Teachers are experts at delivering material, explanations and instructions. They are familiar with ways of communicating information and are trained in techniques to develop success in their students. But are they successful at learning themselves about how to deal with one of the biggest challenges teachers face? Are they listening to what they can easily teach to others about well-being? Are educators getting the message that they need to deal with the high degrees of stress associated with their careers? Some may say it is not the case because teacher stress is still a much talked about topic in educators’ circles.
Teaching profession is a demanding job that requires ability to cope with stress. Perhaps teachers then, are among one of the easiest groups to learn basic stress management techniques. They are very much aware of the need to address stress and how it relates to our overall wellness. Here are some great ways for people who spend their professional lives leading others to manage the stress that comes with their jobs.
1. What is causing your stress?
As with dealing with any problem, identifying it is a necessary first step. Try writing a list of aspects of your busy life, your job, your students, your boss, your family and other avenues where you are feeling stressed. Consider two approaches to the list: things you have some control over… and the things that are beyond your control.
Where there is control, there may be solutions! Prioritize your list with the biggest issues at the top. Use realistic and positive language when working through these solutions.
2. Be realistic about your goals
Even when they are comprised of daily “to do” lists or weekly goals of what to get done, “seeing” your workload is one step closer to getting through it. You will feel more success as you knock items off your list, and don’t worry about the things remaining if they can be easily carried over to the next list, or not done at all! Take notice of all you have done. Acknowledge when things that didn’t get done weren’t really under your control. (If you end up doing something that wasn’t on your list … put it on anyway just for the joy of crossing it off!) Use your freed up time for things you love, like chatting with your students, helping out where it wasn’t expected, or go outside for recess!
3. Small Stuff
It’s not just a cliché, the small stuff, the details that don’t really matter can bog you down. You can so easily let the workload slow you down and you’ll let the joy of teaching pass you by. Many teachers use the simple strategy of trying to take it one day at a time. Another cliché! Being a control freak is often part and parcel of being an effective teacher and classroom manager. Things will happen in your program, in your classroom that are outside of your control, but a go with the flow attitude, (another cliché!) will help you deal with it. And you’ll keep your head.
4. Seek out your colleagues
It’s highly unlikely you are the only one in your environment dealing with job related stress. Teachers and school authorities need to encourage a dialogue among workers about stress management. Sometimes this is achieved through simple surveys or questionnaires. Developing forums where these issues can be discussed openly are helpful too. The main objective should be for teachers to dialogue together to decide themselves how hard to work. Sharing of ideas, tips and tricks are a great means for feeling connected to co-workers too. Educators need to take control and accept some responsibility for how they perform as teachers.
5. Learn Relaxation Techniques
Ideally schools should make opportunities available to their staff for mindfulness exercises and to enjoy peaceful environments. A quiet break room, a comfortable lunchroom, a place to read, study or prepare free of distractions are common needs in all workplaces. Schools are no exception. Where this is not available through an ideal setting you can practice relaxation exercises just about anywhere. Learn from yoga, Tai chi, breathing exercises and other methods that help your physical and mental facilities connect. Brain patterns are affected by underlying daily anxiety and irritability. Switching to calmer modes of dealing with stress will help you respond to situations more effectively.
6. Make relaxation a routine
Many teachers talk about simple classrooms techniques they use daily such as beginning their day calmly. This could be as simple as being at your desk with a favourite hot beverage, sitting quietly for two minutes before you engage with your students. Take deep cleansing breaths. Try to visualize your day ahead and see yourself teaching the way you want and responding to your students the way you want. See yourself dealing with situations outside your classroom in a positive way too. Try relaxation tapes or calming music. Have your students enter into this calmed space rather than with the chaos they can bring in their wake!
7. Go home
Some administrators actually have to be forceful with their staff members that tend to stay too long at school tasks. If you don’t set your own timetable to call it a day, find someone who will do that for you! If school is stressful, get out of the school. As well, be mindful of how much work you bring home. Decide on a healthy balance between your home and school life. Make priorities that keep you happy.
8. Just say “no!”
The best teachers are very giving persons. Many are involved in assorted things beyond their own classroom including extracurricular activities, remedial help for students, community activities, fundraising and more. When you want something done, ask a busy person can be a real problem for some teachers because they have a hard time saying “no”. Saying “yes” all the time isn’t always a great trait. Know your limits. Politely turn down tasks that will add to your load and stress levels.
Finally, you may love your job now, but you can grow to resent it if it sucks the life out of you. Put controls in place so you don’t go down the path where you resent all the extra time and effort you put in. Being overworked can also lead to mistakes. To be at your sharpest, you may need to take a step back and access yourself and your teaching. The people around you, your colleagues, students, and family will appreciate it too.