According to a study published in 2015, majority of teachers perceive their occupation-related stress as high or very high. It’s difficult to understand or relate if you’re not a teacher.
But if you can recollect the different levels of pure malarkey and insanity you inflicted on them in pre-school through to high school, you may concur with the study that teaching, while rewarding, is indeed a very stressful career.
Like that statistic is not damning enough, a study by Wall Street Journal researchers about a past third party report found that teachers being overly stressed takes a toll on student learning and may significantly impact on performance and emotional well-being. Clearly, the more you look into the subject, the worse it gets.
If you’re a teacher, who believes they have pulled out all the stops to fight stress but can’t seem to shake it, we have a recipe that we reckon would work for you. Read on for five expert-backed tips on stress management for teachers.
1: Practice Mindfulness
Amanda Bailey of Bright Futures Educational Trust – a partnership of schools in the UK – says their schools offer mandatory mindfulness training to all their staffers as a measure to suppress occupational stress and promote wellbeing.
The tool, she explains, targets the brain patterns behind such feelings as irritability, stress and anxiety and works to introduce the individual to a friendlier viewpoint of daily workplace events.
Their program includes such simple relaxation techniques as breathing in for 7 seconds and out for 11 – in what has been dubbed the 7/11 approach.
2: Share Experience with Colleagues
This may sound evil but we all agree with the premise: learning that your friend is going through the same difficulties in life as you does, to some extent, brings a feeling of relief.
A study from 2014 (shamelessly) backs this by asserting that stress and anxiety are best dealt with when shared with someone who truly understands your emotion. And better when that person is going through a similar situation at the time.
Shared staff rooms for teachers can be the best place to hold such discussions, according to Education consultant Jill Berry. He recalls teachers in his teacher’s lounge engaging in dialogues that they all agreed helped them face class issues more positively and comfortably.
Now you know–that one friend in the staff room with whom you confide your dark weekend experiences could also be a long-overdue remedy to your stressful teaching life.
3: Focus on What You Can do Something About
While you’re partly responsible for how smoothly your classes run, the way events end up transpiring in and, especially, outside class is not entirely down to you.
Several studies have shown that worrying too much about things out of our control poses a chronic threat to our emotional wellbeing, as the situation may never get to be fixed, or if addressed, not to our contention. So when you’re a teacher and you start noticing surging cases of students getting out of control or being rude, you’re allowed to be worried. But taking it home with you would be unwise.
Think about all the things you think are behind your stress and jot them down on paper. Now divide them into two lists, one of the things that are your responsibilities and the other of those that are not. You know what to do after that – ignore the petty stuff and other people’s duties and start focusing on what you’re charged with.
4: Set Realistic Goals
Look. You’re not going to grade papers for five different assignments in between four lessons, lunch and two breaks, and later attend a debate club meeting with the children, just because you feel you have the energy to.
Stress and a feeling of failure comes when in the evening you learn you barely graded half the assignments and even forgot to meet the debate students. Not to mention you probably didn’t take a lunch break or get a minute to yourself between classes.
If you think you can approximate how long it would take to grade a set of assignments, you can use your estimate to see how much you can handle for the day. A well-laid schedule will help you not only appreciate how much you have done at the end of day, but also motivate you to work to the maximum of your ability.
Despite all the responsibilities thrown on your plate as a teacher, you’re human. You don’t have to be perfect.
5: Exercise Regularly
Researchers at Princeton University, as reported by the New York Times, have found that a good workout regimen can greatly reduce stress and anxiety.
This, of course, is not exclusive to teachers. But the magic of exercise on the brain, as depicted in the article, can come in handy when you’re down in the dumps regardless of your occupation.
The researchers stress that you don’t have to be subscribed to an extreme workout program to feel the effect of exercise on your brain. Just one hour of light exercise every two days can induce a pattern of calm on your brain for up to a week.
Of course, the more you work out the better. But if you have a tight schedule, an hour of uninterrupted exercise late in the evening after school or early in the morning before you head off to work can work the magic.
The hustle of working around children can be of great weight. Add stress to that, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Luckily, as most of the research cited in the post seem to suggest, you’re virtually the sole determinant of how hard on you stress is going to be.
You only need to get a hang of the major causes of your stress, analyze it and tackle it like the teacher you are. Avoid what is not your problem, lead a healthy life, help children who need support and be punctual.
It is also worthwhile to note that stress may not always be a result of occupational reasons. Sometimes it could be a symptom of something even worse. You can use the above tips to gain some relief but if the problem persists, don’t be afraid pay your doctor a visit and get professional assistance. There are also natural stress supplements that can help as well.
That said, how you confront issues in the office with colleagues and how you interact with students whether in class or out on the field will always be the determining factors of your mental well being. Work to avoid stress, and not necessarily to treat it.