50 Resilience Strategies to Curb Teachers’ Stress

by | Nov 12, 2018

Teaching truly is the job that is never done. We never leave the classroom with every task accomplished, every need attended to – the days and weeks ahead of us completely planned and prepped, ready for us to just show up.

That’s just not reality. And not for lack of trying. 

No matter how early you come in or how late you stay, no matter how overflowing you teacher bag is as you lug it home or how awake you remain worried about your students at night – the next day will always come with at least a small voice whispering “Couldn’t you have done more?”.

Sure we work to quell that voice. And yes, there are those days where everything goes smooth and we feel like we are on top of the world, but most days there’s something that remains stuck in our craw, nagging at us – maybe it’s upcoming testing, or a student connection, mandates, grading, observations, professional development, parent communications, duties, meetings… It all adds up to teachers’ stress.

So, this week Joy in Teaching has compiled a list of a WHOPPING 50 RESILIENCE STRATEGIES to help curb that stress, fight burnout, and reclaim your joy!  – scroll all the way to the bottom for your free printable infographic

1.  Do nothing

That’s right the first resilience strategy is just do nothing. Like, NOTHING. Remain still and silent. Be. The school day is fast-paced, hectic, taking a moment to slow everything down can help the day come back into focus.

2. Make plans to do SOMETHING with friends

Yes, I know we just said to do nothing. Now, get up and do SOMETHING. Call a friend, put it on the calendar, and break routine. Shaking things up and sharing with a friend can help you out of the rut you didn’t even know you were in.

3. Sleep

For some of us, this is easier said than done, but getting good sleep is healthy and important. In order to function at our bests, to be able to handle the decisions and stresses the school day may bring, getting good sleep is key. So turn off the devices early and hit the hay – it can make a huge difference in your day-to-day functions.

4. Write it down

Are you still mentally at school even after you leave? Are you lying awake at night replaying your day and worrying about tomorrow? Try journaling. Getting it out of your head and on to paper is a great way of letting go of your thoughts and reflections so that you can rest easy, ready to take on tomorrow.

5. Disconnect

Our phones have become appendages – attached to us like a limb. We depend on them, they are useful and important to our day-to -ay function – but they are also a distraction to the real world around us, a time-suck, and sometimes even a source of our stress. Constant emails and texts make it so that we always feel “on call”. Could you turn your off? Leave it at home? If not, consider turning off social media for a day or temporarily disconnecting your school email.

6. Engage in meaningful rhetoric

Sometimes the best way to get out of your head is to deep dive into it. Form a book group or a PLN (may I suggest the Joy in Teaching book?), watch a TEDtalk, initiate meaningful discussions on topics that are of importance to you. Discover new resilience strategies by sharing, build community through unity, and demystify mandates by opening up professional discussions.

7. Dance

Dance like no ones watching – or like the world is, if that’s your thing. Dance in your kitchen, at the club, or in your classroom during your prep time. Getting your groove on can lighten the mood, get your endorphins going, and reset your day. 

8. Pay it forward

We are teachers. We feel good helping others. It’s in our DNA. So consider other ways you can help others, even in small ways like paying for the person in line behind you’s coffee or fast food, bringing in some treats to the teacher lounge, or giving to a charity. We know all too well that filling someone else’s bucket fills our own as well.

9. De-clutter your life

Your surroundings impact you. Consider organizing your desk to help streamline your day – or tidying up your bedroom to encourage more restful sleep. Taking the time to de-clutter your space may be what you need to help you refocus on what matters most.

10. Read a book

Reading. Not for class or for professional development, but for yourself can be an intentional way to steal away some “you-time” and also is a fantastic way to get out of your own head for a bit. Bonus: reading right before bed, especially fiction books, can help ease you into a better sleep routine as well. 


11. Get outside

Solivtur ambulando – perhaps my favorite phrase ever. It’s Latin for “It is solved by walking”. Sometimes your soul NEEDS some fresh air, your body NEEDS some vitamin D, and your mind NEEDS some space. So step outside and enjoy what it has to offer you.

