I caught myself telling a colleague last week that I’d hit the point of the semester where I was done. Like, call the rest off, I’d like to go home now, thank you very much. It was Tuesday, November 4th, for those keeping track at home.
Nothing new, really. I hit this point every semester. It’s the point where little things set me off and the great things that happen only stick in my memory for a short time before reality sets back in.
The usual tactics? Count down the days. Download an app, make a paper chain, or, like one of my bosses, put a numbered Post-It on the wall for each remaining week and tear it down with glee when that week ends. Grit my teeth, remind myself it’s almost done. Put my head down, work hard, and wait for the end.
There’s a familiar ending to all of that, though. Not surprisingly, the “grin and bear it” method doesn’t work. Clearly the end of the semester always arrives, but none of those strategies makes it come any faster, and they certainly don’t make me feel any better (or improve the work I do) as the past couple of weeks pass us by.
I discuss this with my students throughout the semester–if you’re in a class you don’t like, what can YOU do to improve your experience? For some reason, though, until that conversation, I hadn’t considered that maybe I should take my OWN advice and quit being such a hypocrite.
Certainly similar ideas can work for me, right? I started making a list of things to try:
- Begin each day by bringing to mind at least one part of the day that I’m looking forward to—something I might learn, an activity I’ll do with my class, the chance to laugh with a coworker at a meeting, etc. No matter how busy the day, there’s always something I can find to look forward to.
- Schedule short breaks in the day when I will stop and do something for me. Write the intro to a blog post, do some online shopping, or sit quietly on my couch for a few minutes.
- Practice gratitude and kindness mindfully. To this point in my career, upset parents and pushy students have NEVER acted in those ways simply to drive me crazy. There’s always a reason for their frustration, and often patience and demonstrating care are all it takes to change their experience. By showing gratitude and fully focusing on the student in front of me, I have the best chance of changing someone’s day (which always changes my day, too!)
- Practice that gratitude and kindness mindfully toward my team and coworkers, too. We’re all busy right now—fuses are short and tempers are hot. I’ve been searching for a solution, and I think perhaps it lies in simply offering my help and recognition of the work they’re doing. It’s the best (and only) way I can role model the type of service I hope my team offers students.
- Schedule time for me, every single day. One hour. That does NOT include work out time because, for me, no matter how much I NEED to do it to feel good physically and how much of a habit it is, it still feels like a “have to” and not a “want to.” An hour of art, an hour of reading, and hour of writing, etc. Not mindless TV or internet time.
- There are a couple of things coming up in my world for which I need to do some preparation. Working on those things might remind me that the way I feel today won’t be the way I feel forever.
What about you? How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your version of my semester slump?
(Note: picture is from an unknown internet source–credit will be given if/when I find the source)