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June 2024 - Year 26 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

Keep Calm and Maintain Your Sanity

Vesna Gros works as an English and German teacher at Primary School Polje in Ljubljana, . Apart from work, she is a mother of two and prides herself on still managing the household without an army of helpers and cleaners. She has always loved crafting and has recently rediscovered her passion for piano and acrylic painting. Vesna remains an enthusiastic and positive person and an advocate of lifelong learning, so it is very likely you will bump into her at IATEFL Slovenia events.                   

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This article was previously published in the IATEFL Slovenia Magazine, Vol. 17, No 2, Autumn issue 2022.



So, here we go again. The new school year has started and we have to get the wheels back in motion regardless of ongoing crises in the world or possible challenges we might have faced in our private lives. Even those who usually manage to stay positive might have weakened in their determination to stick to mantras such as, “If life gives you lemons, say yummy, but what else have you got?” After having been fed many ‘lemons’ since 2020, I decided to put together a survival guide for maintaining a positive attitude to self, others, and life in general.

The following ideas are by far neither new nor revolutionary; some of them are downright banal, but still – sometimes getting back to basics is just the first step towards reclaiming your sanity. 

Teachers tend to be either quite organized or creatively disorganized. Either way, sticking to a certain routine would be my number one tip. If we break it down to its innermost core, the routine of a satisfied person should be to divide the 24 hours of the day into three equal parts. Remember your times tables? The ultimate number is eight. 8 hours for work, 8 hours for other things and 8 hours for sleep. As simple as that. 


Work Time

Even though general public thinks teachers work less than 8 hours, we know we work more. Being a teacher is not just a job, but above all a lifestyle. Yes, we get more days off due to school holidays, but we do more than our share of extra hours to compensate for that. This was particularly evident during the distance learning times when we had to become technicians, movie makers, motivational speakers, and acquire all sorts of new skills we never dreamed would be part of the teaching job.

Try to really limit yourself to those 8 hours – if nothing else helps, use a countdown timer. Another important thing is diminishing multitasking time. Our brain is not made for multitasking, and several studies (e.g., Warner, 2019) have shown that we work more effectively when we only do one thing at a time. Multitasking only wears us out and does not necessarily produce the wished output. On the other hand, it can lead to burnout syndrome.

Stay hydrated during work time and take active breaks (especially if you have been sitting in front of a screen for more than 45 minutes). There are a lot of short workouts available online. One of my favourites during the lockdown was fitBoost ( ), which I was also using to get my students moving during Zoom sessions. 

Don’t skip on your breakfast and always have healthy snacks at hand. Even when working on school premises (not online), there is all too often not enough time for a quick bite, a glass of water, let alone a trip to the toilet. Don’t let that happen to you, because it will not make you a better teacher, only a better healthcare client… 

Bear in mind you will never be able to do everything you (or others) want. Learn to prioritise or take a time management course. 


Miscellaneous time

Having finished your day’s work, now is the time for cooking, grocery shopping, frolicking around with you offsprings and other family business, tidying up, paying bills, taking your dog to the vet, visiting or looking after your elderly relatives, you name it. However, do not forget that this should also include your me-time, sports, hobbies, mindfulness – whatever makes you feel happy and fulfilled. If there is no me-time, everything you have done during the day is pointless. 

Watching Netflix, surfing the net, instant messaging, browsing through social media, following the news – that is not me-time if you ask me. The above-mentioned activities often evoke negative feelings (especially watching the world news lately) or only make you momentarily absent-minded, which is the opposite of what you should be aiming for.

The pursuit of happiness during (post-)Covid times seems harder than ever, so let me help you with some ideas for a happy me-time adapted from The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy (Russell, 2018):

  • Sisu is a Finnish term for inner strength, associated with the concept of having come to terms with living in extreme weather conditions. Going to sauna, which is an important part of Finnish culture, might help you strengthen your sisu and endure the weird times we have found ourselves in.

  • Meraki is a Greek philosophy of complete immersion in something you like doing, be it work, cooking, art, anything. It reminds me of the concept of flow and is in direct opposition to multitasking. Therefore, discovering something you like doing, taking up a new or a long-forgotten hobby and focussing on it is another idea worth trying.

  • Hygge is a Danish obsession with getting cosy at home, alone or with friends. It is all about finding pleasure in the little things. Instead of moaning about social confinement, enjoy a glass of wine, put on a soothing face mask, play a board game or watch a good film with your closest ones, and turn winter from a most depressing to a most hygge time of the year. 

  • Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word glorifying the time spent outside. Since being indoors is not advisable currently anyway, that goes hand in hand with the whole Covid situation. Get out of the city and enjoy the views and the beautiful countryside scenery. Cherish the opportunities that our varied landscape has to offer and find beauty in nature.

  • Azart is a Russian expression, linguistically related to the word ‘hazard’, and it basically means finding satisfaction in taking risks. The notion helps Russians deal with the torments of everyday life. However, it might inspire you to pluck the courage and do something you have long been planning to do.

While doing anything in the second third of the day, keep following the universal tips: Eat (healthily), drink, be active and efficient.


Sleep time

As the name suggests, this is the time when you sleep. Getting away with 6 hours of sleep or less functions when you are young and vital. The older you get, the more important resting is for the well-being of your body and mind. 

Sleep time is not the time when you read a book or check your phone for the very last time. 8 hours should be your net sleeping time. This might seem impossible to achieve, so try by taking little steps. First and foremost, store your phone somewhere else during the night or leave it out of reach instead on your bedside table. Feel free to read before bed, just do not extend the reading time for too long. Set yourself a limit of pages you are going to read, or use a timer to prevent reading until early morning hours. If possible, read paper books rather than e-books to spare your eyes. 

If you have trouble falling asleep, place a little lavender sack under your pillow. Lavender is said to have a calming effect; however, you may explore other incense to discover which one does the trick for you. 

Monitoring your sleep via a smartwatch is another option to trick yourself into getting a trophy for enough hours of sleep. Self-control is a key to a successful maths equation where three thirds (work, miscellaneous, sleep) comprise the whole. Cutting down on any third results in having to make up for the loss with the other two. You can’t afford to work less, it’s not advisable to sleep less, and be honest with yourself – do you really have to or want to cut down on the nice time? By postponing family time, sport time, bonding time, you are postponing your most important moments in life.

And one last important thing: do not sacrifice weekends to do work. Yes, there might be a pile of tests or essays to grade from time to time and that is fine; but in general, strive for two thirds of miscellaneous over the weekend, because no one will thank or pay you for the work you do on Saturday and Sunday.



Russell, H. (2018). The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy. New York: Running Press.

Warner, M. M. (2019). Why You Need to Do One Thing at a Time.


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