primary, teacher, classroom, motivation, overwhelm, thought download, brain dump, take action, prioritize, joy, how to manage teacher overwhelm, what to do when I'm overwhelmed

Well, hey there sweet, beautiful teacher. Being a teacher can be super hectic and overwhelming, especially for some reason, in these end of the year, months, October, November, December. So today, I wanted to bring you the two step process that I use to tackle the teacher overwhelm. This can be your first go to this can be your go to strategy for overcoming that feeling and letting that feeling go. Sound like a plan? Alright, let’s get to it.

The overwhelm is real!

Friend, I have to be honest with you, I have reached an all time high level of teacher overwhelm. Being overwhelmed happens to me, quite often weekly. And I could completely allow that to overcome me, I could allow that feeling to make me hate my job, to make me want to quit to find a new career. But thankfully, I’m in this for the long run. I love teaching, I know the kind of joy it brings me. So I have found a process to help me overcome the overwhelm.

What you may not know is that I am at a brand new school. And at my new school, although I love it, and I plan to be there long, long term, I have to admit this school has higher expectations of its teachers. They want excellent teachers and I’m proud about that. But boy oh boy, has it been overwhelming.

So when you get to that moment of, I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, which I felt recently and I’m ashamed to admit, here’s what I do. I’m going to share my practical ways to combat that feeling and the steps that I follow to dissipate most of that. If I can overcome the stress that I have felt this year, teacher you can do it too.

Step #1: Thought Download

Let’s talk about step number one of the process and that is doing a thought download. So when we reach this point of overwhelm our head is looming with thoughts. “I need to do this. I haven’t done that. This is really something I don’t think I can do.” All of those things completely overtake our thinking strip our happiness and joy. We feel like there’s nothing we can do. We’re stuck.

When you reach that point, what you need more than anything is to clear your thoughts. You need a thought download. If you are like me at all, my perfectionist side says that everything has to be done or you can’t do anything at all. So what we need is to realize what is whirling in our brains and producing these feelings. We need to get it down on paper. I like to do this in the note side of my planner. I do a thought download once a week. This usually happens on Sunday for me, because this is the day before I return to work, and it’s the day I feel most overwhelmed about the things that I should have done on Friday night and Saturday. You may need to do a thought download a different day or every day.

What is a thought download?

What is a thought download? It’s just sitting down with paper, writing down all of the thoughts that keep reoccurring in my brain. There is absolutely no organization to this list. It’s just me writing down my thoughts. I take about 15 to 20 minutes to do this. That seems like a long time. But this is so beneficial to freeing up space in my head to really overcome these feelings of overwhelm.

My list may say, “Need to make newsletter. Need to get clothes washed for the week.” It also could be a feeling, like: “I’m feeling upset with myself for not sticking to my diet this week.” All of those thoughts that are in your head, work related, personal related, whatever they are, list them on your thought download. I also refer to this sometimes as a brain dump. Basically, you’re taking your thoughts in your brain, and you’re dumping them out on paper. It seems silly, but research shows that writing things down helps you feel at peace with those things, because you’re not going to lose them.


So when you’re doing your thought download or your brain dump, whatever you want to call it, and you absolutely cannot think of anything else to write down, your brain is clear. This is when we are going to look over this and prioritize what we actually need to do. A thought download does not have to be a to do list, but we know there are items on there that we can take action on. What needs to get done right now?

When all those things are looming in our head, it’s really hard to decipher what is actually important in this moment. And so that is what you need to do with your thought download is take a look at it, and write some numbers. This is number one, this is the most important thing on this list that I need to do today. And there are other items you’ll realize very quickly that are not important in this moment. They are just looming in your brain. Now that they are on your list, you can come back to that later and worry about that when the time is right.

Step #2: Take Action

And now my teacher friend, you are ready for step number two. That is to take action. Overwhelm comes from too many things to think about. And it also comes from that feeling of being stuck like you don’t know what to do. But when we take action, when we do something, our intuition takes over, and the overwhelm suddenly goes away.

So you need to press everything else out of your thinking space. It’s all there on your thought download. You need to take action on your top priority as soon as possible.

Progress is as motivating as overwhelm is crippling.

-Teacher Toni

Overwhelm takes over and helps us be stuck. But making progress towards one of those priorities is motivating. It gives us energy, it gives us excitement, it shows us that hey, I have control. So do the work. Do it tired, do it sloppy, do it grumpy or imperfectly, but that progress will help you gain momentum. And that overwhelm will go away when you are making progress.

Don’t Let Overwhelm Steal Your Joy

I have used this time and time again. Give this process a try. I know that it will help. I know that it will work because I’ve used it so many times. This is something I do every week. And sometimes I do it multiple times a week depending on how many deadlines I have, or how many priorities I have.

Let this be your teacher go to when you feel overwhelmed, stuck and like you dread going to work. We should never dread walking in the classroom to see these shining little faces that think that we are rock star superhero teachers. We cannot let these other external things sneak into our classroom and steal our joy.

I want to remind you of something I needed reminded of this week when I had a deadline at my new position at my new school. There’s a big notebook that was due, and I just didn’t have time to do it. It was definitely on my priority list. But I didn’t get to it. There were just too many other things. And guess what, I survived. Even though last Friday, I did not meet the deadline. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves.

Want another way to manage overwhelm?

Teacher, I hope you have enjoyed today’s content. I just want to throw a quick teaser out there for my upcoming professional learning community, Joyful Teacher Academy. If you are constantly looking for ways to continue to sustain as a teacher because you love it so much but often feel overwhelmed and like something is missing, Joyful Teacher Academy could be your golden ticket.

It will be focused on strategies, tips and advice and also a professional community of other like minded teachers to help us continue in our joy and to always give and share that joy and impact with our students. So if joyful Teacher Academy sounds like something you may need in your life, be sure to sign up for the waitlist. I’ve talked about this before. I’m continuing to put my heart and soul into this to be sure that it is perfect for you. So please sign up and be ready to receive that update very, very soon.

Joyful Teacher Academy

Alrighty sweet primary teacher, I hope your week is at least half as wonderful and amazing as you are. As always until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.