10 Tips to help teachers relax and recuperate this summer

June 26, 2024
 | By 
Taylor McCoy

10 Tips for Teachers: How to get your energy back this summer

A professional woman holding a laptop talks to someone over speakerphone.

Every teacher knows the feeling. You’ve spent your first several weeks of summer vacation in a vegetative state. Perhaps you’re catching up on shows; your screen time report is a source of embarrassment; and your takeout spending is getting a bit out of hand. We get it. You’re exhausted!

Hopefully, you’re out of survival mode and you’re ready to make plans for self-care. We want to help you make the most of your summer based on research-backed methods of rest and recovery. At Eduphoria, we care about teachers. Our company was built by educators, so we strive to create resources and software solutions that improve teacher quality of life.

For now, let’s get into what research says you could be doing to refill your cup this summer.

#1: Go back to doing what you love

A woman paints at her crowded crafting desk.

Many teachers live to teach, and that’s amazing! However, teaching is a job, and all working professionals need some separation between the job and their everyday lives. Not only are you likely to experience improved mental health when you spend time on something you love (Harvard Health), but you’re less likely to experience dissatisfaction with your work. 

According to UC Davis, people who spend 20 percent of their time on passion projects are protected from higher rates of burnout. One study in the Journal of Wellness found that people with hobbies have lower rates of burnout and are less disengaged with their work than those who had no hobbies or who had abandoned their hobbies. However, not all hobbies are created equal.

Per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, business psychologist Jo Wintle suggests taking up hobbies that are detached from work. According to the experts, it’s important that your hobbies:

  • Help you disconnect from work
  • Feel good
  • Give you a sense of accomplishment
  • Help you feel in control

If you need help identifying a hobby that will fit into your life and preferences, go with your gut. Try something that you think looks fun and fulfilling, then weed out hobbies that add stress and negative feelings to your life.

#2: Rebuild your sense of competence and confidence

A woman relaxes by the roadside with her bike laying on the ground next to her.

There are several different subtypes of burnout, according to a review of recent studies. One of these is believed to come from repeated failures (or at least the perception of repeated failures). In other words, if a person believes that they’re failing, that they aren’t skilled enough, or if they don’t see positive results from their work, they could develop an efficacy crisis.

As teachers, you know that sometimes the best way to build a student’s self-efficacy is to give them tasks that are just outside their comfort zone so they can experience challenge and success simultaneously. Now, it’s time to do yourself the same favor. 

What have you always wanted to learn? Is there something you’ve been putting off that you can prioritize now that you’re on vacation?

Take a note from researchers, and commit to that new, exciting challenge. Get on that language learning app. Build a greenhouse. Whatever it is you’ve wanted to do–now is the time to do it. You deserve to experience success that is fun and well-earned.

#3: Spend time with the people who treat you right

A group of friends laugh and huddle together at an outdoor shopping center.

Another type of burnout, per the National Institute of Health review, is thought to result from a lack of reciprocity.

Reciprocity occurs when a person gets back what they put in. For teachers, they may feel like their work, care, and skills aren’t being reciprocated when:

  • They don’t have positive relationships with students
  • They feel unseen or underappreciated
  • They don’t have positive working relationships with their peers
  • Their success isn’t proportional to their effort and skill

There are many other ways that a person can feel like the results aren’t reciprocal to their effort; however, there is a solution. 

Get back what you put in by putting your love and effort into friends and family who will give back. Research shows that personal and work-related burnout improves with a strong support network.

#4: Try not to use your summer to plan next year’s lessons

A woman with headphones on props her notebook on top of her open laptop as she writes.

It’s tempting, isn’t it? You’ve got between two and three blissful months of uninterrupted planning time. You’re excited about the possibilities! You’re getting your energy back! You’re even imagining how things will be better in the Fall.

We suggest there may be a way to take advantage of your brain’s surge of ideas without working during your vacation.

Probably one of the most common kinds of burnout is one related to overwork (NIH). You spend so much time and effort just to keep your head above water during the school year. The fatigue and exhaustion result in sick days, mental health problems, and even cynicism about teaching! You’re emotionally exhausted. And who can blame you?

So, you may be tempted to start planning next year when your energy comes back and you start to feel better. However, maybe you can write down your ideas and leave the more intensive work until you’re back at your desk those couple of weeks before students return. After all, the best way to recover from overwork, according to the University of Konstanz, is rest–true rest that doesn’t involve work-related stress.

#5: Reflect on and practice better self-care strategies

A woman stretches her legs in a well-lit yoga studio.

Unsurprisingly, another sub-type of burnout occurs when a person is unable to cope properly with increased work demands (NIH). If you don’t have effective coping strategies, it’s not your fault! Sometimes, it takes trial and error to figure out how you can manage self-care with the demands of your job.

Some jobs are inherently stressful, and—well, teaching is probably one of those jobs. So, if stress is something you can expect on a day-to-day basis, put some time into learning that will benefit you this summer.

