Tips on How to Relax and Manage Stress
Our series on self-care for educators continues this week with a focus on relaxation. People who are givers by nature, like teachers, often struggle to prioritize themselves and their need for leisure time. But in such a high-stress profession, relaxation is essential. In this post, we’ll share tips on how to relax so you can consciously unwind, instead of letting your stress build to a state of overwhelm.
You not only deserve relaxation, but you need it to be healthy, happy, and fully present with your loved ones and your students.
Why Relaxation Is Essential
Relaxing sounds like one of the easiest things we can do. Unfortunately, many of us believe relaxation must be sacrificed for productivity. Even when we try to relax, our efforts are interrupted by nagging guilt and thoughts of everything we “should” be doing instead.
It’s important to remember that in many ways, relaxation is extremely productive. If we never make time to relax, our stress levels are completely unmanaged. Unchecked stress produces unpleasant physical symptoms and negatively affects brain function. It leads to poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, and emotional symptoms like anxiety, irritability, low self-esteem, and depression.
When we’re in a high state of stress, our communication skills suffer, and we may lash out at others. We also have low energy levels, feel fatigued, and can ultimately experience burnout. All these symptoms make life— and the tough job of teaching —much tougher.
On the other hand, relaxing reduces blood pressure, slows our heart rate, and relieves tension. It helps us have a calm, clear mind so we can solve problems and tackle important tasks. Our memory, concentration, and decision-making improve.
Relaxation also gives us more energy and even aids digestion, helping us absorb nutrients more efficiently so we can fight off infection and disease. In the long run, making time to relax is far more productive than trying to power through life without simply taking a break.
Tips on How to Relax from Our Readers
To prep for this series, we emailed our readers (teachers) asking them to name an act of self-care they had done in the past week. Of the 273 replies, 30 mentioned making time to relax.
Here are a few of their responses:
- “I sat and just listened to the birds outside my open window instead of conquering dishes and laundry and chores.” -Katherine S.
- “I take care of myself by having a relaxing cup of coffee by the pool.” -Deborah L.
- “I used my lush bath bombs. They are my favorite!” -Amy G.
- “Usually I prepare supper each night, but I put my son in charge of preparing supper the past two nights. It was great for both of us!” -Margie G.
- “I took time to have a bath and listen to calming music for self-care yesterday!” -Coleen M.
- “Fixing a hot cup of tea before bed and just sitting and breathing.” -Ashley G.
- “I’ve been sitting on a raft in the pool reading ALONE for about an hour each day. It’s been fabulous!” -Lisa S.
- “Ordering in, taking a hot and relaxing shower, and getting into bed early.” -Katherine W.
- “My self-care is that I make sure I can sit and drink my coffee in the peace of the morning before everyone gets rolling. It is a little thing, but it makes all the difference in my world.” -Amy G.
Relaxation doesn’t have to mean a week-long beach vacation or a spa getaway (although it certainly can mean those things sometimes!).
It can be as simple as a warm bath, a good book, calming music, or a steaming cup of coffee. It can mean asking a child, spouse, or friend to step in and take a task or two off your plate. For many people, doing something creative —like drawing a picture or writing poetry— is also extremely relaxing.
You may also want to try yoga, time in nature, or watching a favorite comedian. Laughing is an excellent stress reliever!
These small actions carry major benefits and take up very little time. So, set aside any guilt about making time for leisure, and incorporate frequent relaxation into your schedule.
Bonus Tips on How to Relax
Try to give yourself a few minutes for relaxation every day, with longer periods of relaxation at least 2-3 times each week. When you only have a few minutes to relax, try the following:
- Take several deep belly breaths (belly going in as you inhale through the nose, belly going out as you exhale through the mouth).
- Meditate (The Headspace app is great for beginners!).
- Visualize a relaxing place, focusing on the details.
- Go for a short walk and notice what you see, hear, smell, and/or touch.
- One at a time, tighten and relax muscles throughout your body.
To make the most of your relaxation, work on switching off thoughts about what tasks you need to complete next or what else is going on in your life. Focus on the present moment and enjoy a few minutes to simply “be.”
If you find your mind wandering to thoughts that are less than relaxing, try focusing on your breathing for a moment. Remind yourself that you can attend to other tasks or problems when you’re done relaxing and rejuvenating, and nothing bad will happen if you put them off until then.
Final Thoughts: Tips on How to Relax as an Act of Self-Care
It’s hard not to get caught up in our fast-paced, action-packed days, especially in an all-consuming profession like teaching. As simple as it sounds, getting better at relaxation takes practice.
Remind yourself that relaxation isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. You deserve time for yourself, and it will benefit every aspect of your life: health, well-being, your career, and your ability to be present with all the people you love — family, friends, and students.
Incorporating these tips on how to relax will help you feel better about yourself and the world around you, and that’s certainly worth a few minutes of your time!