Here in Wisconsin, we tend to hit this time of year where cabin fever sets in. The holidays are over, the cold and snow have lost their novelty, and the days are still short – it’s a rarity on a regular work day for me to be outside when the sun is still up (with the exception of bus duty weeks…). Students feel cooped up, unable to get outside without freezing to get fresh air and exercise. And it only gets worse. Third quarter is the most difficult for students and teachers, a quarter where there are no breaks, parent teacher conferences are held, and there is no let up in the temperatures.
This time of year is one of the most challenging, and you can see it on everyone’s faces. Stress sets in, people get overwhelmed, and a negative slump ensues. This tends to be a web that both students and teachers get caught in. We often see behaviors in students rise and grades drop. Negativity has a strong impact on everything in our lives, and a focus on this behavior can lead to a rut that is very hard to get out of.
So how can we pull ourselves and our students out of this slump? What positive things can we add to our lives or routine to help us deal with the doldrums that arrive this time every year? Here are a couple of activities I have found, and research proves, that can help with stress, negativity, and ‘this time of the year’:
1. Get moving –
Exercise is important for everyone. Besides the physical health benefits, exercise releases endorphins and gets blood flowing to the brain, improving memory, concentration, and performance. Something to remember about endorphins is that they wear off, so it is important for exercise to be a part of your routine to fully reap their benefit.
2. Set goals –
Setting goals is essential for our every day lives. Humans need things to work toward; they give us purpose. Goals set a clear focus, force you optimize your time, and motivate you. Setting and reaching goals is one of the ways the dopamine chemical is released in the brain. It is important to have small reachable goals every day, but it is just as important to have long term goals. Easily attainable goals help give us dopamine, but long term goals give us purpose. The best way to have success with long term goals is to set small reachable goals to keep up your motivation.
3. Appreciate someone –
Showing appreciation, especially in public, is highly important to our wellbeing. Often the work we do is done for others. When we do things for others, and then it is recognized, it not only reinforces the relationship with that person, it also makes us work harder to continue to make that person proud and raises our confidence. And even better yet, when you appreciate someone, it has benefits for you too, including changing your focus to the positive things in your life, creating an avenue to eliminate stress, frustration, resentment, and anger.
4. Be generous –
And money won’t work…You need to be generous with things that are invaluable, like your time and energy. Take the time to talk with others, not to be able to respond, but just to listen to them. Do something for someone that they cannot repay. The more that you give without expecting something in return the more you want to do. Even experiencing someone else’s act of generosity can positivity affect you. Think about the pay it forward movement. When someone does something for you or you see someone being generous, it makes you want to do the same.
5. Stop the negative comments –
What you say has an impact. Even for those who say words don’t bother them (think the sticks and stones saying), they do. Many of us can remember something negative someone said about us, but often have trouble remembering something positive that was said. By saying negative comments, you affect your mood. Continuing to participate in negative thoughts will increase the quantity of them. It also pulls others in, creating a cyclical pattern of negativity.
Bonus activity –
If all else fails, and you don’t want to or can’t do any of the above…SMILE! Find ways to have fun, and it will brighten everyone’s day. The act of smiling is contagious, causing other people to smile in return. And the contraction of your facial muscles when you smile is another way dopamine is released in the brain.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha
Be a candle for others. We need more light in this world.