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40 Hour Workweek

Mindset & Motivation, Teaching Tips & Tricks   |   Jan 12, 2014

7 ways for teachers to beat the Sunday blues

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

7 ways for teachers to beat the Sunday blues

By Angela Watson

Have you ever wasted half the weekend worrying about the week ahead? Even if you love your job, you might still wake up on Sunday mornings with a feeling of dread and spend the evening in a total state of anxiety simply because there are so many pressures associated with teaching. Here are 7 tips to help you relax, enjoy your time off, AND be more productive:

7 ways for teachers to beat the Sunday blues

1) Don’t leave school on Friday until you’ve prepared for Monday morning.

It’s tempting to run out of the classroom as soon as possible before the weekend, but you’ll enjoy your time off so much more if you make Monday’s photocopies, set up the supplies you need for projects, and get your classroom in a reasonably neat and organized state before heading out the door. Knowing that you’re not returning to a messy classroom and huge list of things to do before students arrive on Monday will give you some peace over the weekend.



2) Wait until Sunday morning to decide how much time you’re going to allot to school work.

I don’t like to make that decision in advance because things pop up at the last minute and then I feel stressed if my plans get messed up. Waiting until Sunday morning to decide allows me to roll with the punches if I’m not feeling well or if an opportunity to do something fun arises.  


3) Choose an amount of time that fits your life–don’t base it on how much work needs to get done.

Teaching is a never-ending job and there will always be something more that you could do, so there’s no point in trying to work until it’s all finished. Unless you have a special deadline (like report cards are due or it’s the end of the quarter), try to choose how much of your free time on the weekend you’re willing to dedicate to your work.

Can you steal two hours while your little one naps? Can you squeeze in an hour before the family wakes up and another after they go to bed? Figure out what will make a dent in your workload in order to make Monday go more smoothly, and do only that amount. It’s more possible than you think, if you…

4) Make your work time a true work-only period.

If you choose to dedicate the hours of 2-5 pm to grading papers, do it wholeheartedly. Don’t check Facebook, text a friend, and watch TV at the same time. I’m speaking from experience here: that will only prolong the amount of time you perceive yourself as working. Before you know it, the whole day will be gone and you’ll be moaning about how all you did was work when the truth is that you only truly worked for an hour or two.

Staying focused is tough, but it’s a lot easier for me if I know that I’m sticking to the time I allotted–if I’m really going to put away the work at 5 pm, I don’t have time to peruse Pinterest…and I know that I can go on Pinterest guilt-free afterward.


5) Set a time frame for thinking about school on Sunday.

Part of the reason why Sunday is so stressful is that our minds are constantly wandering into the future, running through the list of things we still need to get done and worrying about what the week will hold. You can limit this by giving yourself 5-15 minutes to think about the week ahead: I like to have a short time for this in the morning before I do the day’s work, and then again after I finish the work to give myself some closure.

Plan out strategies for dealing with challenging issues. Write down any additional tasks you need to complete. Daydream about activities you want to do with your students, and envision yourself having a successful week.

6)  Train yourself not to think about school outside of the  time you allotted.  

In Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching, I share four mental strategies for dealing with unwanted thoughts: dismiss, distract, reject, and replace. That’s what you need to do when you’re supposed to be relaxing and your mind keeps returning to all the pressures of teaching.

Tell yourself, I am rejecting these thoughts about school because they’re not productive. I’m choosing to replace them with the thought that when Monday morning comes, I can trust myself to know what to do, so I don’t need to think about it right now. Then distract yourself by doing something more enjoyable, and dismiss any thoughts about school that continue to arise. It takes awhile to discipline your mind to stay in the present moment, but each time you do it, you’re breaking those unhealthy habits and making it easier for you to be mindful next time.


7) Give yourself at least one thing to look forward to on Monday.

Is there a student who always makes you laugh? A fun colleague you’ll have lunch with? A lesson you particularly enjoy teaching? A project you know you’ll get to complete? If you can’t think of anything, create something to look forward to!

One year when I had a particularly challenging class, I built a little bright spot into my daily schedule for each day of the week. On Mondays, a co-worker and I took turns bringing breakfast to school and we ate together in her classroom and chatted about our weekend before our workday hours officially started. On Tuesdays, I enrolled my students in a virtual class that was taught by the school district remotely, giving me an extra break for 30 minutes.  On Wednesdays, I team-taught a reading lesson with an enthusiastic coworker who always got me excited about our work. So, whenever I started to feel dread about going into school the next day, I remembered the fun activity I had planned and stayed focused on that, instead of whatever was stressing me out.

How do you beat the Sunday night blues? Please share your tips (or struggles) in the comments. Remember–you are not alone in this!

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
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  1. After almost 35 years in education l have retired,but can truly relate to this article.Sometimes l miss the job,but l do not miss the bag of student work that resided in my car. I came to resent it.Finally,even after trying many of these tips ,l had to give up my career due to exhaustion and health concerns. Now l need to find something else ,but will use many of these strategies when l do.

  2. Thank you for this. I am a first year teacher, and I am really stuggling. I’m used to being the best at everything I do. I’ve literally never failed at anything, and having my own classroom makes me feel like a failure on a daily basis. I can never be as perfect as I want to be or get everything done that needs to be done, and it is extremely hard for me to accept that it’s okay to not be perfect or finish all the work. I’ve even had to start taking anti-depressants because it’s become so overwhelming and hopeless to me. It’s nice to know that even veteran teachers get stressed on Sundays and dread the upcoming week from time to time. I had a great cooperating teacher when I did my student teaching, and I am working at the same school with her again this year. She has been really great about trying to keep me from focusing too much of my life on school. She even forced me to go to a dance class with her after school. I will be adding some of your tips to the ones she has given me, and hopefully I can get to a point where I don’t feel so stressed ALL the time.

    1. Caitlin, I’m going to be talking about this on an upcoming podcast episode (Where Can a First Year Teacher Really Cut Corners?) I hope it’s helpful for you! You might also want to check out the new 40 Hour Workweek Club (link at the top of this page.) Having the support of other teachers as you learn to work more efficiently could be just the thing you need! Hang in there. It’s going to get better!

  3. For me, I’ve had so many negative experiences with students disrespecting me over the last three years. I’ve been poisoned and picked on through the wolf-pack mentality of the children who didn’t like me (this was last year and still I feel the effects this school year- some students didn’t want to be in my class and dropped 🙁 ). That is the main reason why I feel anxious about work on Sunday evenings.

    I’m also thinking about going to the psych ward. I still enjoy my job, but I’ve also lost some interest in the subject I teach.How does one continue to have interest day in and day out? That and the disrespect have worn me down.

    1. I think as far as having interest in the subject you teach…it’s important to keep going to conferences, reading books, looking for ideas online, etc. so that you have new and innovative ideas to bring back to the classroom. It’s easy to burn out when you don’t have anything that’s new (to you) and exciting (for you) to teach. Many times your enthusiasm for trying something different comes across to the kids and then they’re more engaged, too. 🙂

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