My job is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. It requires high energy, the continuous use of my voice, and lots of movement, as do most jobs that involve working with children. My typical day as a music therapist is long and busy without much downtime factored in, so can you blame me for being a little sleepy in the afternoons?
You can probably empathize. And you probably know just as well as I that it only takes one yawn (usually as a result of seeing someone else do it) to set off a never-ending chain. It happened to me just yesterday, in fact. I was in the middle of a classroom music therapy session, and a staff member sitting right in front of me yawned. I tried to stop myself, but the yawn came anyway…rudely interrupting the weather song I was singing.
But here’s the thing: my students don’t care that I’m tired. They expect the same amount of energy out of me that I gave another class earlier in the day, and I don’t blame them. So I have a few little tricks up my sleeve for beating that mid-afternoon slump we all dread so much.
- Eat an earlier lunch. I eat my lunch between 10:30-11 am, which not only serves as a late morning pick-me-up, but also wards off any after-lunch sleepiness I might otherwise experience later in the day. Since my school day ends at 3 pm and my long afternoon/evening of lessons and private music therapy begins at 3:30, I just plan to have a small snack in between.
- Pump yourself up. Before every classroom session, I take some big, deep breaths and picture myself leading the session with tons of energy. If I start to feel groggy during the session, I re-focus on that mental image. It almost always helps get me back on track.
- Look at the students, not the staff. I love my co-workers, but many of them just aren’t good at hiding their exhaustion. Their yawns are often what get me in trouble! So instead, I focus all of my attention on the students (most of whom are always full of energy).
- Plan small rewards throughout the afternoon. Before I go off to each afternoon session, I choose one enjoyable thing I’ll do for myself afterward. This could include listening to my favorite music, checking out Facebook and Twitter, or calling my husband. Regardless, it’s something I can look forward to — and keeps me feeling happy and awake.
- Don’t try to be at 100% all the time. There is most definitely a place for more mellow, relaxing songs and activities in a music therapy session or class. Distribute them throughout the day and reserve that extra energy for when you start running low later on. (I’m still getting over my fear of “boring” my students, even after four years as a professional; it’s okay if you are, too.)
How do you make it through long days without setting off a yawn epidemic? Maybe it’s an extra cup of coffee or a walk around the parking lot…whatever the case may be, I want to know! Mostly so that I can try out your techniques for myself :)
Hey Rachel! This is a great post for me to read, as I normally have groups in the mornings, a lunch break, then individuals in the afternoons… right as I’m hitting my own “mid-afternoon” slump. I’ve been trying to reduce my coffee intake a little, as it hit an all-time high in internship – ha! – so I’ve been drinking tea in the afternoon. I also try to make sure I stay hydrated throughout the day – in fact, I usually can attribute most of my “slumps” to not drinking enough water. Thanks for the post!
Hi Stephanie – I figured I wasn’t the only one who suffered from this ;) Good for you, reducing your coffee intake…I only drink one cup in the morning, which is why I had to come up with alternative solutions for the afternoon. Great point about keeping hydrated; I forget to drink enough water, too.
I recently discovered your blog on a quest to find more therapy/activity ideas. I love it! Its professional and resourceful! Keep up the good work. p.s. Do you utilize autoharp in your group sessions? If so, what have you found effective? Thanks!
Hi Jennifer! I’m so glad to hear that you like the blog! Thanks for the encouragement. You know, I have a Q-Chord but don’t use it very much in group sessions. My students really enjoy and attend to the guitar, although I may try using more of the Q-Chord in the future. I’d love to hear how you use it :)
A lot of my kiddos with sensory needs are really drawn to the vibration/drone of the Q-chord…and I don’t have to tune it every five seconds like our autoharp!
That’s a good point! I just may need to pull it back out this week…
HA! This post could not have come at a more opportune moment! I am just sitting down to my lunch (Wed is BUSY morning, late lunch day) and I am exhausted! Doesn’t help that I’ve had a headache for the past hour, too. I’m so tired, in fact, that I snagged a small glass of Mt. Dew from the staff lounge…and I NEVER drink pop! Oy. I think I’m going to try your visualization technique to get through my afternoon sessions.
Other ways that I overcome my afternoon slump… on days that I don’t teach/do sessions after school, I go work-out. That always gives me an energy boost and helps me be more productive during my evenings. Also, on days that I’m dragging, I try to use music that motivates not only my students, but myself as well. I can usually stay upbeat and energetic through the session; it’s after the kids walk out my door and I sit down that it all hits me! Regardless, today especially it was reassuring to know that it’s not just me feeling this way. Thanks, Rachel!
I’m telling you Kellee, that visualization thing really does work! Let me know if you do end up trying it. And yes – I have to agree that working out always helps. I do my workouts in the morning before school, so that helps give me a boost of energy for the day ahead. I hope your headache goes away and you can charge through the rest of the afternoon!
I take a brisk walk at the nearest mall. It helps get me going again
This is me EVERY DAY. Except mine tends to come around 4/5 pm and all I want to do is go take an early nap. I find opening my eyes really wide and shake my head normally does it for me. That and staying moving.
I can totally empathize with having a “mid-afternoon slump” – sometimes I feel like I’m in an “entire-day slump”!
For the New Year I had resolved to start drinking more water, eating healthier, and drinking less coffee. I was shocked at the difference some of those changes made! Even giving up 2nd and 3rd cups of coffee…..(which were usually energy lifeline) and replacing them with either water or fruit smoothies gave me a ton of energy!
Anyways, that’s what I do!! Thanks for another great post!
More water and fruit smoothies – YES! Those are at the top of my list of goals for the summer :D