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Top Ten Stress Management Tips For Teachers

By: Dr. Nicole Wozniak, PsyD.

It used to be that every year, August to June, people knew what to expect.  In August, parents took their children shopping for new school supplies, while teachers began organizing classrooms and lesson planning.  Fresh faced students showed up to class on the first day of school ready to tackle a new year, and their trusted teachers were there to greet them with bright smiles.  This year it all feels different. Teachers across the country greeted classrooms over the computer.  Kids began struggling with managing internet distractions and learning from their bedrooms.  It all felt surreal. 

Change is hard, it’s stressful.  Unfortunately, nobody is feeling that stress more than our educators.  If you are a teacher or educator who is feeling overwhelmed and confused, struggling to cope with the demands and difficulties of educating in the time of COVID-19, these 10 tips are for you.

1. Practice mindfulness.  Take each moment as it comes and try to stay there.  Focus on only what you are dealing with in the moment.

  • If you are worried about the next hour or class, try to refocus your thinking into your present class or task.

  • Some days you make need to focus on just 15 minutes at a time.  Ask yourself, “Can I make it the next hour?”  If the answer is no, try, “Can I make it through the next 30 minutes,” etc. until you feel more in control of yourself. 

2. Try to spend a few minutes each day being mindful in the moment.  If your attention wanders during the activity, just bring it back.  Some suggestions:

  • Take a mindful walk focusing on your environment with all five senses.

  • Practice mindful eating during breakfast or lunch.  Focus on your food and the taste/sensations.  Chew each bite slowly.

  • Take a mindful shower.  Smell the shampoo, feel the water, and focus on sensations rather than thinking of what you need to do after the shower.

3. Make a list of the stressors you are currently experiencing and then separate them into two categories.

  • Things I can control and things I cannot control

    • Let go of the things you cannot control, i.e. whether school is online or virtual, students’ internet/computer problems, the weather, etc. 

    • Focus on the things within your control, i.e. your mindset, your reactions, your responses, caring for yourself, organizing your class structure, etc.

4. Redirect anxious energy during your workday.

  • Keep a stress ball handy to squeeze as you teach virtually.

  • Bounce on an exercise ball during breaks or while teaching.

  • If in-person, use time between classes to move your body and redirect nervous/negative energy.

5. Make time each day/week to disconnect from media and focus on yourself.  Social media has many great benefits, but it can also be very overwhelming when you do not allow yourself an escape from it.

  • Avoid engaging in arguments on the internet.

  • If you find yourself feeling triggered by comments from other teachers or administrators, take a break or unfollow those people.

6. Practice radical acceptance. Accept that you will be doing less than perfect for a little while. 

  • Add the statement, “and that’s okay,” to your self-judgments.

    • “I had several students stop paying attention online today…and that’s okay.”

      1. “I forgot to post today’s assignment ahead of time…and that’s okay.”

      2. It might not be your best year of teaching…and that’s okay!

  • Accept that you might feel like you are failing in your role as a mother, father, coach, teacher, etc., but acknowledge it’s just a feeling. You are doing the best you can, and that is far from failing.

7. Make time to practice self-care.  Even if you feel like you have no extra time available, make time.  Take an extra long bath.  Go for a walk.  Take a break from the computer. 

  • Avoid coping with substances, such as drugs or alcohol.

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep whenever possible.

  • Maintain a diet that is balanced and avoid foods that make you over emotional.  Fuel your body.

  • Take care of physical illness.  Your students, and your family, will appreciate you so much more if you are rested and ready to work than fighting through feeling ill to teach or care for family.

  • Strive for 20-30 minutes of exercise each day (walking, biking, online workouts…just get your heart pumping briefly!)

8. Rely on your support systems. Ask your family or significant other for help when you are feeling overwhelmed.  Allow people to help with things outside of work (i.e. taking care of kids, household tasks, etc.).  If you do not have a strong support system, seek help with a counselor or psychologist who can help you work through stress.

9. Allow yourself to say no. We all hate this one, but it truly is okay to say no, especially if you are running out of emotional bandwidth.  Set boundaries at work, i.e. “I will not answer emails after 9:00 p.m.” Express yourself assertively if you feel that you have too much on your plate.

10. Remember that negative experiences and emotions are temporary.  When you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath from your diaphragm, and release it slowly through your mouth as if you are blowing out a birthday candle.  Repeat in your head, “This too shall pass,” or another comforting mantra.


Remember that our psychologists at McCaskill Family Services are here for you through this difficult time.  Do not hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment.  Please call (734) 416-9098 or email to get started.