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How Can Teachers Thrive - Not Just Survive?

Are you feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and exhausted? The holiday season can bring joy and chaos in equal measure. But then again, so can the start of a new school year, the end of a school year, and so many points in between.

So how can teachers thrive – not just survive – through the busy season as well as the whole cycle of the year?

Special subject teachers are in a unique position in any school community. We wear many hats and work with a wide range of ages. Depending on the size of the school, a handwork teacher can easily have up to 300 students in one week. Walking out of a 7th grade class and into a 1st grade class requires great flexibility of soul. We are constantly shifting gears, planning, prepping, and lugging supplies. It can be all too easy to let ourselves slip into the “monkey mind” where our thoughts are racing, our heart rate is increased, and we may start to feel tangled up and unraveled!

Have you ever noticed that when you are having your worst day, suddenly the children are having their worst behavior too? Unfortunately, this is not simply Murphy’s Law. When a teacher or parent walks in the door feeling stressed and frazzled the children feel it too. They may unconsciously respond by acting out or melting down.

So, how do we find that inner calm and sense of grounding when it’s all spiraling out of control?

Breathe deep:

Try this simple tip to calm your body, quiet your mind, and bring you back to the present moment. Find a safe place (under a tree, in the restroom, outside the door of the next class) and take 30-60 seconds in between each class to breathe deeply. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Then exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Silently counting can give you something to focus on and help you clear your mind. Take this practice to the next level and try 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening to breathe deeply. You may enjoy simply counting to four as you inhale and exhale. Or you might like to choose a positive and calming 4 syllable mantra to silently repeat.

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, studies show that breathing exercises can alleviate stress, allow you to think more clearly, and reduce anxiety.


I know there have been times in my life when I have said to myself: I’ll sleep when it’s holiday break. I’ll sleep when it’s summer break. I’ll sleep when… But the truth is, the busier life is, the more vital it is to get some sleep!

A minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night can boost your immune system, reduce levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, increase your ability to regulate emotions, and even help with memory formation and cognitive function.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Check out this great article from for loads of tips on helping you sleep soundly at night.

Knit, crochet, stitch, create!

We put our whole hearts and minds into teaching, caring for the children, and setting them up for success. But how often do you take time for your own personal handwork projects? Do you have special projects that are just for you? A creative outlet that has nothing to do with school, teaching, or gift-giving?

Handwork can promote relaxation by engaging the mind and body in a repetitive, rhythmic activity. This can lead to a meditative state, reducing stress and anxiety. This calming effect can potentially lower heart rates and blood pressure. Having a project at home that is purely for your own creative outlet can allow your mind to take a break from the to-do lists and stresses of everyday life and provide an opportunity to channel and process your emotions in a positive, healthy way.

Connect with community:

We all know that meaningful relationships with family, friends, and community members are key to living a happy and healthy life. According to leading mental health experts, stress triggers a “fight or flight” mode in our body and releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Social connections act as an antidote to stress, releasing hormones into our bodies that create a sense of calm, relaxation, and resilience.

But sometimes life as a handwork teacher or homeschooling parent can feel lonely. Yes, we all have colleagues and friends, but do they truly understand the ins and outs of teaching handwork and what goes on in our day-to-day lives? Connecting to people who share similar experiences can be incredibly supportive of our well-being. Together we can listen, empathize, brainstorm, share, inspire, and learn from each other.

Become a part of the WHE handwork community and foster connections with handwork educators worldwide. Participate in our virtual international February handwork teacher’s conference or enroll in our 2 year online handwork teacher development program to establish relationships within the broader handwork teaching community. Our united goal is to provide mutual support. We all learn from each other. We are stronger together. Together we can thrive!

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