Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feeling anxious about the new year?

I don't know about you, but I start getting anxious around the beginning of August.

What will my students be like this year? How will things go? Will I have enough time to set up my classroom? (Probably not to perfection . . . but then again the classroom doesn't need to be perfect! Just inviting.)

You too probably vacillate between feeling pumped up about the new year and planning all sorts of great welcoming activities and feeling a bit anxious. How to you calm those nerves? Here are a few effective tips from some recent research. (Manzoni et al., 2005)

1. Progressive Relaxation
If you go onto itunes or any other online music site, you can search for progressive relaxation MP3s. I have a few different versions that I use. You can also do the relaxation on your own. You just tense up a muscle, hold it for a few seconds, and then release.

If you get really nervous before the first days of school, you can start out the day by listening to the MP3. You can also end the day doing progressive relaxation. This is what I sometimes do, and it helps me sleep well, so I can be a better teacher and mom.

2. Talking Back to Your Thoughts
Yes, this really works! (It is also called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - CBT). If you are really anxious, you might need to see a professional, but this can be very effective on your own too. Here is a great workbook that shows you the steps to using CBT. There are many other effective workbooks as well.

Some of the common thinking errors you notice and change are: all or nothing, emotional reasoning, and fortune telling.

Here is a small example of how it works.

Your old thought: I'm never going to get everything done before school starts.
Type of thought: All or nothing thinking
New Thought: I might not get everything done, and that is ok. I'll make sure I get the most important things done for day one, and then take it from there.

3. Exercise
While this method was not one of the top 5 according to the study above, I know it works. You might find that taking a walk helps you reduce your stress, or gardening. You might even find that lifting weights helps. (This is my favorite!) If you do some shoulder presses, it almost acts like progressive relaxation. You really stress your shoulders (where I tend to hold my stress) as you lift the weight, and then relax as you put it down.

Just make sure to lift the weight slowly and use proper form! No getting hurt before school starts!

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