School leadership is one of the most complex and stressful forms of leadership. Not only are our school principals responsible for maintaining a safe and effective educational atmosphere for students, but they have the added responsibility for developing and coaching a solid team of teachers and administrators and they must be available to parents for any school-related issue that may arise with their student.
On top of it all, this year is unlike any other. School leaders have been hit with the added task of developing and maintaining a safe and healthy environment during a global health crisis. Managing the politics of their actions with what they deem is safe and responsible, along with added pressure from the district and state to perform at their best, turning out high student success rates, school principals are feeling the pressure now more than ever.
Our school principals are the guiding light that make our schools feel safe, inclusive, and a place where all students have the ability to learn and become whomever they want to become. When our principals suffer from burn out, mental exhaustion, and stress, the entire system can crumble leaving an unmotivated staff of teachers and administrators and students who simply aren’t getting the support they need to succeed.
So how does one handle stress during unprecedented times? How can our school principals ensure that while taking care of their students, teachers, administrators, and parents, they are also taking care of their own physical and mental wellbeing?
Here are some ways school principals can tackle stress to ensure they and their school are healthy throughout the school year.
Indulge yourself. Find something that you enjoy and make it part of your routine. This can be monthly massages, pedicures, a shopping spree, or even taking that fitness class you’ve been meaning to sign up for. Doing things for yourself is becoming increasingly important, especially for those who are constantly thinking of and doing for others.
Get creative. Everyone needs a hobby that they enjoy doing to help them relax while staying physically and mentally engaged. Start a small garden for yourself or within your school. Perhaps you are a closet artist and you haven’t picked up a paintbrush in a few years—get your supplies and create! Start something new that will spark creativity and reduce the constant stress of your workweek.
Rebuild your passion. You didn’t get into school leadership on a whim. You have gotten where you are because you developed a passion for helping others and improving the educational outcome of our future. Reconnect with your former self, and help your staff get and stay motivated along with you. Start a weekly or monthly focus group to inspire and ignite confidence and passion back into your school and your heart.
Take a break. Sometimes weekends simply aren’t enough to rest and recharge from the mounting pressures of being a school leader. Take advantage of those three-day weekends, or create one using your well-deserved paid time off and get out of town. Reconnect with yourself and your family with a weekend at the beach or in the mountains.
Take long walks, find the path less traveled, and enjoy the stillness in taking time for yourself. You will return to work feeling fresh and vibrant, and you will have so many ideas on how to improve that long list of to-dos, because lets face it, even when we are not in the classroom, we are always thinking about those students and how we can make a positive impact on their educational journey.