12. Develop a mantra

Do you already have a mantra – a saying that brings your strength, or calmness? If not, consider developing one. Think of what encourages you, look up ideas and find something that can be your private pep talk. Examples, “I am enough”, “Expect nothing. Appreciate everything”, “Choose purpose not perfect”.

13. Sleep

For some of us, this is easier said than done, but getting good sleep is healthy and important. In order to function at our bests, to be able to handle the decisions and stresses the school day may bring, getting good sleep is key. So turn off the devices early and hit the hay – it can make a huge difference in your day-to-day functions.

14. Schedule yourself in

Does your calendar fill up too fast to find any “you-time”? Well, try actually scheduling it in. Before next month fills up, pick a couple of days that you will do something for you. Crazy right? But, when other obligations come knocking at your door, remember those times are already called for by someone who deserves your time. You.

15. Be your biggest fan

Sometimes we need to take the initiative in our own happiness. One small way to do this is to write yourself little compliments, quotes, and notes on post-its and stash them around for a rainy day. The next time you’re staying late at school grading maybe you just happen to open your desk drawer and see a note staring up at you reminding you of the difference your making. It’s the little things

16. Connect with your connections

Remember that old roommate from college you’re still friends with on Facebook but you haven’t actually talked to in years? Or, your past teacher friend who switched districts and you’ve lost touch with? Take some time to connect or reconnect with your support network. Even just chatting up the teacher in the next classroom help you (and them) feel more connected and supported.

17. Give time to your hobbies

Did you use to ski? play D&D? knit? play adult dodgeball? Get reacquainted with your past hobbies. By taking on an endeavor purely for the enjoyment you are feeding your soul and giving back to yourself. Also, the time spent focused on your hobbies is time spent not over-thinking school.

18. Exercise

Release those natural endorphins and sweat out those pent-up frustrations through exercise. Exercise can provide so many positive gifts to you, especially when you are feeling stressed. Squeeze in a work out in the morning or evening to give yourself a boost for the whole day.

19. Movie night

Whether you go out or just cozy up on the couch, give yourself permission to lounge back and enjoy a good flick. Onscreen entertainment has the power to transport you, make you laugh and feel good. After a long school week it could be the perfect thing to help you unwind and get prepared for what’s to come next week.

20. Relax your senses

Everything around you has the power to impact how you feel. So, consider all your senses when trying to relax. Diffuse some olls or light a candle, choose your softest most comfy clothes, sip on a soothing tea, dim the lights and just breathe. Preparing your environment can help promote relaxation.


21.  Make a list

Create a list of ALL the things, people, places, etc. that bring you joy and that you are grateful for. Stow your list away somewhere accessible so that the next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed you can pull it out and remember just how much is going in your favor.

22. Eat Healthful foods

You are what you eat. So when you are stressed and you feed that stress with junk food it might make you feel good in the moment, but it can result in feeling more sluggish and foggy. – which is not the best result when you are trying to face stress with resilience.

23. Get out of town

Sometimes escaping is a bad choice- like when you are skirting responsibility or not willing to face a situation, but sometimes escaping is the perfect ticket. A change of scenery can do wonders for re-energizing the spirit and getting some perspective. So, take a day trip or plan a weekend getaway so that you can return to the classroom feeling like a whole new person.

24. Meditate

Meditation is life-changer for many people. It allows you to slow down, gain clarity, and de-stress. How you meditate is personal, but the key is finding the time and quiet space to give yourself the opportunity – look at your schedule, when you first wake up, after the student leave the classroom, or even during planning time.

25. Create

Create something with your own two hands. Maybe a painting, a craft, home decor, baked goods, robotics… Discover your inner maker and gain the benefits of seeing your handwork and the distraction of engaging in something you enjoy. What’s that saying again about idle hands?

26. Get descriptive

The idea of this one is to refocus on something else. This is a great strategy to try in those after-school times when you can’t get the day out of your head. Look around you and simply describe what you see. For instance, look at the table, notice the edges, the joints, the wear and tear, the wood grain, the finish, the color – the more descriptive you get the more you pull yourself out of what was eating at you. Bonus: you may also notice the beauty is something new.

