This topic has been covered thoroughly in recent years, but it bears repeating: teachers, you need to rest.

With the holidays coming up, teachers everywhere are no doubt scrambling to not only finish up holiday shopping and preparations, but they are also trying to figure out how to cram in some extra grading and planning during their vacation days.

It’s a noble quality, the extreme work ethic of the large majority of America’s teachers. But when you come back from the vacation in January, your students need you to be your very best YOU. They will need you to possess the energy and motivation that they likely won’t have, and that’s why you need to schedule in some down time over this break.

By our very nature, we teachers are humble and selfless, always putting others before ourselves. But before you get to work grading that pile of essays, or planning those new lessons you want to try out in January, consider the value of taking a few days to rest and rejuvenate over your break.  Here are three of my favorite ways to do just that:

  1. Unplug and disconnect.
    Teachers, as promoters of 21st-century learning, relentless advocates for our students and their parents, and ravenous consumers of knowledge and innovative ideas, spend a great deal of our time these days connected to the outside world. We always have our phones with us in case a parent or student has a question or needs help. We browse social media for creative new ways to teach and reach our kids. We monitor the news and other media outlets to see what has changed in the world and in politics on this day, that may affect our classrooms. We are perpetually bound to the outside world, and this can take a serious toll on our mental and emotional health.Those of us who are older than millennials, like to talk about how younger generations are addicted to their phones. Let’s face it: most of us have just as much of an addiction as they do! And just in case you’ve missed all of the warnings about what too much technology can do for our health, Huffington Post has outlined some of the most compelling research, for instance, just having your phone around can impede your mental function.On this winter break, give yourself a break from all that connectivity. Put your phone in a drawer and leave it there for thirty minutes, then increase the intervals during which you “disconnect.” I promise you won’t regret it!
  2. Play!
    What more is there to say? If you have kids, make some time for make-believe, or maybe even some physical fitness. If you don’t have kids, how about a game night with friends? One of my father’s favorite pastimes was to play BuzzTime Trivia. He didn’t have to hunt down anyone to go with him to do that, and yet he still had a blast while exercising his brain.There is plenty of research to suggest that we adults don’t make enough time for play in our lives. According to this article by Margarita Tartakovsky, published in Psych Central in 2012, “Play brings joy. And it’s vital for problem solving, creativity and relationships.”
  3.    Get lost.
    I know it sounds crazy, but trust me, you need to get out of the house and get away. Here are a few great ways to do it:
    Get lost on foot.  Go hiking or just take a walk around the block. Walk further than you have before. Take your time and really study what you see around you as you go. You’ll breathe in fresh air, which is great for combatting colds and other illnesses in the winter (despite the old wives’ tales we’ve always heard). You’ll get your mind off of work. And just possibly, you’ll think of new, exciting questions about the world that will enhance your teaching!
    Get lost in a car. Hop in your car, gas it up, and go for a drive on some scenic highways. Maybe you could try some new ones you’ve never been on before. Again, the key is to take your time and really absorb your surroundings.
    (Also helpful on this trip: good tunes and tasty coffee.)—Get lost on a train, plane, or boat. If you’re lucky enough to have the post-holiday funds, do a favor for the rest of us who don’t: get the heck out of here! Sure, a lot of people are scared to travel these days, but to quote one of my favorite bands (Wilco), “Every generation thinks it’s the last, thinks it’s the end of the world.” The media does a great job of scaring us into staying in our homes (another reason to unplug!), but the truth is that we educators need to travel to get a broader perspective of the world so we can better connect with our students. A quick Google search will reveal that we really are safer than we think, and you are in much more danger just driving around in your car than getting out and really exploring. So what are you waiting for? Life’s too short to sit around and wait!
    Get lost in a good book. If for health or other reasons you can’t “get lost” by any of the means listed above, try diving into a good book. Winter break is my absolute favorite time of the year to dive into the year’s best sellers. Don’t know where to start? Try National Public Radio’s “Book Concierge” for the current year. You can search 350 of this year’s best titles according to your personal tastes.

As always, please don’t forget that for so many people this time of year, the holidays are more painful than they are joyous. If you are someone who is suffering a loss, please know that your school family and your teacher family care deeply about you. Just a few short months ago, I lost my father– my best pal, my greatest cheerleader, and my loving protector. If you are suffering, know that I understand your pain, and I send you lots of warm wishes this holiday season.

Let’s take this time to rest, get well, and so we can give our kids the very best version of ourselves when we return.