Teaching is naturally stressful profession but you can learn to manage it!
Remember - you chose this profession. Teachers have to lead, guide, encourage, motivate, manage, discipline, enable and support their students every hour of every teaching day.
This is no mean feat - and we are required to do it with goodwill, remarkable patience and humour. We do this with the daily reality that some of our students have significant learning and behaviour disorders. Some come from homes where there is poverty, long-term unemployment, substance abuse, inadequate diet and values that are significantly at odds with ours. In some families there is significant family dysfunction which impacts in the classroom and wider community.
''So what do you do....?''
Symptoms of stress - look out for the following:
- Feeling under too much mental or emotional pressure.
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling irritable
- loss of temper
- Low self esteem
- Racing thoughts
- constant worrying
- Headaches and dizziness
- Muscle tensions or pains.
Coping with stress - what can we do:
- Don't try to be perfect. Nobody is! Allow youself to fail sometimes and learn from the failure. It's called being human. "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." - H. Ford
- Get out of your black and white thinking. This is where everything is either good or bad, including the students. Allow for shades of different colours in your teaching and in your life. Life is a work in process.
- Don't define your existence by calling yourself a teacher. Make sure there are plenty of other things you enjoy! Get a work life balance.
- When things get on top of you, reframe your thinking. There might be some students who disrupt your Year 9 class, but how many good kids in the room make up for that? See the positives.
- The only way to solve a problem - is to solve it. Teachers are good at knowing what to do when something is not right, but often not very good at doing it. Talk to a colleague about things more often than eating comfort food at break. Although, the odd cream cake can work wonders
- Don't be a yes man/woman It's adult to say no - especially if you have too much to do already
- Challenging negative communication. If a colleague is constantly telling you how stressful the job is, you don't always have to agree. Stop telling everyone how terrible things are - it becomes self-fulfilling. Be positive.
- Keep your to-do list up to date, and do it. It's one of the biggest stress relievers. Write down your worries. Allow yourself a set time to go over them and think of solutions for them one at a time – some problems need attention as they will not go away on their own. When the time period you have set is over, put aside your worries until the next time period.
- Ask for help Seek advice from colleagues you trust. We all need help from time to time - it's not a sign of weakness to ask for help and helping makes others feel good!
- Talk to students in corridors, especially the ones you don't get on with in class. It really affects and improves your relationships, and therefore the teaching and learning in your lessons.
- Keep smiling. When you've retired you'll miss the classroom and look back with fond memories!
Work life balance and staying healthy
- Stop work at least two hours before you go to bed and do something else - take a bath, read a book, meditate, try yoga, listen to music, etc.
- If it’s a stressful day, take time out away from school - go for a walk in the lunch hour and get away from it all.
- Make time for friends - organize a dinner party for the weekend and stop thinking/talking about work!
- Make sure that you leave school early at least one night a week and do something that is just for you. DON'T FEEL GUILTY. Develop a passion for something non-school related, play a sport, take up a craft or learn a musical instrument. Being in the position of learner can help put things in perspective
- Healthy eating - eat well and feel well
- Regular exercise - getting some fresh air and doing something physical can be extremely therapeutic
- Get enough sleep - you need to be fresh and rested to teach
- Laugh - it's a huge release of stress
- BREATHE - breathe out the frustration and negative feelings and breathe in new positive feelings. Why not try some simple relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga etc. to help you relax. This can be only 5-10 minutes a day but could make all the difference to how you are feeling.
- Plan something to look forward to - a trip overseas, a visit to the theatre , a night out with friends
- Support each other - share with friends but don't let it become all negative! Play games of forfeit - first one to say something negative has to pay for the drinks!
- If you need to, seek professional advice . If you are finding that stress is beginning to take over your life, you could visit your GP and they can advise you on how to cope with symptoms and reduce levels of stress in your life.