5 Tips When You Can't Sleep

It's the worst. 

Staring at the clock, checking the time again and again, as it creeps—or leaps—forward and your mind's gears won't shut down, the voices won't turn off, and the worries keep grinding away. 

The more you want to sleep, the less you seem in reach of it. And then the frustration, impatience, and aggravation drive you mad. Now you're angry AND sleepless. 

For teachers, as well as any service profession like nursing or compassionate care, getting your rest, free and easy, each night is a must. There's just no way that we can do our work on the level that we strive for, offering our best selves in our highest patience, generosity, and compassion, if we are sleep-deprived. 

It can drive people crazy, after all, to lose too much sleep. It is even an extreme means of torture. And in the United States, we are especially, chronically sleep-deprived. 

So what are we to do? Late at night, staring at the wall, the ceiling, the back of our partner's snoring head?

Here are the best 5 tips that I use when I cant sleep. Please share your own in the comments section here and on our Facebook page. 

www.meditativemind.org Healing Camp Day #19

www.meditativemind.org Healing Camp Day #19

  1. Be Kind to Yourself: First step, don't beat yourself up for not sleeping! When you wake up be as kind to yourself as you would to a student who has the flu or another loved one feeling unwell. Ask your body in a soft and soothing way what you need in order to rest. Usually, it can tell you. The stress we add by being angry with our selves for being awake makes it so much worse!
  2. Crystal Singing Bowls: I put them on my phone or computer and then quietly focus on the sound.  As I let the subtle and gentle harmonics fill my brain, it takes up all the space that was just given over to my monkey mind, until I drift off into easy slumber. I especially love this one (image above) from www.meditativemind.org's youtube channel. 
  3. Breathing Options: When we increase our exhale, we increase the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (Read: Sleep!). The 4-7-8 Breath exercise naturally calms the body. Try it as a meditation in your pj's before you get into bed, or when you've cozied up under the covers and are ready for sweet relaxation. 
  4. Bedtime or End of Work Rituals: Tried and true—these really help me and a bunch of other teachers I work with. When you want to turn off, create a specific saying to register to your body that work time is over. "Work is over. I have time to rest and heal my body and mind." Light a candle for an hour, while you do your nightly skincare routine, drink a cup of herbal tea, or read before you go to sleep. Even listening to the same kind of music when you get done with work (celebrate!) or every night before you go to sleep (wind down...) can signal to your body a habitual change. 
  5. UnPlug: Keep those screens out of your bed! I know it's really hard, but if you can end your technology, internet, or device time at least an hour before you want to fall asleep, it will help your body quiet enough in preparation before bedtime that sleep will come to you a lot easier. Even if you have your Night Shift setting on, and are hip to the "blue light" biological science—no-screen is better than yellow-screen. 
  6. Lastly, a Bonus Pro-tip: Ideally transition for bedtime before 10 pm. Your body will re-energize if you stay working after this time, and rally for another cycle of productivity.

With ZZZ's and Sheep, 

Kelly Knoche

Being of Service: Burnout, Mindset, and How Teachers can be Whole

In this conversation between The Teaching Well founder Kelly Knoche and Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD and author of First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and SuccessEngaging & Challenging Gifted Students, and How to Make Data Work: A Guide for Educational Leaders, they explore the importance of resilience and well-being for teachers, administrators, and students.

Kelly Knoche: The Teaching Well works with a third to a half of the teaching staff one on one during work hours. All of what we do is really first aid for teacher burnout. We talk about meditation, decreasing stress response, etc. Have you worked with other organizations like that in the past? Do you have ideas about what that could look like?

Jenny Rankin: I've never conducted a study under those conditions, but it sounds fantastic. When there's talk about burnout, it seems to be exclusively mindset. I'm a huge fan of Carol Dweck.  I love her work on mindset. It's so fascinating to me how the conversation about burnout, it doesn't track to other areas that have such a huge impact on stress overall.

No one comes into this work who isn’t service minded.

I think a study that looked at all these factors of well-being and resilience would be incredible. It'd be a great way, too, to highlight what you're doing in a way that other people can replicate in other countries. It's basically about how to survive as a teacher.

Kelly Knoche: We have to survive because we have to serve kids. No one comes into this work who isn't service minded.

Jenny Rankin: Oh, totally.

Kelly Knoche: We all come into this work to be a service. I had this realization on my yoga mat, which is why it's based on self-care and well-being practices, "How can I be with my kids who I am to myself on my yoga mat." You're doing these complex poses but your breath is calm. I continue to improve, but the goal is not just to improve but to be in the moment.

