COMBATING SPRINGTIME ANXIETY. 5 Tips Every Educator Needs to Know
While most of the world is relishing the newness of spring, many educators succumb to bouts of anxiety and uncertainty during this time of year. We don’t do it on purpose. With spring comes evaluations, testing, leadership changes, and job transitions. An influx of emotions is inevitable. After all, most of the time we are in control of our classrooms. Some unexpected challenges may surface during the school year, but for the most part, we are the captains of our ships. Until spring. Forces outside of our control invade our daily routines, leaving many feeling anxious. Don’t be caught off guard. It’s normal to feel anxious when…
evaluation occurs. Although none of us are perfect, it would be nice to have a perfect (or near-perfect) evaluation. It’s stressful when so much seems to ride on a single observation as a reflection of our competency level. Will it be a bad day? Will my evaluator be knowledgeable? Fair? Biased? Will my students cooperate? Will my preparation pay off? There is much that can create anxiety.
it’s testing time. We have worked all year for this moment. So much time and effort are put into preparing for one day in time. Will my students perform? Will they fold under pressure? Will this reflect our learning? What happens if the scores are not good? There is much that can create anxiety.
unexpected transitions arise. Springtime often feels like “upset the apple cart” season for educators. Many are moved to new grade levels, asked to teach a different subject, or transferred to a new school or position. Sometimes the move is by choice, and sometimes it isn’t. Is this the right decision? Why are they moving me? Will I have friendly colleagues? Will I be successful? There is much that can create anxiety.
leadership changes. Building and district leadership is like a revolving door these days. If you happen to be an educator who has had continuity in your leadership, you are blessed. Good leaders often work hard to establish direction, develop culture, and institute routines. Then they leave. Now what? Do we start over? Will the next leader be a child advocate? Will he/she be personable and kind? Will they like me? Will we have new initiatives and abandon the old? There is much that can create anxiety.
Anxious thoughts are normal and unavoidable. Anytime something or someone threatens our emotional safety, it is normal to be anxious. How do we make sure those thoughts don’t turn into ongoing worry? How do we combat feelings of frustration and anger? How can we remain calm and maintain our joy? How can we combat springtime anxiety?
LIVE ONE DAY AT A TIME
This is harder than it sounds. As educators, we must plan ahead in order to do our jobs well. As for me, it’s difficult to not let my mind wander into tomorrow and the next day and the next because I want to be prepared. I don’t want any surprises. However, if we are not careful in our efforts to be prepared for uncertainty, we can end up creating scenarios in our heads that create unhealthy anxiety for us.
Maybe this is why Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). Jesus knows we live in a fallen world, and sometimes the future looks bleak. However, focusing on the problems of tomorrow will only steal the joy available to us today. Jesus wants us to live in the present, believing and trusting Him to provide everything we need for today. Just like God provided daily manna for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15), He gives us enough grace for one day at a time. Trust God for today, and He will take care of tomorrow.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33
Simply put, our walk with God must be the single most important aspect of our lives. When we lose sight of this, worry and doubt creep in and steal our joy. How do we keep the main thing the main thing? I love the advice Moses gave to the Israelites at the end of his time with them. He knew that if the Israelites continued to seek God above all else, God would provide.
“Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19b-20
Jesus said much the same thing when He was questioned by the Pharisees.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38
Jesus gave a similar message to His disciples.
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” John 14:21
Sometimes we make the Christian walk far too difficult. In reality, it is simple. Love God and obey Him. Keep the main thing the main thing.
START WITH GOD
We’ve all heard the phrase “begin with the end in mind” when it comes to curriculum mapping or lesson planning. This is important because we know what we do each day helps prepare our students for future learning. Have you ever had a lesson go south? I have a dear friend who went from teaching second grade to first. She was excited about the new opportunity and worked extremely hard to plan engaging learning activities for the first day of school. She literally couldn’t wait for her children to arrive! I stopped by her classroom at the end of the day to find out how everything went. She looked at me, looked at the trash can, and then said, “There are my plans. Nothing worked.” At that moment, all she could see was her failure.
When we start our story with ourselves and our circumstances, we see flaws, failures, and impossibilities. When we start our story with God, we are reminded there is always more to our story than what we can see. We are part of something bigger than ourselves. If we want to combat springtime anxiety, we have to take our eyes off of ourselves and look to God. He is in control of our today and our tomorrow. We can trust that His plans for us are always best (Jeremiah 29:11) and His purposes will prevail (Proverbs 19:21). Like my good friend, we may have a few bad days, but when we start with God, anxious thoughts melt into hope.
Combating springtime anxiety requires perseverance and tenacity in one major area – prayer. In Luke 18:1 Jesus told his disciples to be persistent – to pray at all times and to not give up. Taking our concerns to God is our most potent weapon against worry, but it can’t be a one-time event. There are so many times in the past when I wasted hours and sometimes days trying to figure something out on my own instead of sitting quietly before God and yielding my worries to Him. I would eventually get there but not before I experienced some unnecessary frustration and anxiety. Tony Evans said, “The more your worry, the less you pray. The more you pray, the less you worry.” I have found this to be true in my own life.
The Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
The opposite of anxiety is peace, and peace isn’t possible without God’s intervention. Life’s circumstances change on a daily basis. We all know things can go from bad to worse in a heartbeat. In those moments we can acknowledge God is right there with us. Tell Him what you need, thank Him for His faithful provision, and experience supernatural peace. This is a promise straight from Jesus himself. Be persistent.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
I hate to state the obvious, but sometimes it is necessary. Let go!
Let go of circumstances out of your control.
Let go of feelings of inadequacy.
Let go of pride.
Let go of worry.
Let go of trying to figure everything out.
Let go of what others think.
Let go of past mistakes.
Instead, give all of your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). This has truly been an area of growth for me, but I can honestly say God is giving me victory in this area. I’m continuing to learn to let go of anxious thoughts immediately instead of allowing those thoughts to drag me down a dark hole. Don’t waste another minute of your precious time here on earth wrapped up in springtime anxiety. It is completely unnecessary and definitely not worth it! Live one day at a time, keep the main thing the main thing, start with God, be persistent, and LET GO!
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.