27. Join an online community

As much as our devices can be part of the problem, they can also be part of the solution. One of the great things about being attached at the hip with your phone is that you can also become attached to a group of people you might not otherwise ever meet. Create your own community of support by finding your digital tribe- whether that surrounds ideas of teaching (like the Joy in Teaching free Facebook group) or a hobby or lifestyle. 

28. Give back

As an educator, you understand that your time is a premium. The amount of extra time you devote to your profession often is taken from other endeavors. However, if you can find moments to spare, consider volunteering for a cause that you believe in. You know all too well the fulfillment you get when you help others, after all, it comes with the profession. So, boost that self-less sensibility and find a new cause, or better yet, bring your students along for the journey in a service-learning project.

29. Treat yourself 

It is said “Bread sustains life, but beauty gives it meaning. So if you have two pennies in your pocket, buy one loaf of bread and one flower.” So, don’t be afraid to treat yourself every now and then. Buy yourself some flowers, a new piece of art or decor, something that will make you smile and give beauty to your day.

30. Get your hands dirty

If you are a gardener, great, dig in, but even if you’re not you can find benefits to helping something other than your students grow. Working with your hands, tending to plants, being surrounded by greenery, it all can feed the soul. If a full garden isn’t your speed (or season) try your hand at a houseplant – succulents are a trendy and easy way to start. Who knows perhaps you’ll discover a green thumb


31.  Spread positivity

Sometimes the best pick-me-up is in becoming someone else’s pick-me-up. Consider ways you can be a source of light to others – and spread positivity around. One great way to do this is to send positive notes home with students or pick up the phone, send a text or email – however you choose to communicate it – let your students’ families know that you have noticed their efforts and feel the warm glowback of the positivity you put out.

32. Learn a new skill

Have you always wanted to learn woodworking? Calligraphy? soapmaking? 3D printing?… Engulfing yourself in something brand new gives you a new focus and sense of joy. Bonus: Learning something new puts you in the shoes of your students and provides a new sense of empathy within its new perspective.

33. Take a mental health day

Oh, how I wish I had taken this advice in my earlier years of teaching. Still, the reluctance is there, but it’s not like it happens often. When your body is able but your mind isn’t – take the day. Yes, it means sub plans, but if a 24 hours break will make all the difference in you entering your classroom rundown or refreshed then it’s worth the extra work of writing up those plans and calling in.

34. Spa day

You can actually go to the spa or you can DIY it at home or with a friend. Baths, masks, mani/pedi’s, wraps, soaps, lotions, massages… Slowing things down and giving yourself some quality pampering can give you a quick burst of zen you need to face a new day feeling like a new person.

35. Puppy love

Did you know that the mere act of petting an animal can help relieve your stress? It’s true. So, when the hectic nature of the school day is getting you and you don’t have a furry friend at home, try stopping by the local pet shop or humane center and getting in a good snuggle on your way home. Who knows, maybe a little fluffy pal will make his way home with you.

36. Decorate your space

Most teachers are going to spend more waking hours at school during the week than at home. So, fill your space with things that will make you happy to be in it. Pictures of loved ones, inspiring sayings, artwork, and other personal touches can bring your space to life. Bonus: By filling your classroom with pieces that are meaningful to you, you are also strengthening your relationships with students by sharing more about yourself.

37. Make new friends

It gets harder to make new friends as you get older. Sometimes it takes a little initiative on our end. Think of your areas of interests and how you can meet others who have similar interests. For instance, beyond teaching responsibilities I belong to a book club and baking club – both are ways I can set aside time with peers to socialize and meet new people. 

38. Date night

Dating can be difficult for everyone, but it can be especially hard for educators what with their extra duties, grading, and general workload. Whether you are in a relationship or seeking one planning ahead time to get out there an enjoy some companionship, maybe even some romance, can boost you out of a funk and give you a new perspective on the days ahead.

