By Tyler Mallet

If 2020 taught us one thing, it is the importance of our well-being. Notorious for burning out in previous years, school leaders are starting this year with newfound commitments to themselves. However, beware of these two traps if you want to develop a habit of balance.

Trap 1: Overworking
You are more susceptible than ever this year to the overworking trap. It’s an inability to close the computer and stop checking the phone after hours. If you fall victim to it, you may experience guilt about unanswered emails, fear of letting down a colleague who needs you or worry about being unprepared for tomorrow. To combat this, you borrow time from your own rest, fun, and loved ones to catch up.

Why It’s a Trap:
It is not sustainable to always put the needs of others before your own down time, even during an unprecedented school year. Research shows your brain functions best for about 6 hours per day. After that, it starts to clock itself out because it is not designed to think about work all day. This leaves you irritable and less enthusiastic about your job. In the long run, overworking only dampens your ability to connect with your team and serve them effectively.

Respect Your Cutoff Point:
Here’s a tip if you struggle with overworking. Try setting a cutoff alarm to signal quitting time. Say to yourself, “Enough for today.” Then transition to a no-tech activity like going to the gym, taking a walk or preparing a meal with family. This will not only ease the shame of neglecting yourself, but it will also train you to accept recovery as equally important as work.

Trap 2: Over-Explaining
Venting might relieve stress and validate our feelings. Over-explainers, however, simply cannot stop talking about problems. If you’re stuck in the overexplaining trap, you may spend your evening calling friends to re-hash what happened earlier or re-telling a stressful story to your loved ones at home. Over-explainers cannot let the past go, so they cope with stress by discussing it.

Why It’s a Trap:
Problems in a school system can be enticing, interesting and even entertaining to talk about. However, the longer you do, the worse you might be making it. When we give an issue too much attention, we keep that very problem active in our brains. We literally re-live the experience every time we talk about it, consequently making the issue seem much bigger than it is.

Quiet Your Mind
Meditating before bed brings instant relief to the Over-explainer. It helps you wake up the next morning less attached to what troubled you the day before. Try taking 15-20 minutes before bed to slow the swirl of thoughts about the day. Grab a pair of headphones and listen to some ambient audio. This can be any dull or boring sound like running water, white noise or soft music. Since ambient sounds are monotonous, our minds don’t have to focus on anything and therefore can naturally start to calm down.

Tyler Mallet is a former district-level director and an Austin-based coach who specializes in K-12 stress.

TEPSA News, November/December 2020, Vol 77, No 6

Copyright © 2020 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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