Stress is inevitable. Life can be difficult, especially when you’re responsible for 25-40 students at one time. Stress management is an important attribute to master early on in your career. High-stress levels can result in both emotional and physical pain as well as exhaustion. You will start to have short fuses of impatience, irritability, and anger with students and colleagues. It can also lead to the repression of feelings, difficulty being organized, and even cause depression.
Identify Your Stressor and Accept It
The first step in stress management is identifying what is making you stressed. Typically it’s a combination of things. Once you have listed out WHAT is stressing you, you need to list WHO is stressing you. In life, we meet energizers and drainers. Energizers give us energy and inspire us, while drainers drain us of our energy. We feel worse after being with them. You do not need to completely eliminate stressors from your life; they can be a good thing as they cause balance. But being aware of them is important.
Break It Down
Now that your list is complete, start with the things that stress you out. Try to break them down into smaller tasks. No one eats an entire pizza whole; they break it down into smaller slices. You have to do the same thing with your stressor; break it down into manageable pieces.
Next, move on to the people who drain you. Are you spending too much time with them throughout the week? Do you need to add in more time for re-energizing?
The final part of breaking it down is to consider the factors that you DO and DO NOT have control over. We like to be in control of our day, we spend a lot of time planning to ensure that our classes go smoothly. However, we cannot control everything as schools are full of people and unexpected events. We often find ourselves getting stressed about the things which are outside our control. You can only focus on improving the things within your control; stop obsessing about those things which are outside our control.
Interrupt The Negativity
This is an important step. Teachers tend to be their own worst critics, instead, try being your best friend. Positive self-talk is very important. What would you say to your best friend if they were having a bad day? You won’t be mean and add to their stress. Yet we often say mean things to ourselves. Talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend. I, personally, like to have a few positive affirmations listed on my phone that I can repeat to myself when things get to be too much. You can also try writing down 6 positive highlights of the day. We dwell on the negatives of the day: the classes we had problems with, the colleagues who do not agree with us, etc. Train yourself to see the positives. A highlight can be a small thing. Get into the habit of noticing what is working and do more of that.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
As teachers, we are always focused on everyone else. It’s important to take care of our mental health throughout the school year. Don’t want until summer vacation to start your hobby. Hobbies help you relax and unwind. They are great stress relievers and incorporating them into your week helps manage your long-term stress levels. For short-term stress management, try taking a walk or doing absolutely nothing for 5 minutes. Both of them can easily be done during your lunch break or planning period.
Additionally, you can work on a relaxation exercise with your class. Teach them about stress management and mental health. My favorite is a quick deep breathing exercise:
- Sit in a comfortable position in a chair (or on the floor)
- Begin breathing deeply, focusing on your breath
- Close your eyes while you relax your upper body and shoulders
- Take two deep, continuous breaths, as if you were filling a balloon
- When you exhale, the balloon deflates
- As you breathe in and out repeat a calming word, like peace or serenity (optional)
- Repeat this several times
- Open your eyes when you begin to feel calmer
Share Experience with Colleagues
Offloading in a safe way is very important. You can’t keep your stress bottled up inside of you. Share how your feeling with supportive friends and colleagues. Sometimes we just need to talk to someone. It’s essential that you make it clear what you need from this person: a good listener, an advice giver, a shoulder to cry on, etc. If we just want to rant and someone tries to give advice, it can be counter-productive. Also, you can watch youtube videos from fellow teachers. Teacher vloggers tend to share how they feel: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes listening to someone else’s story helps us. We just need to feel like we are not alone.