In the last edition of Everything Curriculum magazine, we provided stress management tips focused on the area of mindset. In this blog post, we will focus on talking and taking action.
It’s good to talk…
If you can, identify a group of people you can be honest and open with about your feelings. Partners, friends, or close colleagues will want to help, and mixing the group up means you can ask different people for different things.
If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, speak to other people. Reach out and check in with each other, even if it is just a quick chat in the staffroom. When we hear peers reflect back on the same thoughts and feelings, it helps us to feel ‘it’s not just me’.
Build a sense of mutual support. And let people further up the chain at work know how you’re feeling too.
Find a confidant who you can trust to talk to, that won’t fuel your negative or stressed thoughts. It’s important to be able to share this in an open and constructive way and have someone to listen to you – even if they don’t offer any solutions or help.
Don’t bottle up anger and frustrations
Express and discuss your feelings. If it is impossible to talk it out, plan for some physical activity at the end of the working day to relieve tensions. Let go of grudges – they affect you and your state of mind more than the other person.
Remember to seek help and support when you need it
It’s ok to ask for professional help. If you feel that you’re struggling to manage on your own, then you can reach out. It’s important to know that you can get help as soon as possible, and that you deserve to get better.
The first person to approach is your family doctor. He or she should be able to give advice about treatment and may refer you to another local professional. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (this is a type of therapy that works by helping you to understand that your thoughts and actions can affect the way you feel) and mindfulness-based approaches are known to help reduce stress. There are also voluntary organisations which can help you to tackle the causes of stress and advise you about ways to get better. A side note to the gentlemen… You need to talk too; andysmanclub.co.uk is one of many meeting groups set up for men to talk.
Know your limits
It’s completely ok to say “No, thank you” when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Accepting extra tasks and volunteering for different projects can be exciting and refreshing, but it’s easy to become wrapped up in saying yes to every request. Take a step back and come to terms with the amount of time you truly have, then go from there, agreeing to only what you’d like to do. Burnout is common, so reducing teacher stress in the classroom by rationalising and understanding how valuable your time is could really help.
However, don’t forget about the importance of trying new and exciting experiences! This can help reduce stress, both inside and outside of work.
You can do anything, but not everything!
Saying yes all the time can leave you feeling tired, stressed, and overstretched which often causes you to become run down, leading you to be more susceptible to illness. Your immune system is your main defence system, and when you’re stressed, this negatively impacts how well you can fight off bacteria, germs, and viruses. This could, in turn, impact your prior commitments, possibly leading to you having to say no to much more important things. So, before getting anxious about having to say no to someone, remember the chain that saying yes to one more thing could cause.
Learn to say no
No is seen as such a negative word but it’s all about perception. Saying no can be seen as selfish, but often saying yes is actually the worse option. Saying yes and then not being able to give the best version of you, giving low-quality time or effort is much more upsetting than saying no.
Review your lifestyle
- Could you be taking on too much in or out of work?
- Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else or could they help more at home?
- Can you do things in a more leisurely way?
To act on the answer to these questions, you may need to prioritise things you are trying to achieve and re-organise your life. This will help to release pressure that can come from trying to do everything at once.
Take time for self-care
Try to keep in touch with how you feel and what, if anything, is a particular issue for you. Try and find a distraction technique to get you through difficult times. It might be headphones on the way in, a podcast in the car, or just five minutes of peace at lunch or break to do a meditation track or fresh air.
Take a moment and think about all the feelings you had yesterday, from the time you got up in the morning, to the time you went to bed. What do you notice? Probably a roller-coaster of powerful, overwhelming feelings which can change dramatically in a second. You can be in the depths of despair one minute and then elated the next. Why is this? You were probably dealing with students all day who were experiencing wildly fluctuating emotions and trying to help everyone.
Teaching is about managing relationships in an intense, public arena all day. Some emotions will be overwhelming and difficult to manage. They will not be helpful for teaching and learning.
What are the triggers for the unhelpful feelings?
What were the triggers for those feelings which impeded teaching and learning? Some of the common causes are:
- We try to be perfect. Teachers tell their students that mistakes are good, we learn from them. And yet, many teachers strive for perfection in their own work and their own life. They get frustrated when a lesson plan doesn’t work perfectly and when pupils don’t understand enough. It is good for us to have high standards, but we must remember that the pursuit of perfection is dangerous. It does not model what we know about learning, that learning takes place when we make mistakes.
- We always want to try harder. Teachers are often very hard workers, always trying to do things better. If students don’t understand, you will spend longer planning lessons. If you can’t finish your to-do list, you stay up longer to get through it. Sometimes we spend a lot of time trying harder in the wrong direction. We find things which blatantly don’t work, such as staying up late into the night to plan a lesson, which we are then too tired to teach properly, and then we do more of what does not work.
- We always want to stay strong. Teachers hate to let people down, which often means you go to work when you’re sick, don’t admit you’re struggling with a class and push personal and family problems to the back of your mind. Again, this can be useful, you need to be reliable. However, when you insist on always being strong, you ignore your needs, and the pressures build up. That is why so many teachers get sick in the holidays. You need to know when to stop.
Take your time
Frenzied activities lead to errors, regrets, and stress. Create time to orient yourself to situations. If you feel rushed at work, kindly ask colleagues to wait until you have finished what you’re doing before starting another task. Plan ahead to arrive at appointments early, giving yourself enough time for unexpected hold-ups. Practice approaching situations ‘mindfully’.
This does sound obvious, however, eating healthily can reduce the risks of diet-related diseases. There is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood and how eating healthily can improve this.
You can protect your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet provides adequate amounts of brain nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water.
Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol
Try to reduce the amount you smoke or drink alcohol. It’s so easy to get home from a long stressful day and reach into the fridge… “just for one glass of wine” … even though it may seem to reduce tension initially, this is misleading as it often makes problems worse.
Set aside time each day for time for you and exercise
Gentle repetitive exercises, such as walking, or cycling are good to relieve stress. Meditation, yoga, Pilates, and dance are also excellent. The trick is to find what suits you best. Hobbies that focus attention are also good stress relievers. Take up a new activity unrelated to your job; one that gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Establish new friends in your newly found interest.
Take time out
- Take time to relax for yourself. Do things that give you respite from your stressful situations and help you recentre.
- Strike the balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself, this can really reduce stress levels
- Tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self care. Are you needing time out but saying ‘I just can’t take the time off’, if so, read more about how taking a break is important for good mental health.
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