Here are some coping strategies inspired by a list from the American Psychological Association. You can practice these to get better at managing stress, preventing burnout, and recovering from long-term stress:

  • Track the things that stress you out and think about your reactions. Can you work on your reactions to stressors, so you’re less likely to spiral when confronted with work-related stress? If you struggle with hyper-focusing and neglecting yourself when up against a tight deadline, try reaching out to peers and loved ones for help instead.
  • Exchange unhealthy coping mechanisms with strategies that benefit your health. If your go-to coping strategy is a quick fast-food lunch that makes you feel like you’re under a lead blanket the rest of the day, try treating yourself with a protein-packed tasty lunch instead. Whatever satisfies your need for self-indulgence while properly fueling your body!
  • Separate your personal life from your work life. Reinforce positive boundaries this summer by keeping your eyes off of work emails, by reading books that you want to read (not about pedagogy), and learning to spend your spare time on yourself.
  • Practice mindful relaxation. This may include meditation, journaling, or yoga! With mindfulness training, you can begin to see just how often your brain is on work and redirect your thoughts toward rest.

#6: When you hang out with teacher friends, try not to talk about school

A woman smiles and chats with her friend at a coffee shop.

Did you know that teachers are more likely to experience a kind of burnout stemming from emotional contagion

Emotional contagion is when attitudes, stressors, and emotions spread through a team at work because of the tendencies of the team members to behave similarly. It is believed that this kind of burnout occurs in groups with shared beliefs who frequently have shared emotional experiences.

We know that venting is an important part of processing and detaching from work-related stress. However, bringing those emotions into your vacation may put you straight back into a work headspace.

When you hang out with your work bestie this summer, try to connect as individuals outside of teaching. Keep the classroom talk to a minimum and talk about all of the things you’re working on and delving into that make you truly excited.

#7: Let yourself experience and display emotion

A man meditates on a fallen log, surrounded by trees.

Teaching is a complex profession. Not only are teachers required to be experts in their subject areas; they’re often crisis workers, negotiation professionals, and surrogate parents to their students. Plus, they have to do it all with smiles on their faces. A teacher’s persona is an important part of their professional demeanor. While it’s understandable that teachers need to display a certain amount of self-control, repeatedly having to suppress emotion or mask how one really feels is a type of emotional labor that often leads to burnout in teachers.

Plus, it’s really bad for your health (NIH).

In the context of this article, we’d like to classify this kind of emotional labor as a type of maladaptive coping mechanism mentioned in section 5. Having control over your emotions isn’t the same as suppressing them.

You can experience and display emotion in a controlled, safe manner without bottling it up inside you. This resource from Berkley describes one healthy way of regulating emotion called Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs).

MBIs require a person to simply feel their emotions in the present moment. When a person learns to do that, they can practice taking actions that align with their values and priorities. This allows a person to have measured responses that produce meaningful results. It’s not easy, but it may help reduce your risk of heart attack and heal your burnout.

#8: Listen to your body

A person lays on the couch, almost completely covered in a blue fuzzy blanket.

Mental and emotional fatigue isn’t just in the brain. When you’re burned out, you’re more likely to suffer health problems (American Heart Association). Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix to long-term stress, especially if it’s already taken a toll on your body.

The best solution is to practice living the way that your body deserves. Rest when you feel like you need rest. Did you know that napping regularly drastically reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease? 

Eat right as often as possible. We know that time, budget, and space are often an issue; however, simple dietary choices like choosing the lower-fat dairy option can lead to lower levels of burnout (NIH). While it’s not exactly clear why healthier foods lower stress, some research suggests that a healthy diet is just better for your brain. Consequently, an unhealthy diet can worsen stress and depression.

Stretch, exercise, and practice good posture! You may not realize how much stress you’re carrying in your body, but if you’re regularly craning your neck around and rubbing at knots in your shoulders, you probably need to pay more attention to those signals. There is a strong relationship between physical pain and discomfort and mental well-being (NIH). Practice soothing stress in the body and mind by stretching (NIH), exercising (Harvard) and responding to discomfort in your body.

#9: Keep an eye on your screen time

A woman listens to headphones while looking at her phone.

You’ve heard it all before. Everyone knows that screens aren’t great for our brains. However, you may not know exactly how screen time can affect your brain and mental health.

According to this NIH review of recent research, here are some of the negative mental health effects associated with excessive screen time:

  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Depression symptoms
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Feelings of negativity
  • Increased stress
  • Messed up sleep cycle
  • Reduced mental energy

So, how much screen time is excessive screen time? Can you have your mental health and social media, too? Estimates vary by age, but most sources agree that adults shouldn’t be indulging in more than 2 or 3 hours a day of screen time.

If you find yourself regularly spending more than that amount of time on your phone, laptop, or watching TV, then you may still experience fewer negative effects if you focus on consuming content that fulfills and inspires you (instead of making you feel sad or hopeless). While most studies focus on children, research shows that quality screen time can produce feelings of creativity and connectedness.

So, as with all things in life, moderation and mindfulness are key to enjoying the things you love. 

#10: Spend some time in the outdoors

A man looks out at the trees while walking through a forest of Aspen.

As Texas natives, we understand that it’s not always feasible to spend time in the sun—make sure you wear sunscreen and keep an eye on the temperature. Still, time outside can be crazy beneficial for your brain and body. According to the American Heart Association, you can experience improved health and well-being with just two hours outside every week. 

Even better, spend some time surrounded by greenery to reduce your blood pressure and experience stress relief (NIH). If you live in an arid environment, visit your local botanical garden. In studies that tested the benefit of the outdoors on health and well being, people experienced greater positive effects in green environments.

Share with someone who needs a reminder to relax

If you found the information in this article helpful, share with your friends and colleagues! At Eduphoria, we strive to create helpful, reliable, and trustworthy content that makes a difference in the lives of educators. If you’re a bit nervous to drop links in the PLC group chat, that’s all right, too. Connect with us on social media for regular updates about our software and education insights from teaching veterans.

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