7 ways for teachers to beat the Sunday blues

January 11, 2014

in awakened, hot topics

Have you ever wasted half the weekend worrying about the week ahead? Even if you love your job, you might still wake up on Sunday mornings with a feeling of dread and spend the evening in a total state of anxiety simply because there are so many pressures associated with teaching. Here are 7 tips to help you relax, enjoy your time off, AND be more productive:

Sunday Night Blues

1) Don’t leave school on Friday until you’ve prepared for Monday morning. It’s tempting to run out of the classroom as soon as possible before the weekend, but you’ll enjoy your time off so much more if you make Monday’s photocopies, set up the supplies you need for projects, and get your classroom in a reasonably neat and organized state before heading out the door. Knowing that you’re not returning to a messy classroom and huge list of things to do before students arrive on Monday will give you some peace over the weekend.

2) Wait until Sunday morning to decide how much time you’re going to allot to school work. I don’t like to make that decision in advance because things pop up at the last minute and then I feel stressed if my plans get messed up. Waiting until Sunday morning to decide allows me to roll with the punches if I’m not feeling well or if an opportunity to do something fun arises.  

every weekend

3) Choose an amount of time that fits your life–don’t base it on how much work needs to get done. Teaching is a never-ending job and there will always be something more that you could do, so there’s no point in trying to work until it’s all finished. Unless you have a special deadline (like report cards are due or it’s the end of the quarter), try to choose how much of your free time on the weekend you’re willing to dedicate to your work. Can you steal two hours while your little one naps? Can you squeeze in an hour before the family wakes up and another after they go to bed? Figure out what will make a dent in your workload in order to make Monday go more smoothly, and do only that amount. It’s more possible than you think, if you…

4) Make your work time a true work-only period. If you choose to dedicate the hours of 2-5 pm to grading papers, do it whole-heartedly. Don’t check Facebook, text a friend, and watch TV at the same time. I’m speaking from experience here: that will only prolong the amount of time you perceive yourself as working. Before you know it, the whole day will be gone and you’ll be moaning about how all you did was work when the truth is that you only truly worked for an hour or two. Staying focused is tough, but it’s a lot easier for me if I know that I’m sticking to the time I allotted–if I’m really going to put away the work at 5 pm, I don’t have time to peruse Pinterest…and I know that I can go on Pinterest guilt-free afterward.

need another day

5) Set a time frame for thinking about school on Sunday. Part of the reason why Sunday is so stressful is that our minds are constantly wandering into the future, running through the list of things we still need to get done and worrying about what the week will hold. You can limit this by giving yourself 5-15 minutes to think about the week ahead: I like to have a short time for this in the morning before I do the day’s work, and then again after I finish the work to give myself some closure. Plan out strategies for dealing with challenging issues. Write down any additional tasks you need to complete. Daydream about activities you want to do with your students, and envision yourself having a successful week.

6)  Train yourself not to think about school outside of the  time you allotted.  In Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching, I share four mental strategies for dealing with unwanted thoughts: dismiss, distract, reject, and replace. That’s what you need to do when you’re supposed to be relaxing and your mind keeps returning to all the pressures of teaching. Tell yourself, I am rejecting these thoughts about school because they’re not productive. I’m choosing to replace them with the thought that when Monday morning comes, I can trust myself to know what to do, so I don’t need to think about it right now. Then distract yourself by doing something more enjoyable, and dismiss any thoughts about school that continue to arise. It takes awhile to discipline your mind to stay in the present moment, but each time you do it, you’re breaking those unhealthy habits and making it easier for you to be mindful next time.

sunday already

7) Give yourself at least one thing to look forward to on Monday. Is there a student who always makes you laugh? A fun colleague you’ll have lunch with? A lesson you particularly enjoy teaching? A project you know you’ll get to complete? If you can’t think of anything, create something to look forward to! One year when I had a particularly challenging class, I built a little bright spot into my daily schedule for each day of the week. On Mondays, a co-worker and I took turns bringing breakfast to school and we ate together in her classroom and chatted about our weekend before our workday hours officially started. On Tuesdays, I enrolled my students in a virtual class that was taught by the school district remotely, giving me an extra break for 30 minutes.  On Wednesdays, I team-taught a reading lesson with an enthusiastic coworker who always got me excited about our work. So, whenever I started to feel dread about going into school the next day, I remembered the fun activity I had planned and stayed focused on that, instead of whatever was stressing me out.

How do you beat the Sunday night blues? Please share your tips (or struggles) in the comments. Remember–you are not alone in this!

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Subscribe via email for blog updates, exclusive tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary January 11, 2014 at 8:24 pm

thanks for the ideas, Angela

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2 theresa January 11, 2014 at 8:56 pm

God I hate Sunday nights so much. Thank you for these ideas.

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3 Erin January 11, 2014 at 10:40 pm

You mean I’m not the only one having so much trouble enjoying my weekends?

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4 Shawn January 12, 2014 at 10:28 am

NOT AT ALL…this has been my life for three years!

