all day long?
The added stress of navigating both the workplace and the home on top of the changes wreaked by COVID are red flags for exhaustion and burnout for teachers. Teachers actually spend more time teaching due to the virtual environment, as lessons now require additional follow-up emails and finding new, fun events for their students to participate in virtually. Here are 8 tips for teachers to help manage their stress and to avoid burnout from mental and physical exhaustion.
Losing sleep is commonly caused by stress on both the mind and body. Even if your workload piles up and you are tempted to dig into it after teaching hours, always maintain a disciplined sleep schedule. Lack of sleep causes a domino effect, such as lack of attention, short temper, and physical body pains. We tend to counteract lack of sleep with increased caffeine, which causes burnout at the end of the day. If you cannot sleep even when tired, try a pre-sleep routine to calm your mind and remove distractions from the bedroom.
2. Eat well and stay hydrated
Ever eat your feelings? It does help manage stress as long as your diet is healthy and balanced. Eating good food give anyone a boost of energy and happiness. Spending time in the kitchen also serves as a getaway from work, and even simple things like cutting vegetables can be a soothing stress reliever! If you do not have time to cook, order a nice takeout for yourself to enjoy as a reward for your hard work.
3. Cut down on technology after work
Especially in this day and age, we are often on our screens 24/7. Avoid putting your phone by your bedside or bringing your computer into the bedroom. The bright light prevents our minds from relaxing, is an added temptation that we tend to always lose, is unhealthy for the eyes, and can cause negative health effects in the future.
Instead, unwind with a book, add in some exercise, or destress with meditation techniques.
4. Learn to say no
The merging of the workplace with the home psychologically pressures us to be productive at all times. Allowing our students to message or email us also creates added pressure to respond and stay in contact throughout the week. Learn to put aside your emails or messages until after teaching, or between breaks in teaching. Also avoid taking on more than you can handle, such as other projects whether music-related or not. Tonara Studio is an amazing tool to help organize our studio and keep materials all in one place, but it also gives your students incentive to send you their practice recordings every day! Learn to prioritize the necessary, the important, and the time-sensitive things so that you can maintain control over your work and life.
5. Learn how you manage your stress
Everyone becomes stressed in this time of life. Learn how YOU manage stress so you can find ways to better manage it. Everyone has a different reaction to stress and knowing yours will allow you to prevent problems from arising or manage them when they do. If you manage stress in an unhealthy way, the New Year is a perfect time to create some goals and resolutions to discipline and improve your life. Think of yourself as your own student: what advice would you give a student like yourself to help them manage their time?
6. Have a day for yourself
We are not machines and need a day to unwind. Give yourself a day where you avoid teaching (or teach very little), can sleep without worry, and can catch up on the miscellaneous things that pile up in life (like laundry). Having an empty day also allows you room for rescheduling lessons during the week if any emergencies arise.
Make sure to sleep well before and after your rest day to maintain a healthy and balanced mindset for the upcoming week.
7. Maintain clear goals for yourself and for your students
Teach with a purpose, as they say. By maintain goals for your students, it provides them inspiration for the hard work. By maintaining or creating goals for yourself, you also provide inspiration for your teaching, your studio growth, and your musical career. It will provide you energy to get through the day or to get out of bed and work!
8. Constantly look for ways to create fun for both you and your students
We all need fun, especially these days when we are isolated from our friends and family. Creating group events on Tonara Studio, group games, group challenges, and other such social interactions provide a fun inspiration for your students. Creating events also provides an additional purpose for you and your studio growth.
The New Year is a perfect opportunity to discipline and re-strategize to avoid exhaustion and burnout throughout the year. While this is a common result of long and hard work, going through these steps will help you manage and improve your work and lifestyle.
If you'd like to learn more about how to avoid stress and burnout, check out Lesly Moffat's book