I really love this time of year, because it’s the time I start looking at planners and calendars and thinking about all the possibilities of a new year. It’s exciting!
That being said, the flip side of excitement is often anxiety. And this can be a really anxiety-filled time of year for many.
On top of the usual assessment and reporting cycle, there’s a lot of end-of-year tasks, plus all the uncertainty of what the new year will bring.
If you’re on a temporary contract, you’re likely waiting to find out if/where you have a job next year. If you have a permanent position, you’re probably waiting to find out what subjects/year level you will be teaching next year. If you’re in a leadership role, you’re likely managing those uncertainties for your staff and maybe for your own position, as well as things like enrolment numbers and budget allocations for next year.
That’s not even including the stressors of the silly season in your personal life.
The thing about uncertainty is that human beings don’t usually like it very much. In my experience, teachers like to be organised and have a plan.
Let’s face it: we like being in control!
And this time of year brings us right up against the fact that we can’t actually control everything (if anything!), and it can be very, very uncomfortable.
If that’s how you feel right now, I encourage you to acknowledge it, and be very kind to yourself.
The discomfort of uncertainty is uncomfortable, but it won’t kill you.
Being present with yourself, sitting with that feeling and practising self-compassion sounds like the opposite of what would help.
We usually try to avoid or numb the discomfort instead.
But tuning in to it actually makes the discomfort more comfortable.
As Hagrid says, what is coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does. The future will arrive, whether we worry about it or not, and when it does come, we’ll deal with it then.
Sometimes I have to remind myself of this several times a day. It’s hard and sometimes repetitive work, but it helps.
Acknowledging my rising anxiety and extreme discomfort with uncertainty makes me feel more in control in the moment, of the the things I can actually control, like my breathing, and my response.
It’s really easy to tell ourselves we’re being ridiculous when we start to get anxious, to just suck it up and get on with it.
But that usually only does one thing: send the anxious thoughts underground, where they continue to wreak havoc, but with less chance of us consciously steering them to healthy expression.
Instead of trying to suppress the anxiety of this time of year, and numbing those uncomfortable feelings with food, alcohol, TV or more destructive habits like drugs or gambling, I invite you to open a dialogue with your anxiety.
Remind yourself that whatever is coming next year, will come, and you’ll deal with it then.
For now, take a few slow, deep breaths. Keep your mind focused on this year, on the things you can do to respond (instead of react) here and now. If you find your mind wandering again to all the ‘what ifs’ about 2019, that’s okay. It’s normal. Just come back to Hagrid’s reminder.
And then give yourself a big hug (metaphorical, or literal, you choose!) and just take one day at a time.