As we move in to the last weeks of winter term, teachers will be looking forward to a well-earned rest over the Christmas break. But how many of us are guilty of not being able to switch off properly from school?

A break over the Christmas period is vitally important. With higher workloads, teachers are facing mounting pressure and stress, much like the mounting pile of books on your desk that you’ve still not got round to marking. While the school holidays are a great time to catch up on the work you’re behind on, it’s equally important to prioritise your wellbeing this Christmas. Because let’s face it, Christmas brings a whole new bunch of stresses in itself, from buying gifts to cooking and dealing with relatives.

A 2015 study by City University London found that time off for teachers is key to avoiding exhaustion and burnout, allowing teachers to “restore their emotional energy.” That seems obvious, but the study also found that teachers who constantly ruminated and worried about work during the Christmas break were less likely to recover fully from the demands of the teaching term. You know who you are if you’re guilty of this. Here’s some tips to make the most of the Christmas break, so that in January you can come back to school more like the shiny, enthusiastic NQT you once were and less the bedraggled, stressed-out version of yourself you’ve started to become.

Switch Off From School

A man sat on a couch reading next to a christmas tree.

  • Log out or deactivate your email notifications. This is your time and you don’t need to feel obliged to be on-call.
  • Keep work off your holiday schedule (as much as possible).
  • If you must complete work during the holidays, set time aside to do it in and stick to it. If you haven’t got it done in the time specified, then it can wait.
  • Distract yourself from work. If you’re the type to worry constantly and find it difficult to resist the temptation to work, then distract yourself with things you enjoy like books, films, or going out.
  • Make a list of the things you would like to do during your break, like meeting the friends you love but rarely get to see, reading that book you’ve been meaning to tuck in to or binging on that Netflix series everyone’s raving about (Stranger Things, of course!).


Nurture Your Relationships

A couple sat on a bench with arms around each other.

  • The City University study also foundthat connectedness to loved ones is vitally important in helping to relieve stress so make sure you put time aside for family during school breaks.
  • See your family and friends as a priority as worthy of your attention as your work is.
  • Make the most of your time with family, even if it’s just playing a game or walking the dog together. Even these small things can provide enormous respite for an over-worked brain.

Plan Your Time Well

A collection of christmas cookies.

  • The weeks leading up to Christmas break can be hard-going, use this time wisely by planning ahead: what must be done now and what can wait?
  • Saying that, it’s important not to fall in to the mind set of thinking “it’s okay, I can get it all done over the Christmas break.” It can’t and it won’t. As much as possible, you want to free yourself up over Christmas, not weigh yourself down with things to catch up on.
  • Christmas need not be a mad rush. If you find the Christmas period a stressful experience with trying to organise everything and keep everyone happy, you can take some pressure off yourself by sharing festive tasks with family and friends if possible. You may be responsible for everyone in the classroom, but at home you don’t have to be the chef, hostess, and peacemaker all rolled in to one.


A santa clause shaped mug with hot chocolate and marshmallows.

  • Take time for yourself. Let’s be honest, sometimes family, relatives and children can be just as demanding as teaching, especially during Christmas. So put some time aside that’s just for you. Whether it’s a long bubble bath or a few days away, a little indulgence can help prevent teacher burnout.
  • Get active. We may hate to admit it but heading over to the gym or going for a run can really help to relieve built-up stress.
  • Or not. Alternatively, it’s also okay to do nothing, veg out and watch trashy TV. This is your time and you shouldn’t feel guilty.
  • Sleep. If you know you don’t get enough sleep during term time, this is your time to catch up and get back in to a regular sleep routine.

Make the most out of your Christmas break by focussing on your wellbeing.

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