As of last month, I had a caseload of 60 students across two districts, three campuses and a presentation to complete. All was controllable until 10 evaluations and a few new students were added to my serving-platter-sized-plate. Welcome to end-of-year stress. I have been working for 10+ years, and, for whatever reason, this time of year gets hairy. Now, if the hair was like Jared Leto’s cascading untangled locks, I would be thrilled.
Don’t let stress be like the kind of hair that is abundant, unyielding and sprouting in places that should not have follicles.
1. Ask for help and feel the sense of community you are apart of
I am an advocate of hard work. Anything worthwhile takes great effort. HOWEVER, when you are unable to copewith end-of-year stress, help is okay. Rather, help is a must. You would be surprised at what can happen. I recall working on an impossible project last year. I spent days, evenings and late nights on something that was already overdue. In the end, I discovered that my task required hundreds of hours, and no one anticipated it. A specialist was brought in to support me, and I was able to provide the speech-language pathology support that was required of me.
2. Organize your day to focus on what is achievable
Take 10 minutes to write down your tasks for the day. Prioritize what is urgent and important. Sometimes, you may realize that even though a task is important, it may not be urgent. This time is well spent.
3. Take the time to talk to your peers about something besides work
Lunch exists for a reason. Sure, it feeds your body. It is also an good for the SLP-soul. A short break can do wonders for your mental health and productivity the rest of the afternoon. Typically, I find my grumpy self laughing heartedly at the antics of my co-workers. Without taking the time to gab, I would not have found out about Cristina’s quirky, and much needed, sense of humor and love for literacy. I also learned about Mary’s healthy obsession with costumes and her knowledge of phonological skills. How does this help my work performance? Try it, and I guarantee you will have a better afternoon.
4. Reap the benefits of building trust
This point is a continuation of the previous statement. When you take the time to talk to your peers, you are building trust. I always consider Trust to be my emergency stash of funds. When things get challenging or when I mess up, my Trust Stores are redeemed. Someone will complete a peer review for me at a moment’s notice. Another person will step up and kindly help finish my blog post.
5. Offering help makes you feel abundant
When the going gets tough, I find that offering to help someone else is an effective strategy for squelching some end-of-year stress. Recently, I was covering a maternity leave in a district. I did not know the system used for the special education paperwork. An ARD facilitator was pulled in to help me. My job was to fill in the speech and language portions. Over time, I realized that I could run the ARDs on my own if she would have the documents prepped. This saved her the time and effort by not coming over to my campus. A bit of effort on my part made it so much easier overall. And, when I did need help on another task, she was quickly there for me, as well.
6. Remember the why of your job offers perspective
Why did you become a speech-language pathologist? I always say that my hardest day is better than those who do not have an opportunity to directly impact lives. Our work is hard. It is also a joy and a privilege.
7. Move! Get up and move and Get Energized!
When we move, we are reenergized. Take your students outside. Use the outdoors as your therapy room. Describe the playground. Compare and contrast the plants. Read a book under a tree. Sometimes when I have meetings, I suggest we have walking meetings. You are still productive, and you will also feel much better.
8. Music sets the tone when your psyche can’t
Music works wonders. When my students are overly energized, Pachelbel’s Canon in D comes on. When I need a pick-me-up (or my students!), Pharrell’s Happy rejuvenates us.
9. Validate your stress in order to move forward positively
And, last, we make a choice on how we want to respond to the daily stressors in our job. Validate your feelings. Then, make a choice to move forward in a positive trajectory.