I brought that realization back to my classroom. For three years I worked out the kinks and found a balance and started telling teachers about some of the units I built for my kids like stress resilience. They'd just done this huge report and identified their body cues. Teachers were like, "Wait, what? Can I have that?"

Jenny Rankin: They talk so much now about mindfulness in kids and all these doing yoga and brain breaks and all these things for kids. Gosh, teachers too, you know? We really need that, too. How wonderful if we had that for teachers how much more easily we could pass that down to our kids--and just shape their whole approach to life.

Kelly Knoche: Yes, and when our educators embody health, well-being, connection, and that ability to be present, which that's when the mindfulness can really transform a classroom.

Jenny Rankin: Yeah. That's incredible and another way to bring awareness to the issue of burnout and to let people know what works, what doesn't work, why this works, why that, you know, all those questions that can help them with implementation.

Kelly Knoche: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I'm just blown away by your book and by meeting you at the Illuminate Conference and feel incredibly honored to be with you today. Thank you.

Jenny Rankin: Oh, thank you. I feel the same. I really appreciate the chance to talk about this and the interview and I love your interest. I love meeting other people who are passionate about this and are doing great things.

Resources for Teachers: Jenny Rankin PhD on Recommended Time-Savers

In our multi-part interview with Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD and author of First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and SuccessEngaging & Challenging Gifted Students, and How to Make Data Work: A Guide for Educational Leaders, we explore her journey from teaching to writing, the best ways for teachers to leverage technology and resources, and how she addresses burnout.

Kelly Knoche: One of the things I think is so unique about your book is the number of e-resources.  As a self-described data and tech nerd, I would love for you to share a little bit more about how you offer e-resources?

Jenny Rankin: Yeah, I'm a total tech geek, data geek, and there's so much online that can make our lives so much easier that's free and easy to access. Teachers can stand in line and look at this, or while waiting to pick up their kid at the bus. Technology in general, it's one of those things that can make teachers cringe like, "Oh, gosh, technology. Oh, I have to learn something new, change is hard," especially when you don't have that time to integrate something new.

I really try to convince teachers in that chapter that once you get over the bump, it's crucial. It makes your life so much easier. It becomes a time saver when used appropriately with the right tools. I highlight some key tools and key practices—like using tools for reading multiple choice, either via homework or tests, so teachers can quit hand grading. The kids drop it in a tray and it automatically goes into your grade book and the parent portal. Those sorts of things that exist. Even if something is an open response, you can very easily enter that and instead of it all being by hand it's already in your grade book. It already goes to transcript and report cards.

There’s so much online that can make our lives so much easier that’s free and easy to access.

These are all things that make teachers' lives so much easier and take the weight off. If teachers can get up to speed on using those tools and can advocate for these sort of tools, something that's a district-wide purchase, it's so worth the time.

Kelly Knoche: The question isn't just how we are going to continue to stay engaged with the generation that has grown up with technology, but finding ways to integrate as much as possible to make our lives easier. We do the learning and then connect with our students because they're going to have a deeper understanding of that work too. The last question I have is: do you have a recommended reading list? There were a ton of articles, books, and academic publishings that you reference in this book. Can you give us your top recommended readings to support teacher sustainability?

Jenny Rankin: Oh gosh. When it comes to books, that's a little tricky, because it's so based on whatever the teacher's dealing with. It might not even be something that mentions teacher burnout. It might be something on efficient grading practices or classroom management techniques or that sort of thing. I really think that a teacher who's struggling with burnout, in addition to my book, should go to topic specific books where he or she can then delve more deeply into those areas to really make life easier in that department.

There is one stands out for me because it's such a phenomenal book. Dr. Gail Thompson, she and her husband Rufus wrote, 'Yes, You Can'. That book is amazing. It talks about teaching students of color, but it's for everyone no matter what your classroom diversity looks like, it honors realities teachers are dealing with that they don't even necessarily know. It brings things to your attention that aren't on your radar as a teacher necessarily that are making life harder, making connections more difficult, leading to behavior problems and to poor performance for the kids. The tips they offer are super practical and easy to implement with a big payoff. That is one I'd recommend.

Kelly Knoche: Yes! Awesome. I'm going to check that out. So, how can people get your book?

Jenny Rankin: Oh, it's everywhere. It's on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble. It's also on the publisher's website, Routledge Taylor & Francis, with online resources. Things that didn't fit in the book or are helpful to have in electronic format. Check them out!

Avoiding Teacher Burnout: An Interview with Jenny Rankin

In our multi-part interview with Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD and author of First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and SuccessEngaging & Challenging Gifted Students, and How to Make Data Work: A Guide for Educational Leaders, we explore her journey from teaching to writing, the best ways for teachers to leverage resources, how she addresses burnout, and how her work aligns with The Teaching Well.