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5 Giulie January 11, 2014 at 11:40 pm

I like the idea of setting aside time in Sunday for schoolwork. I can easily spend large chunks of time over the weekend working on school stuff and feel like I’ve had little rest.
The one thing I can’t manage is prepping on Friday afternoon for Monday – I’m just too exhausted!
I have decided to make Saturday all mine – no school stuff!

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6 Michele January 11, 2014 at 11:56 pm

This Friday, I decided to stay until my lesson plans are done, I still have some copying ing, but for the first time n a long time I am not do ending time at school on Saturday or Sunday. When I grade I listen to my rafi classics and grade. Great advice angela thank so mch

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7 Daniel January 12, 2014 at 1:20 am

I can personally attest to the first tip. There’s nothing like peace of mind for the weekend when you leave everything ready on Friday evening. You could totally forget about work during Sunday and come in Monday morning and it will trigger an epiphany, an “Oh yeah!”, when you see the objective and agenda already written on the board, lol.

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8 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:10 am

Very true!

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9 Karen January 12, 2014 at 3:14 am

Thanks for this! I need to work on number 4. If I do that I might just be able to control my working hours.

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10 Kim January 12, 2014 at 9:10 am

Thank you so much for sharing these. It can get overwhelming at times and these ideas help to deal with that.

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11 Betty January 12, 2014 at 10:34 am

I really pretty much function this way as a classroom teacher, but still find myself stressing about the week ahead. I do however feel prepared, just dread the possible bumps in they road and the curve(s) that I’ll probably get thrown….part of being a teacher….flexibility….it’s hard, but completely necessary.

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12 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:12 am

Yes, anticipating problems is a big issue. There have been studies showing that 90% of the things we worry about never come to pass. I find it helpful to remind myself of that when I get anxious thinking about everything that could go wrong.

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13 Betty January 12, 2014 at 10:36 am

*the, not they

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14 Missy January 12, 2014 at 10:40 am

I have finally, after 27 years of this profession, mastered the art of “shutting it off” on the weekends and holiday breaks. There have been times where I have felt overly disorganized during the week as a result, but the trade off of having concentrated down-time weighs out. It’s not really that I have found great strategies to allow this to happen. I have just come to realize that my teaching doesn’t get any better if I’ve obsessed and stressed about work all weekend or have chosen to “shut it off.” It’s a choice. I do my very best during the week, and then let it go for my two days of family and me time.

One thing for which I could use some ideas is keeping up with grading papers. I tend to pile them up for days, and then have to do a “grading marathon!” At the end of each day, my focus is on preparing the next day and any extra paperwork/meetings that may be required. I would love to find a way that makes the grading less grueling…any ideas?

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15 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

Working on a post about that! I do have some tips for grading student writing here: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2013/02/10-time-saving-tips-for-grading-student-writing.html

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16 LaShell January 12, 2014 at 11:04 am

I try to find something interesting to share with my students ranging from a youtube video that relates to our area of study to a song. This gets me super excited for Monday to be able to tell them about it. Love your ideas!

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17 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

That’s a good one. Anytime I have something interesting to share with the kids, I’m more excited to go to work. If I’m not excited to teach anything that day, my lessons probably need some revamping. ;)

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18 Janet January 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

#4 is the one that rang true with me the most! The problem that I always encounter has one simple title: CHILDREN!
If I’m going to work I have to inform my husband about my “working hours” so that he will step in if someone is hungry or there’s a squabble. Thank God I have him…sometimes I think that I should be a Starbucks dweller and do my work there!

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19 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

Great idea to have “working hours” at home when you family isn’t supposed to disturb you!

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20 Julie January 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm

I love these tips. I just started a new grade and population and we have limited materials in the school that are appropriate for my students and I have a very wide range of abilities. I feel like I am spending all of my waking hours doing school things, thinking about school, worrying about not doing enough….I need to find ways to get a better balance to my life, especially my weekends.

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21 Jess Smith January 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I used to treat myself every Friday mornings with Starbucks before I got to school – a “yay it’s almost the weekend” latte….. then I decided to switch that treat to MONDAYS. It makes Monday mornings just a little less daunting :)

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22 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

Excellent tip!

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23 Beth January 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Amen and thank-you. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been fretting in a fog of depression and jolts of panic for hours today. I didn’t get to my plans on Friday, so I will set aside from 6-9 tonight to work. Right now I need to continue to rest and rejuvenate and dismiss thoughts of school and housework. Again, thank-you!

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24 Rhea January 12, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Really helpful tips :-) Particularly liked the last one about focussing on something I am looking forward to on Monday or creating them if nothing stands out.

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25 Meredith January 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I am glad I ran across this site. I am a first year teacher and I thought I was the only one out there who felt this way. I constantly feel the disorganization and I feel like my work is just never finished so I dread planning all weekend because I just have so much to do. I love my job but maybe if I tried the planning of everything on Friday before leAving, I can focus on my family with 3 babies rather than my weekends just being a time to “catch up.”

