Burnt-out. Exhausted. Depleted. How many times have you seen those words used to describe teachers? Often, we arrive at the end of term and describe ourselves using these terms, or something similar. How often, though, do we reflect on how we feel at the start of the term?

Strategies for managing anxiety at the start of a new term

Teaching is hard, really hard. It is hard mentally and physiologically and those 12 weeks of stand down time each year are key to us being able to be present for our students for the other 40 weeks of the year.

Think about the relief we feel on the last day of term in knowing we’ve got some precious time to recharge. My recharge time is spent travelling, reading, cooking, or binge-watching that TV show I didn’t have the mental space for during the term. Like many of us, I spend some of my stand down time preparing for the term ahead, because it’s impossible to carve out this time during the term.

However, come the Sunday night before the start of Term 4, do I ever feel totally prepared? Not at all. I lie there, wide awake, thinking of all the things that Term 4 is going to throw at me… not very conducive to starting the new term feeling well rested and ready to roll.

How do you feel the night before the start of a new term? Is your stomach tied in knots? Do you have a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach? Are you feeling anxious because you didn’t manage to tick off all those jobs you’d planned to get done when you wrote your holiday to-do list?

You may be surprised to learn these feelings are not uncommon and have a name: the Sunday Scaries. As the name suggests, you may feel this way each week, or perhaps just the Sunday before the new term kicks in. Whichever Sunday Scaries you feel, there are some ways you can manage these feelings. Here are 3 strategies I’ve found to be helpful for me, that you might want to try.

  1. Write it down. You can write about what you’re feeling worried about, or just list all the things you’d like to do through the term. If you write a to-do list, be strategic: we all have things that absolutely need to be done, and other things it would be nice to get done. I have found that separating your to-dos into categories like this can support you to recognise what is an immediate priority and what can be done down the track.
  2. Trial using a productivity tool. These tools build productivity by keeping track of your to-do list. For example, I have used the Trello app to separate tasks according to whether I still need to do them, are doing them, or have done them. Each task is written on a ‘card’ which you can move around depending on where it is at. You can assign deadlines and create checklists if a task has numerous steps. If you are a teacher in a leadership role, Trello boards could be a useful way of managing competing priorities. Trello is a free app and can be installed on any device.
  3. Seek professional help. If you feel like you are finding it hard to overcome the Sunday Scaries, despite the use of productivity tools, or journaling, consider some professional help. There is no shame in seeking help from a psychologist or counsellor. They may be able to support you to develop strategies to address how you are feeling so that you can be your best self, ready for the term ahead and present for your students.