Overcoming Stress In A Stress-Filled Season


In this article, I’ll revisit 10 of my 25 Tips For Less Stress that I have found to be most helpful for me over the last two weeks or exponentially heightened stress.

Christmas is coming, and with is seems to be incredible stress for a lot of people. Perhaps it’s because I am not married and have no children, but Christmastime has never brought a lot of stress into my life by itself. Health concerns have, however, brought about some immense stress into my life a couple of times in December.

My college had a two semester student teaching process (one semester of extended observation, and one semester of down and dirty residency). I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct a piece of music at the Christmas Concert right before I began my “actual” student teaching. The next day, a kidney stone sent me to the emergency room. In the process, we found that I had a benign tumor in my chest, and ended up through a process getting scheduled to have it removed in late January.

This year, the other band director I work with had a stroke on December 7th. This resulted in me taking on much more responsibility than I was expecting. With that surprise comes stress. Not so much mental or even emotional stress, but physical stress.

I teach the Concert Band woodwind and brass classes, supervise the mariachi during my conference period (we have two contracted people who run that class for now), hope the substitute stays in the band hall during the 8th grade Accelerated Reading period so I can have lunch, teach two percussion classes simultaneously (playing completely different music and sharing instruments), relax a little bit during the 7th grade Reading, teach the Symphonic Band brass and woodwind classes, and then teach the 7th and 8th grade Beginner Band class.

I have had after school rehearsals until 5:00pm on two days last week and two days this week. I have attended high school band, mariachi, jazz band, and colorguard performances as well as the 6th grade band concert. I have a concert on Thursday night for both bands, the mariachi, and the middle school colorguard. I had a Christmas Parade the day after his stroke. And I spent two days taking the each band around to four different elementary schools.

I’m not complaining. In fact, it has given me an opportunity to really test out my 25 Tips For Less Stress.

Honestly, I have found that I really don’t have time for some of the tips, but some have been priceless.

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Here are my Top 10 Stress Reduction Strategies

  1. Reduce Responsibilities
    With as many things as I have competing for my attention, I have to say no to a lot more things. This frees me up to focus on the most important tasks before me.
  2. Kill Your TV
    This concept applies to other forms of entertainment. I spent Sunday afternoon catching up on my Google Reader and deleting some of the feeds. Allowing me to refocus my attention on the more important tasks is vital at this time. I also enjoy blogging, but have not done it much as a result of my increased workload.
  3. Play At Work
    There would be no other way to handle this whole deal than to have fun despite the situation. We have made cards, I have students coming in to decorate our office for him, and I really am starting to enjoy working with his classes. They laugh a whole lot, so it’s great.
  4. Deepen Your Relationships With Friends
    I have spent time either talking with students and parents at the concerts, going to dinner with a few friends, I actually went to see a movie (August Rush) a couple of weeks ago. That was the first time I’ve done that since Transformers in July.
  5. Deepen Your Relationships With Students
    As I said, I have some students coming in to decorate our office. They will come in and chill in my office before school or whatever. I’ve talked with them about his condition, and his wife came up to one of the rehearsals and talked with him. We made a video for him when we went on the Christmas Tour. Students are absolutely the best part about this job.
  6. Deepen Your Relationships With Coworkers
    I have been emailing our staff on his progress and keeping them updated on the whole situation. I’ve seen some other teachers or administrators at some of the concerts and have made a point to go talk with them. They appreciate the updates on him, and I really do appreciate their notes of appreciation and support.
  7. Only Work At Work
    It is so tempting to sit down at my desk and just stare at the blank screen or look at the latest news or whatever. I finally came to the point where I have decided that iPods are reasonably priced, so I bought one last Friday. I would love to turn that sucker on and just escape. But there is way too much that I have to do. So instead, I wait until I get home.
  8. Don’t Take Work Home
    When I get home, it is iPod time! I did take his music home one night and went through each of the three pieces one time. But that’s it. I make every effort to leave the school as early as I can because I know there is so much that I could be doing there that is unimportant or peripheral to everything else that I need to get done.
  9. Drink Water
    When I don’t drink enough water, my muscles hurt even more than they do normally now. I am working 13-14 hour days right now, and I need as much help as I can get. I almost have to force myself to drink water, because I know how my body will feel if I don’t drink enough. It helps both my mind and body.
  10. Wake Up Earlier
    It may be partially because I am excited about tomorrow’s concert, or because I am going to sleep earlier, or a combination of the two. I have been waking up before my alarm clock and that helps me in getting ready for the day in a much more relaxed way. I woke up before 5:00am this morning and spent a little while on writing this article. It’s therapeutic for me. :)
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So that is the top 10, but I also have a few more than have really been helpful for me. Here are five more with no commentary:

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

3 Comments on Overcoming Stress In A Stress-Filled Season

  1. >>Play At Work<<

    I always thought that students learned the most at the times they thought that they were playing when they actually were doing what I wanted them to be doing. :)

    Joel Heffner

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