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4 Methods to Conserve Your Energy Using Stress Reappraisal

Art teachers work hard! We acknowledge and recognize the amount of time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears you put into what you do. This includes the big tasks as well as the small ones. A lot of our work as art educators often goes unnoticed: prepping supplies, cleaning up, hanging work, and did I mention the cleanup? Many of these tasks often happen before or after school. And then, there is also the regular nitty gritty of planning, teaching, grading projects, professional development, teacher evaluations, and extracurricular events!

After a hard day’s work, we go home to take care of our own loved ones, maybe go to a second job, and tackle our household duties. We may try to squeeze in hobbies or a social life only to repeat it all the next day.

In the flurry of art teacher tasks and home life, it can be easy to get caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle and forget about ourselves and our needs. This can lead to many issues, including fatigue and burnout. Some studies even show that as educators, we are aware that our jobs and lives are stressful. Yet we continue to fight the good fight and, in most cases, put ourselves last. This begs the question, how do you maintain the status quo of your job and life while also conserving your energy?

Here are four ways to conserve your energy.

girl at laptop

1. Take time for yourself.

You are reading that correctly. Take time for yourself! This can look different for everyone. It can be as easy as getting coffee or lunch with a coworker off campus once a week. Maybe it’s finding an outlet you enjoy outside of the school day, like exercising, reading a book, or taking a nature hike. Often, getting fresh air can leave you feeling rejuvenated and revitalized.

No matter what you choose, carve out some of that “me” time and do not feel guilty about it. As artists, one of the greatest outlets can be to make art. Just making art for thirty minutes a week can make a big difference in your stress levels, blood pressure, and immune support! Join Sarah Krajewski on AOEU’s Make Art With Me each Monday. Dedicate time to recharge with artmaking while building community.

watercolor supplies

2. Try not to overextend yourself.

This one is easier said than done. Your coworkers may need you for something, your administrator may want you to plan a special event, and our students need things every day. We often stretch ourselves thin. But maintaining boundaries is important. Otherwise, our saying “yes” to everything can become an expectation, and we can get taken for granted. Boundaries can be rescheduling, suggesting another solution, or flat-out saying, “No, thanks!”

For example, let’s say you agreed to run the Cultural Arts Day program for the month of May. Later in the year, the physical education teacher asks you to help out with Field Day in the same month. It may be difficult, but saying no to Field Day can ensure you have enough capacity to tackle the Cultural Arts Day program with gusto.

It is also easy to overextend in our personal lives, especially during peak times of the year, such as grading windows, the beginning or end of the school year, and holidays. Keep this in mind when planning ahead so you can decide what commitments you can realistically take on.

It may sound silly, but our work lives and personal lives do affect one another. An increased workload can lead to more family conflict. Prioritizing a healthy personal and home life can make you more well-rounded and stable in the workplace. Increased stress levels stemming from both professional and personal life can lead to poor attitudes and an increased turnover rate. Talk about a domino effect!

say no quote

3. Stay organized and plan.

Sometimes, staying organized and having a plan helps ease the burden of stress. This is easier said than done because, sometimes, stressors are unavoidable. But the more organized you are, the more you can start to navigate your days or weeks into manageable parts and build in margin for the unexpected.

Let’s say it is nearing the end of a grading period, and report cards are due. You have ten classes worth of projects to grade and enter into the system before the week ends. Come up with a plan to help you not get as overwhelmed.

Here are three things to consider as you make a plan:

  1. Decide if every project needs to be formally graded and if peer or self-assessment is appropriate.
  2. Designate how much grading you will do each day until the end of the week. Allot by time or number of projects.
  3. Build in breaks to avoid brain fatigue.

4. Use forward-thinking.

Have you ever considered how you think and deal with stress? Many of us think stress is bad and try to avoid it. But the pressures and realities of the art education field are unavoidable, as are the ways of modern living or raising a family. Therefore, while we cannot necessarily eliminate stress, we can change how we think about it.

Some researchers are coining the terms stress reappraisal and stress mindset as a technique for reframing how we view strenuous stimuli. In essence, researchers or therapists who insist on this shift want us to view stressors through an optimistic lens. This way, we make meaning out of a stressful event instead of blindly struggling through it.

It works in three steps:

  1. Acknowledge the stress.
  2. Deal with the stressful situation.
  3. Improve your response to the stress, and let it motivate you.

Let’s say you are a full-time art teacher trying to earn your graduate degree. This can be an extremely stressful situation, between working all day, balancing course loads, managing family or your personal life, and more. You can let the stress overwhelm you, complain to others, and drown in procrastination. Or you can look at this as an opportunity to grow, learn, and ask for help. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Here’s how the three steps can look:

  1. Acknowledge the stress.
    I feel exhausted and like my to-do list is neverending. I have a stack of work to grade and hang that didn’t get done during the school day. I have several chapters to read tonight for a class, and I still need to pick up the kids, stop at the grocery store, and make dinner. I am stressed out!
  2. Deal with the stressful situation.
    I’m going to take a moment to breathe deeply and then take five minutes to organize myself and come up with a plan of attack! I will prioritize grading projects during my planning period tomorrow. My last-period eighth-grade class is slightly ahead, so they will help hang the work during the last thirty minutes. I will pick up the kids, stop at the grocery store, and make a quick dinner. After the kids go to bed, I will read my chapters.
  3. Improve your response to the stress, and let it motivate you.
    Instead of freaking out, I am going to take deep breaths and check off one activity at a time. I know that when I feel stressed, it’s my body telling me, “Watch out!” I can learn from this and be better prepared when I sit down to plan for next week. I can arrange to carpool with a neighbor, and I can set up grocery delivery. On my busiest grad school days, I can budget takeout for dinner. These little things can help build a wider margin so I have more time and more capacity!

books and salt lamp

Managing stress and conserving your energy does not have to be a negative experience. Find something you enjoy, take “me time,” stay organized, and reframe how you perceive strenuous events. In doing so, you can overcome or smoothly navigate many of the challenges that come with being an art teacher. It all starts with a first step. Acknowledge there is stress and reflect on how this can be a signal of motivation versus chaos. Remember to be kind to yourself because you can’t pour into your students and loved ones from an empty cup!

Share a tip for managing stress levels.

How can you use your stressors to motivate you?

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.

Josh Chrosniak, an elementary art educator, is a current AOEU Writer. He enjoys STEAM, environmental, and other forms of interdisciplinary art lessons in a choice-based classroom environment.

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