Keep Calm and Teach Art: 12 Ways to Keep Your Sanity

make today count watercolor

Exciting news, art teachers! You have almost made it through another year of teaching art. This year was challenging, but here you are, celebrating all of the wonderful things that have happened in your art room this year. Go ahead, take a moment, and think about everything you faced. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and appreciate where you are right now because you still have the homestretch ahead of you. As the end of the school year approaches, you may need a bag of tricks to remain calm and keep your sanity.

Keep reading to explore 12 ways to keep your sanity until summer vacation starts.

make today count watercolor

1. Start your day with a positive morning routine.

As the year progresses, you may find yourself hitting the snooze button more and more. Let’s face it. Art teachers lead a busy life! By springtime, you are tired. Instead of sneaking in a few more minutes of sleep, try setting your intentions for the day, and kick-start your morning with a refreshing routine.

Take a look at this article for ways your morning routine can help you get a strong start in the art room. Some ideas include hydrating as soon as you wake up and preparing for tasks the night before to save time in the morning. You will find even more benefits to a morning routine in this podcast episode with Dr. Rachel Hallquist, one of AOEU’s adjunct instructors. Dr. Hallquist is passionate about teacher well-being, and you can find all of her tips in her book, Mega Morning Routine: The secret self-care morning routine for busy teachers.

2. Take a minute for peaceful meditation.

You may feel like you are being pulled in too many directions. You are on your feet all day making tons of split-second decisions. Your mind may have an ongoing to-do list and be filled with thoughts. Try taking a minute or more for quiet meditation to calm down mentally. How can you find time for meditation in your art room? It can take many forms, but the common thread is it is an intentional time for mental focus.

Here are some ideas you can try during your day:

  • Do deep breathing exercises, like the 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath.
  • Zentangle at the end of your lunch break.
  • Listen to music during your prep period.
  • Sit in your art room with your eyes closed and the lights out.
  • Use a guided meditation from an app like Headspace or Calm.

super happy shirt

3. Try a mindfulness activity.

Sarah Krajewski defined mindfulness in her article, 5 Simple Mindful Activities Perfect for the Art Room. In her words, “mindfulness means to focus intentionally.” Meditation and mindfulness go hand-in-hand because they both encourage you to slow down. Mindfulness helps you to be more present in your daily activities. It is an appreciation for how your senses experience the world.

Being mindful can extend beyond the art room and take place in your everyday life. Grounding exercises, such as clenching and releasing your fists, dynamic stretching, or bringing your attention to how your body feels through a body scan, can help you to relax for a few moments when you need it most.

4. Daydream.

Exercising your imagination is a great tool to strengthen your creativity. Daydreaming also has its benefits when reaching for those feel-good feelings during a rough day in the art room. The good news is daydreaming can be done at any time and is free! You can envision yourself in your favorite place to lift your spirits and your energy levels.

5. Compile a “feel-good” folder.

Over your career as an art teacher, you are sure to receive positive notes, letters, cards, or handmade artwork. Your students love having a class with you, and they want to share that with a heartfelt token of appreciation. Consider keeping some of those pieces in a folder or a box inside your desk drawer or coat closet. When you are having a tough moment, pull out those warm sentiments from your students and think about how wonderful they make you feel.

handwritten note

6. Make time to create.

Nourish your creative soul, my dear art teacher. Taking care of yourself through creating is a great way to detox from the day, week, or any stressful situation. Jennie Drummond talks about making art with your students during the day in her article, Why Is It Important to Prioritize Yourself During the School Day? Not only can it be beneficial for you to take that time, but it can also show your students you are passionate about what you teach.

7. Journal.

Journaling visually or with writing is a great way to externalize all of the stress you may be carrying around with you. You can make it into a project and include it in your art lessons or keep this one all to yourself. Making a visual journal can be a fun way to relax and create. The important part is to get started.

superhero drawing prompt

8. Take your classes outside to make art.

While the art room can be a wonderful place, the outdoors can be a literal breath of fresh air and inspiration too. Sometimes a change of pace and scenery is enough to motivate even the most reluctant learners (and teachers!)

Check out these resources:

9. Soothe your soul.

When you need your spirits lifted, there are many ways to soothe your soul. Whatever your preferred method of entertainment, we have plenty of ideas to fuel your passion as you rest and recharge.

Here are some recommendations from the archives:

10. Sign up for a studio class.

AOEU has a variety of studio classes to help you grow your skill repertoire as an art teacher. The bonus is you get to make art too! When I took my Studio: Drawing class a few years ago, I was in heaven. Drawing has always been one of my favorite things to do. To have designated time to draw and create for me felt so good.

line drawing techniques resource and sketchbook

11. Take a Day Off

Each year, art teachers have leave time built into their contract. Whether you decide to take a mental health day or reserve something special for a personal day, taking a day off can give you time for some much-needed relaxation. There are some benefits of using your contracted days off. Curbing burnout at the end of the year is one of them. If taking a day off and preparing for a sub increases your anxiety, we have some great resources to help ease your mind before printing those sub plans.

Take a look at these resources to help plan for a sub:

12. Look ahead to summer.

Summer vacation is just around the corner. Teachers have a unique opportunity to dive deeper into recharging compared to other careers. Take advantage of this time to care for yourself. Abby Schukei has some great advice in this article on why and how you should focus on yourself instead of schoolwork this summer. Plan an extended vacation, a weekend getaway, or some lunch dates with your friends. If you usually take summer vacations to revise your teaching practice or overhaul your curriculum, be sure to also schedule time off.

portrait painting

When it comes down to it, you know what works best for you. There are so many ways you can calm your mind, body, and spirit, but you have to pick something that aligns with your interests and personal needs. When you need a break, take a break—whatever it looks like for you at the moment. Lean in on what makes you feel good and brings you happiness. It is sure to work every time!

How are you taking care of yourself right now?

What energizes you to make it to the finish line?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Madenford

Jess Madenford, an art educator and department leader, is a former AOEU Writer. She believes in the magic of personal and professional development and coaches others to rise to their potential.

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