39. Stretch and move

Yes, as an educator you might feel like you are always moving, always on your feet – you probably are. But, think of how you move your body. Are you stretching your back, hips, shoulders, legs? Or, are you upright or leaning over most of the day. Getting a good stretch in (or even joining a yoga class for some new moves) is a fantastic way to get the blood flowing, refocus, and energize yourself for the rest of the day. Bonus: You can lead your classes through some moves and all benefit from a deep midday stretch. 

40. Prep ahead

Anything you can do today to make tomorrow go smoother is a resiliency strategy. Making your lunch ahead of time, laying out your outfit, filling up the gas tank, getting lesson materials ready, getting ahead on emails or grading. While you shouldn’t stress yourself today in order to hopefully prevent it tomorrow, if you do find a moment to get yourself prepare for the days ahead take it, you’ll thank yourself later.

41.  Enjoy your favorite food

So, maybe you are someone who’s favorite food is celery or kale and you can pretty much have it whenever you want with no consequences or guilt. But for most of us, our guilty pleasure when it comes to food is not so healthful. However, a sweet indulgence every now an then, minus the guilt, can give you a moment of joy on a dreary day.

42. Retail therapy

For some, pulling out the plastic and spending some loose change gives them a sense of joy. Maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt for a bargain, the pride of sporting something new, the actual act strolling through bright and shiny new items looking, touching, enjoying the sights, whatever it may be If retail therapy gives you a boost, plan a little shopping trip to brighten your day.

43. Be a kid again

When is the last time you swang on a swing or spun in circles until you were dizzy? Letting yourself be a free as a child if only for a moment is a resilience strategy that could redefine how you let loose. Bonus: If you teach elementary, head out with the students at recess and start the most memorable game of tag they’ll ever have.

44. Go for a drive

True story: my first year of teaching was a crazy traveling position and very stressful, but luckily I lived in a town with one of the “crookedest streets in the world” and on rough days I would drive down in over and over. Whether it’s scenic stretches, strange backroads, or crooked streets, sometimes cranking up the radio and going for a drive can be a great way to let the day go and mentally prepare for the next.

45. Share your resources

Maybe you know what works for you, which resilience strategies and protective practices are worth keeping in your toolbox. Well then consider sharing your resources with others. For starters, you could forward them this post or share it on social media, lend them a book (like the  Joy in Teaching book), send them a video or an inspiring quote. Share and spread resilience and help build and stronger and more supporter profession.

46. Turn strategies into practice

Most of these strategies in this list are one-and-done quick fixes, resilience strategies for right now, not long term. Consider resilience strategies that you can turn into practice by forming habits around them. Turn stretching into a routine by joining a yoga class, turn meditation into a daily occurrence by squaring away time, make good sleep, healthful eating… all part of your daily life. It’s said that it takes two months for a new behavior to become habitual, so start now and see how you can transform your resilience for the long term. Check out this article for more idea on habit-forming resilience practices.

47. Remove things from your to-do list

Does your to-do list never all get done? Consider removing some items on your list of things to do so that you know they can all get done. This one’s about being realistic with your expectations for yourself. Your time is valuable and going to bed with the thoughts that you should have done more is not healthy – so think realistically when making your to-do lists and relish in the satisfaction of crossing those times off as you get things done!

48. Bring mindfulness into the classroom

Mindfulness has kind of become a buzzword lately, but for good reason. Mindfulness practices benefit everyone, and increased pressures on teachers often equal increased pressures on students – everyone can benefit from a break and a moment to be quiet, reflective, and still. Consider ways of bringing your resilience strategies into the classroom.

49. Breathe

Try deep breathing as a resilience strategy. Find what works with you – try this to start. In through the nose, out through the mouth, longer in than out. Bonus: Pair breathing with a mantra and you are on your way to your own personalized form of meditation. This is yet another practice you can introduce to your classroom.

50. Fill your toolbox to the brim

If you are looking for even more strategies and practices you can find with Joy in Teaching. There are articles like this one, and also TONS of strategies here in the Joy in Teaching book (and companion workbook) – perfect for PD, PLN’s, and book studies.

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