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3 Fs to Help with Overwhelm in October (or any stressful school year month)

educator well-being feelings self-care teaching Oct 16, 2023
tired teacher, overwhelmed educator, tools to help prevent or treat burnout

by Katie Raher, PhD

I’m hopeful your October is treating you instead of tricking you. 

And... did you know that October is often one of the most stressful months of the year for educational professionals?

That back-to-school excitement has often passed yet challenges have persisted.

Perhaps the hope that the back-to-school busyness would settle down didn’t pan out.  The recharge that came from summer break has dissipated. With all the sensory increases everywhere and weather that starts to interfere with the amount of needed outside time, kids can get more dysregulated.  And just when nature is telling us to start slowing down, society is telling us to ramp up.  And for this particular October, we also add the emotional layers involved in disregard for humanity at the global level, tragically including children. 

So, October ends up being one of the times of the year I see an increase in overwhelm, compassion fatigue, and some early signs that burnout might be coming if we don’t make some changes. 

Well, I’ve got 3 Fs to hopefully help a little with the October overwhelm and make sure we nip any challenges in the bud.

Feel it. F it. Fiercely protect it. 


I know this is a time of year when I hear “I don’t have time” more than usual (and let’s be real folks, probably a month when I personally say that more often). 

Feelings keep on coming though. 

We have to feel or those feelings get stuck in the body, and then the body will make time for us to pause and feel. 

How about we just feel proactively? 

When short on time, I usually rely on super short (I’m talking 1 minute or less) self-compassion breaks (our self-compassion break poster can help), where I pause and actually sit with the feeling that’s inside me, or I love to do some mini breathwork or EFT tapping while just leaning in to the feels. 

When I have a bit more time and have a felt sense of safety in my body, I usually lay it all out there with my people and/or jump into a big old cry. 


You choose what the F means here.  Although I’ve never read the direct scientific source, I’ve heard that dropping “F bombs” is truly stress relieving at a physiological level.  And if that’s not your jam, we’ve got a clean version too… you do you… 

F It is all about tossing to the side any unrealistic expectations right now. Let it go!! 

Forget the dishes.  Yes, I sit with a messy as all messy sink all day when my to do list is too full.  Plus, if it’s getting really bad, paper plates are a blessing. 

Forget folding the clothes. What a fun scavenger hunt for you and the family to find what you need in the clean pile daily. Ha!

Forget the perfectly decorated classroom/house. Kids will most remember how you made them feel and not how things looked – and if decorating is your jam, then see Fiercely Protect It below. 

Forget the expectation that you’re going to complete the “to do list.” It.just.keeps.growing. So let it go. 

Forget the perfectionism, people pleasing, and performative yuck. 

If you’re having some resistance here, all good.  What are “F Its” that you can get on board with? 

What doesn’t really matter that you can say F It to? 


These are your non-negotiables.  The things and people that you won’t sacrifice.  The things and people that you are going to fiercely protect. 

Here is a sampling of mine: cuddles and time with my family, sleep, nutrition, my morning meditation and intention setting and water drinking, space for my breathwork (for me), jammin’ out to 90s R&B and hip hop (people, this is often a lifeline for me when overwhelm hits, and let’s be real, this is a source of joy no matter what), speaking my truth, and fighting for humanity to be centered in a variety of arenas. 

What are your non-negotiables? What protects health and mental health that you’re willing to fight for and fiercely protect for you (and others)?  

The Kid Version 

Kids can benefit from the 3 Fs too. 

Feel It: Help them develop a safe and trusting relationship with you, and allow them space to feel and communicate their emotions, teaching them that all feelings are valid. 

Forget It: Encourage them to reflect on what would be helpful to “forget” or to toss out.  Perhaps it’s self-judgment, perhaps it’s so much screen time, … 

Fiercely Protect It: Explore their non-negotiables.  What makes them feel good?  What feels good to support? 

If your kids are needing support navigating any feelings around all that’s going on in the middle East, the National Association of School Psychologists put together a great resource here

Which F feels most helpful to you?  

What other support do you need to navigate this month and the months ahead so you can nip any compassion fatigue or early signs of burnout in the bud, and feel as healthy and well as possible all year long?

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