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26 Sandra 1st year teach January 12, 2014 at 5:23 pm

I ride in a van pool and so my time on Fridays (or any day for that matter) is limited. I take Saturdays off but still hate Sundays. I need to make a schedule and plan to work a few hours. I agree, doing work on the couch with the TV on is unproductive for me. Thanks for reminding me I’m not alone.

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27 Karen Merkle January 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Wow. Thank you for your advice. It is so comforting to hear the way I feel from another teacher. Now I know I am not alone.

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28 Heather January 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Four words: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. Top drawer of my desk. I LOVE my job… but on those mornings when I need incentive, knowing that little jar of heaven’s waiting for me at school is enough to do the trick. :D

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29 Angela Watson January 13, 2014 at 8:09 am

Hilarious! And I agree, that cookie butter is pretty amazing stuff.

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30 Rebecca January 12, 2014 at 9:48 pm

#7 is very smart. I started doing a book club with my kids during lunch where I sit and read to them while they eat in the room. We are reading Bunnicula (3rd grade) and I just love hearing them laugh at the funny parts and get the same chuckle out of it that I got when I read it the first time. Having something extra that is fun and that I’m not required to do, but just do out of enjoyment and for pleasure is awesome. Hoping this is something I can continue and influence the kids to love reading, too. I like the previous commenter that talked about finding something fun to show the kids. Great idea

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31 Susan Hulett January 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm

I have found that the right anxiety meds are the only things that keep me from obsessing about school every hour that I’m not there. Unfortunately, it took me 12 years and a trip to the psych ward to figure it out, but I’ve never felt better. I love my students and look forward to teaching them every day. I may occasionally leave work without everything squared away, but I can go with the flow and not sweat the small stuff any more. A whole, healthy body and mind are the best thing that I can provide for my students!

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32 Karen March 8, 2014 at 4:00 am

Susan, thanks for being brave enough to say this. When anxiety and depression are biochemical in their primary source, the right medication can mean the difference between coping and not coping. I recently discovered that my B12 levels were low enough to warrant treatment, and since treatment commencing life has been better. The other trick was to eliminate Coke (Coca Cola) from my diet! Amazing what a difference it makes.

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33 Carmen Seegmiller January 16, 2014 at 8:02 pm

That sense of dread every Sunday night is so familiar! Thanks for the great list! I try to leave the weekends open for family– its a goal, sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t.

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34 elicia January 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm

As always, this blog and the commenters make me feel like I am not alone! I especially like the reminder that the work is never done, so decide how much to do and then leave. I think I should put that up on my desk where I can’t miss it.

Finally, a word about #6- retraining my brain. For me, as a new teacher in a new grade in a new state in a charter school with out an actual curriculum (beyond a vague “teach the core” directive) and no materials other than what I purchase on my own…Don’t spend time researching/looking at freebies on TPT or TeachersNotebook. While I’ve discovered so many great resources (and thanks if you are one of those amazing folks who posts great activities for free or low cost-Angela, I’m talking to you!) I also know that just hanging around and surfing the internet for teaching resources in my free time is NOT helping me unwind and relax.

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35 Ellen September 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm

As a new, young teacher, many years ago, I had a principal who required that lesson plans for the following week must be left in plain sight on each teacher’s desk before he/she left on Friday. AND … he would spot check to make sure we were following this rule. Though I admired and respected him and very much loved working with him, I always resented being made to do this task on his schedule. It wasn’t until I moved to a different city and job that I came to realize all the ridiculous weekend anxiety my former principal had helped his teachers avoid. I admit that without him it was hard to muster the discipline to go back to the standard he had set for us but I did. Thank you, Mr. Sefcik, wherever you are!

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36 Diana September 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm

I am probably the only teacher who gets the Friday night blues instead! I live alone, so I miss my students fiercely over the weekend, and I am constantly thinking up new things I want to do with them. I am also, however, a graduate student, so I need to focus on my own school work on the weekends. I find that using a small notebook to jot down things about work and “put them away” helps me stay focused on my other weekend activities, and not lose my new ideas or exciting approaches to writing and grammar that cross my mind. This psychological approach to filing our worries and distractions is actually a great way to fall asleep when school worries are nagging at you at bedtime, as well. Write down the issue, and you know it will be there in the morning. Until then, close the book and go to sleep.

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37 Angela Watson October 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

What a lovely perspective! Thank you for sharing, Diana.

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38 Stacey Fentress September 22, 2014 at 12:01 am

knowing how long your unit is & how many days it will take to complete is step one. Planning ahead & getting 90% of your next week ready on Friday is step 2. (Leave yourself a post it of what is left) step 2. Finally complete any copies needed step 3.

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39 Roxanne Walters September 22, 2014 at 3:36 am

I can relate very much to this post! I seem to spend most of my weekends preparing for the following week, not spending much time relaxing with my family. By Sunday night I am still stressed and feel like I go out tired on Monday. The best tip here is # 1 for me- that little extra time spent preparing on Friday may make the difference. Thanks Angela!

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