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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

5 Things I Do to Decompress After a Bad Class (or Day!)

Step one: Comfort food.

As an English Teaching Assistant and part-time teacher at the local university in Mulhouse, I see a lot of students each week, both high school and college. I studied journalism in undergrad, not education, but you don't need to have 10 years of experience as a teacher to move to France to teach English with TAPIF. For me, experience with tutoring and mentoring throughout high school and university was enough to get me the job.

On the one hand, this is a good thing – the program is accessible – but on the other hand, I have been caught in situations that I wasn't necessarily prepared for. Whether that be an especially rowdy group of students that won't listen, a classroom of blank eyes staring back at you during a lesson you thought would work well, or even overhearing a student's remark in whispered French that makes me question my whole existence, some days can be extra demoralizing. Overall, my students are so sweet, and I look forward each week to working with them, but I have to be honest – some groups I just dread seeing.

And it's not just teachers. Everyone has a bad day once in a while (some more often than others...), so I want to share with you some ways in which I decompress after a difficult class. C'est parti !

1. Eat good food

Of course, my go-to remedy is a good meal. Cooking something myself – even something small, like a simple pasta! – helps me take my mind off of what just went down. If I really need a distraction, I'll undertake a big project, like airy, olive oil-drenched focaccia or macarons. But even just ordering takeout or sharing a meal with others is good for the soul. For example, the afore-mentioned raclette. I think of nothing else besides creating the perfect bite, with the perfect ratio of potato, charcuterie, melted cheese, and mini cornichons. And if all else fails, I'll pop over to the nearest patîsserie (in my case, Gaugler) and get myself a pretty French pastry to drown my sorrows and bring a little bit of joy to the day.

2. Watch dumb French television

Potentially my favorite way to decompress consists of the French channel W9 (and M6). There is no better way to move forward from a bad day and completely switch off your brain than French reality television. My favorite show is Les Marseillais, which I keep up with religiously, even if I can barely make out a word of the French screaming and cursing every night. Plus, it helps me relate to my students! Two birds! Other brain-melting shows include Les Reines du Shopping, a fashion competition show, Un Dîner Presque Parfait, a dinner party competition show, and L'Amour Est Dans Le Pré, a Bachelor-type show featuring French farmers searching for love. Don't tell me you're not intrigued.

3. Bullet journaling

Like I wrote about in my last blog post, bullet journaling is another way for me to organize my thoughts and try to keep them from spiraling. I try to journal each day, which helps me get all of my feelings down on paper and, sometimes, see them in a different light. I also get to track my habits and see a tangible representation of the tasks I got done that day, which increases my productivity. And nothing's more mind-numbing than drawing lines and doodles, even if my bullet journal isn't the most artistic creation in the world.

4. Workout... JK! Go for a nice walk

I don't exercise in particular, although I can't deny that working out is good for stress. At this point in my life, I don't have the time or motivation to go running or lift weights, and I try not to beat myself up for that. Instead, I prefer to get outside and take a quick walk around the block, which lets me focus on my surroundings rather than any intrusive thoughts. A change of scenery does wonders, as does the fresh air after hours sitting before Zoom or wearing my mask in the classroom. Take a friend or two, if you can!

5. Light a candle and listen to the Lo-Fi YouTube channel

Relaxation and candles go hand in hand, and although I don't have a bathtub in my French apartment, I can still light a cheap candle, pop on the soothing Lo-Fi Hip Hop YouTube channel, and take a load off. It's important to put my phone away during this time, to simply sit with myself and to try not let the negative, anxious thoughts overwhelm me – "What did the students think? Why weren't they interested in my lesson today? What am I doing wrong?" Instead, I try to focus on the positive while inhaling the fumes of a sickly sweet "rose et pêche" candle from Super U. It's harder than it sounds, but it's a start.

What do you do to decompress after a tough day?

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