As I kid, I remember the excitement felt a few days before Christmas Eve. My family’s tradition was to open gifts at midnight on the 24th of December. This meant that the few nights before, while slowly falling asleep, my imagination would wander, trying to figure out what toys I would get to unwrap. Decades later, the memory of this excitement remains with me.
Though, as an adult, my counting the number of sleeps is no longer based on excitement to unwrap gifts. Instead, the counting is aimed at creating a sense of getting closer and closer to the beginning of a holiday period! This usually comes as a result of looking forward to a break from the stress and anxiety associated to the day-to-day demands of the classroom.
Teaching can be a very demanding career. Education as a whole is going through a massive transformation. What direction will it go is pretty much anyone’s guess but one thing is for sure – teaching today is associated with high levels of stress and anxiety, so much so that according to one source, it is causing 30 to 40 percent of teachers in the US to leave the profession within their first five years. In the UK, a survey of 3500 teachers in 2015 indicated that two-thirds of respondents actually thought of quitting their job the year before.
It is therefore not surprising to read articles in newspapers and magazines that point to this problem as being present in pretty much every educational system around the world. Some articles qualify the rise in stress and anxiety in education as ‘alarming’. Although statistics differ from country to country, overall, they all have similarities when listing factors that contribute to this high level of stress.
Workload Leading to Stress and Fatigue
Workload usually tops the list. In the UK, 88% of teachers surveyed indicated this as being their top concern. It is also very common to hear teachers on the international circuit express the same workload concern. With changes in education, the need to incorporate technology, the need to differentiate, the need to keep up with latest best practices are only some of the things teachers need to deal with on a daily basis, adding pressure that all too often gets to be too difficult to deal with.
Other top concerns listed point to assessments (particularly national testing), time (or lack of), and administrative demands. Student needs and behavior also play an important role in creating stress in the learning environment.
Solutions to these problems are not quick fixes. Although some preventive measures are being put in place by some educational authorities, it is often left to teachers themselves to find ways to tackle the stress and anxiety that results from these problems.
There are a variety of practices that can help reduce stress and anxiety in the short term. For example, getting enough sleep, practicing conscious and deep breathing, meditating and exercising can all do wonders in their own way. Though, a trap inherent in experiencing stress and anxiety is that time seems to be one of the things one loses control over – we end up not having enough time for doing everything we feel we need to do. Unfortunately, for many, having some personal time to manage their stress usually ends up at the very bottom of their list of priorities, when in fact, it should go to the very top if one hopes to overcome this problem.
One good thing about the teaching profession is the number of holidays teachers get throughout the year. We can enjoy long periods that allow for the possibility of planning activities that require more than a week or two to complete. These extended holidays can provide the time necessary to experience and learn new ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
One such experience is to attend a Vipassana meditation retreat. This very transformative silent retreat experience is 10 days in duration and is not for the faint of heart – ten days of silence can definitely drive some people mad! But understanding your mind, which is the goal of the retreat, can provide insights in understand the dynamics that create stress and anxiety in your life. Change can then more readily happen when we become aware of the dynamics that feed destructive habits or states of mind, anxiety being one of them.
Another preferred way to rejuvenate is to simply take a holiday. It is within many educators’ means to enjoy a week of travel or spend a week in a resort. Although having to always pay peak period prices can be frustrating, there is not much that anyone can do against this supply and demand dynamics of the market. But to truly get a break, one that will rejuvenate to the core, a week may not be enough.
Considering that teachers usually get a two-month break at some point, would it not be great if you could actually enjoy most of that break away from your routine, from the environment that sees you identified with stress and anxiety? A time to possibly reinvent yourself?
Is spending a month on a Greek island reading your favorite books or exploring the capital of Mongolia even a possibility in your mind? What about enjoying a two-month stay in Kenya or exploring South East Asia while having a temporary home base possible for you? ‘I wish’ – the usual default answer. But it does not need to be a wish – it can easily become a reality.
Educators Home Sharing
Home exchange or home sharing exists for that very reason – to provide a free alternative to the high cost of travel accommodation. This saving on costs allows one to dream bigger, makes the impossible become possible. The first home exchange platform was created in 1953 by two teachers. Many other organizations have joined the market but one recent addition is Educators Home Share. EHS is specifically aimed at servicing the educator niche market. I recently enjoyed home sharing in Denmark, which provided me with a home base so that my wife and I could explore Scandinavia for two months. What appeared to be impossible before because of prohibitive costs to holiday in those countries became a reality because of home sharing.
Maybe you are in need of a good, long break where you can truly relax and enjoy yourself without money worries. Consider investigating what is on offer on the Educators Home Share website. This way, you can get to start dreaming big and plan for a transformative holiday break, alone or with your family! Relaxation is just a click away!