Isn't it cute when well-meaning doctors, family members, and friends tell you to "just relax" and "cut down on your stress?"
There's no cutting down on stress levels when you already "have" somewhere between 30-180 "kids". In fact, I've known teachers who have left the profession because they were SO convinced that their stress levels from work were going to keep them from conceiving their own children.
And, if we're being honest: I finally got pregnant right when summer vacation started. (Coincidence? I doubt it!)
However, I've also known teachers who have gotten a positive test during all months of the school year, not just in the spring/summer, and launched into parenting with grace. Barring other health factors you may have, your stress levels alone do not HAVE to define your current and future status as a parent.
Regardless of what time of year it is now (and when you're hoping to get good news), here are a few tips from me and some other teacher friends to help you stay sane during this time.
1. Beware the internet rabbit hole.
There are a lot of books, articles, and internet forums out there for TTC women... and while some of those communities are a good thing, to a point, wallowing in self-pity and other women's sob stories for TOO long can actually have an adverse affect. Don't tred in those spaces for too long at a time, and try not to obsess with comparisons to other people. They don't have your body or your life!
2. Get "stress relief" through movement.
I'm not good at traditional "stress relief", because no matter what things I do that "should" work, things like massages or exercise never get rid of ALL my stress.
However, the point isn't to get rid of ALL your stress - just some of it! And for me, the best way to do that was by moving and not sitting still, which does not HAVE to require a gym membership. Walking a dog, taking the long route, or anything escapist counts!
Use your lunch time to take a brisk walk or do something that gets you "off campus". It is tough to de-stress when you are in the middle of it. - Samantha Steele
3. Utilize your commute.
The 10-15 minutes I spend in the car to and from work are my most zen. Why? Because it's when I'm limited in how much I can work or multitask.
I have specific playlists for driving "to school" vs. "from school", based on whether I need to wake up or calm down, and you may want to experiment with music, audiobooks, radio, or even silence to unwind.
4. Unplug - somewhere, at some time.
It doesn't have to be full-blown meditation or a dedicated 30 minutes, but you'll feel it adding up if your routine involves some version of non-school relaxation.
Take a moment for yourself during the day. I'm trying hard to learn to meditate, even though it's really not "my thing" and I'm finding that just taking a minute or three to breathe and not let my racing mind control me helps a lot with my stress level. - Madame Aiello
5. Visualize that "last day of school" feeling.
Imagine your first day or night of summer vacation - no grading, no early wakeup, a silent email inbox, no to-do list (or at least a shorter one). Ahh.
Now, you might not be able to achieve that depth of freedom and relaxation completely during the school year, but it IS possible to...
- Silence your inbox for certain periods of time
- Prep everything by Friday so you can truly "go home" during the weekend
- Have dedicated grading/not grading time so you can ignore the dark cloud looming above your head for a little while
- Protect one weekend morning to sleep in!
6. Don't let negative tests ruin your day.
I've known teachers who were so rattled by a negative pregnancy test that they were visibly unhinged the entire school day. Trust me, I know from experience how devastating ANOTHER negative test can be, but you AND your students will be better off if you can compartmentalize that grief to not affect your students.
My favorite way to think about it was that my students were my "first" kids, so I still needed to be there for them until I could go back home and deal with my feelings there.
7. Practice time management NOW.
I know... it's annoying when people advise you to "live your life while you still can", or distract you with things you should do "first" before having children. But in addition to your bucket list, there are other things to work on NOW, while you still can.
When you DO get pregnant and/or bring home a baby, your entire routine is going to change. You'll have other things and people demanding your attention, less total time, shorter stretches of uninterrupted time, and sometimes less motivation.
NOW is the time to work ahead on...
- How efficiently you are (or aren't) getting your grading and lesson planning done
- Work/life balance, including squeezing in exercise or walking
- Gradually adding loose, long, or stretchy clothes to your closet (more on this later)
- Logical division of chores at home between you and your partner
- Professional development or career tasks (while you still have more time)
- Any other issues at home or school that are sucking up your time
8. Don't wait to ask for help.
I mean this in every sense of the word. I waited too long with a bad OBGYN who wasn't listening to me before switching to a new doctor - and getting pregnant two months later - because I got the right help for the problem I was having.
Don't wait to ask for help from...
- Your partner, if you need help staying happy, distracted, or sane
- Your doctor, if you think there could be a medical issue slowing down conception
- Your colleagues, if you need a hand with work/life balance and stress levels
- Your students, sort of. They don't need to know about your health per se, but ask yourself if you're doing work that your students should or could be, like peer editing more, helping to keep the classroom clean, etc.
Future blog posts with tips for teachers are forthcoming about pregnancy, maternity/paternity leave, and adoption!