How to Cope with May Madness {An Educator’s Perspective}

How to Cope with May Madness {An Educator’s Perspective}

Forget the Merry Month of May. May is sheer madness.

May is the “perfect storm.” It’s the month when festivals, school testing, and endless events rain down on teachers, parents, and students like one of the many sudden street flooding events that also happen in May.

May begins with Jazz Fest traffic and Jazz Fest absences at work (yes, Jazz fest is amazing… if you’re there). State testing, final exams, AP tests, field trips, and an endless cornucopia of projects clog up the calendar, forcing the furious round of recitals, performances, tournaments, competitions, award ceremonies, and/or graduations to be squeezed in any possible leftover space. Memorial Day weekend is when May should begin to wind down, but instead it brings the seasonal anxiety of hurricane season, with the added promise of nearly three months of the kids at home for summer.

May roars in like a lion. Unlike March, is roars out like one too — only the lion at the end is ridiculously fatigued and literally spent (in debt from all the events, celebrations, and summer camp fees). May truly has all of the insanity of December without the holiday spirit — and there’s heat and humidity instead of blissfully cool temperatures. May has termites, midday downpours, and some of the longest days, which manage to just be too full.

Of course, May isn’t all misery. There’s Mother’s Day. There’s the promise of no homework and projects for a few months. There’s the feeling that one cycle (the school year and spring) is ending, and there’s the promise of a new one beginning.

Still, May is much easier to manage with a few go-to coping strategies in your “May survival toolkit.” As a teacher / librarian married to another teacher, whose kids are in middle and elementary school, I highly recommend trying out the following coping techniques for the manic month of May.

Say No or Postpone What You Can 

Declining invitations, opting to not volunteer, or straight up saying “no” to obligations (that you’re able to), is incredibly liberating. May is one of the best and most necessary times to do this. No, I can’t chaperone the field trip. No, my child can’t come to your child’s birthday party, because they finish their own party just one hour before. Can I reschedule that dentist appointment for next month? Can I pay the annual termite fee in installments? — I just spent $150 on my kids’ field trips. 

Don’t feel like you necessarily need a “good” excuse. Sometimes saying “no,” or putting something off until later is necessary just because down time is precious — and May certainly doesn’t have enough of it.

Get Sleep! 

If a day is particularly crazy, or if the to-do list seems impossibly long, often the best thing to do is just stop and sleep. That might mean a nap, or it might mean going to sleep for the night early — or both! More sleep allows a fresher perspective. Anxiety and overwhelm fester and feed on lack of rest. You don’t have to have it all figured out or finished when you close your eyes. Definitely consider prioritizing slumber at the top of that never-ending May list.

Read a Good Book (or a dozen) 

If sleep isn’t an option, reading a book is another sure-fire way to find peace. Pick a book that will fully engross you, distract you, and/or inspire you. If you’re not a reader, try choosing an audiobook to listen to (personally, I like to read fiction and listen to nonfiction — so I can work through 2 books at one time). I recently listened to a middle-grade nonfiction book about the hookworm epidemic (American Murderer by Gail Jarrow). It was incredibly informative, super gross, and completely distracting. Termites suddenly don’t seem so bad when you learn about what hookworms can do! In terms of fiction, I’m now reading Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. As I muddle my way through May, I imagine familiar scenes inside one of the many computer games depicted in the novel. I imagine what Sam or Sadie would say about the craziness of my daughter’s ballet rehearsal schedule or the amount of exams a middle schooler is being asked to do at school. And I giggle.

Binge a Good Show 

Even readers and sleepers can’t always read and sleep. Find a completely distracting, engrossing, and/or inspiring series on TV and binge. While I’ve only watched one episode of “Beef,” I need to watch more. Wow. It’s like May all the time on that show. The two main characters make me feel incredibly sane (even as a I curse out potholes on a daily basis). “Shrinking” (on Apple TV) is another winner — the very stressed out, traumatized characters also give hilarious perspective. Yes it’s May, but this too shall pass.

Vent About How Crazy the Month is With Friends 

Find some friends who are also overwhelmed by the insanity of May and commiserate. Meet up for coffee, drinks, chat on the phone, text — whatever it takes. Or simply vent with your partner. Realizing that others are riding the same crazy ride you are, and are equally exhausted by it, is true therapy.

Sometimes your best friend is you. You can also vent about the insanity of this month to your journal or computer. (Sharing these ideas with you helps me cope!)

Exercise (Run it Out!) 

The thought of exercise stresses a lot of people out, but once you’re exercising in a way you enjoy, you’ll find that it’s one of the best stress relievers out there. Running is my go-to workout. No matter how frustrating something is, or how helpless I feel, I can always just run it out. Having a great, endorphin-filled run (or other workout) is like giving the madness of May a big “f— you.” No matter how busy you get, make the time to move in a way you find fun (dancing to your favorite 90s tunes is exercise too!).

Just Laugh 

Laughter is one of the best stress relievers out there. On days when all else fails, laughter always works. It’s free, takes zero time, and is a crowd pleaser. Today I got caught in a sudden downpour outside while running an errand at school. I sprinted as fast as I could back to the building in platform sandals, while cursing the fact that my glasses don’t have windshield wipers. When I finally made it back to the main entrance, one of my students offered me an umbrella and said I looked like I “rolled in a puddle.” We both just laughed. I was soaked for the rest of the day, but kept laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

The above suggestions are great tools to survive any stressful situation, and I’m certainly not the first person to suggest them. If you’re a type-A, list lover like me (or even if not), consider keeping a running list of what helps keep you sane in the month of May (I keep a “sanity strategies” list in the notes app of my phone). Take time to find out what helps you cope best. Most importantly, give yourself some space and grace over the next few weeks, and show this monster month who is boss.

Brittney Dayeh
Brittney Dayeh grew up in the Catskills of Upstate New York but considers herself a New Orleanian. She moved to New Orleans in 2006 with her husband, whom she met while teaching English in Japan. She immediately fell in love with the culture, history, and vibe of this city. Brittney is a high school librarian at a local public school and lives in Algiers with her husband, who is also a local teacher, and her two children, ages 14 and 10. Brittney is also a Girl Scout troop leader and avid runner, a fan of young adult literature and true crime podcasts. She dreams about traveling to new countries and one day writing a book, but kayaking with manatees is at the top of her bucket list.


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