Stress Management for Teachers: 15 Proven Stress-Relieving Tips
Stress management for teachers can help you adapt to the new norm. The National Foundation for Educational Research has found that compared to other professionals, teachers are more likely to suffer from work-related stress. Unfortunately, with the ongoing transition to online classes, teachers’ stress levels will inevitably arise.
Here at All Digital School, one of our goals is to help you navigate this journey in distance education through our resources, community boards, and guides. Are you becoming burnt-out? Take a breather and read. In this article, we discussed work-related stress, stress management for teachers, and tips for battling stress.
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The world today: Are teachers being more stressed?
Anxious. This is the top answer that came up when more than 5,000 teachers were surveyed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Collaborative for Social-Emotional and Academic Learning (CASEL). Teachers have long been underpaid and undervalued. Today, they are being overwhelmed by teaching in a pandemic… So, the answer to the question above? Absolutely, teachers are suffering even more from work-related stress.
Even though you’re distance teaching, you are still not invincible against work-related stress. That is because you will inevitably go through a lot of setbacks and adjustments at this time. By knowing and identifying work-related stress better, you can execute stress management better and prevent burn-out.
Work-related stress (WRS) happens to a person when he or she does not have enough resources to cater to their work demands. These resources can be physical, mental, or cognitive. WRS can also mean that a person isn’t meshing well with their environment or with a problematic person at work. To be clear, stress is not a sickness, but a state. It can also be a contributing factor to developing mental and physical diseases.
Based on research about occupational stress by Cox et al., here are four contemporary theories on what might be causing your WRS.
- Your skills don’t match the jobs demanded by your workplace. You might have overestimated your skillset and now you have been struggling with tasks your boss or manager is giving you. This is the Person-Environment Fit Theory or PE-Fit Theory.
- You have a heavy workload, but you don’t have much control over what you can do in your job. Your job entails you to do multiple tasks, yet you don’t have the freedom to choose or prioritize assignments. This is the Job-Demand Control Theory.
- You are not being compensated for your effort. This doesn’t just talk about money but also career opportunities and appreciation. An imbalance in this give-and-take relationship might be causing your WRS. This is the Effort-Reward Imbalance Model.
- You’re seeing that the workplace is stressful, therefore it stresses you out even more. When a person perceives a work environment to be straining on its workers, this causes stress on that person as well. This is the Transactional Model.
Eventually, WRS will take its toll on a person’s psychosocial and physical health.
Psychosocial health consists of your mental, spiritual, emotional, and social wellbeing. If your psychosocial health suffers, your ability to create and maintain meaningful relationships with your students or fellow teachers will suffer, too.
Additionally, people who have unmanaged work-related stress will become at risk for cognitive impairments and illnesses like cardiovascular diseases.
When a person experiences repeated stress, their adrenal glands will produce more stress hormones called cortisol. People, especially women, who have high levels of cortisol have smaller brain masses. Brain size is correlated to the intelligence of an individual.
Meanwhile, although stress doesn’t directly cause heart disease, it will increase the chances of developing bad coping habits like physical inactivity, drinking, smoking, or sleeping late. These will build risks of getting heart diseases.
Indeed, work-related stress is not an issue you should dismiss. Underestimating WRS can snowball into something grave. That’s why if you’re becoming increasingly demotivated to work, you should learn stress management for teachers.
Stress Management for teachers
For some, stress is a good motivator; however, for most educators, it’s not always that way. Stress is unavoidable in the academe. There has been proof that many factors—from systemic to individualistic—are inevitably causing higher stress levels in teachers. That’s why it’s essential to manage stress effectively since it’s not easy to avoid. In this section, we will discuss stress management.
What is Stress Management?
Stress is an unavoidable aspect of life, but you can’t just quit on the latter because stress is here forever. The key here is to practice proper stress management, which is a series of practices and behavior changes to control the impact of stress. Those practices can be any type of self-care, depending on the person’s needs or their environment. When an educator has chronic stress, they must learn stress management for teachers to function properly every day.
Causes of stress to teachers
Stressors are a case-to-case basis. What is stressful for an educator might be normal to some. Stress can also depend on various factors such as where or what the educator is teaching. However, these are the biggest causes of stress for teachers.
- Workload. The volume of workload is often described as the main reason for stress in teachers. According to Education Support, overworking is being normalized in education.
- Inspection regime. This, along with the excessive bureaucracy and unrealistic deadlines, are the organizational factors that drive exhaustion to educators, especially school administrators.
- Education policies. This study’s findings revealed that teachers do not see themselves as creators of policies but merely as implementers. This means that teachers feel powerless in making a real change, causing them to feel stress even more.
- Behavior management. According to a survey by YouGov, behavior management is one of the top causes of stress in teachers. Managing behavior is even more stressful when teachers don’t get the support they need from their fellow teachers or senior staff.
- Lack of support from the admin. According to this study, the perceived lack of administrative care is stressing out teachers. This eventually leads to them taking part-time teaching jobs or quitting teaching.
- Not valued by society. 84% of teachers also feel that society and the government do not value their profession enough. Core problems in the industry such as low pay, pension plans, and healthcare also cause stress in most educators.
Effects of stress on teachers
Teachers have always been unfortunately undervalued—and they still are. It’s no surprise that work-related stress is proliferating in the industry. Stress has short- and long-term effects on teachers, particularly on their health, performance, and commitment to their jobs.
- Physical health and absenteeism. Because of stress, more teachers are taking leave of absences and sick leaves. They would also agree that job-related stress is affecting their health and lifestyle.
- Performance. 42% of teachers feel less motivated to do their jobs due to work-related stress, according to a survey by Teachers Assurance.
- Self-efficacy. Still based on the survey by Teachers Assurance, stress often puts a dent on teachers’ self-esteem. Teachers say that they would probably become better at their job if they weren’t exhausted.
- Students also feel less competent, too. Teachers are one of the earliest influencers in a child’s life. When classroom teachers are highly stressed, students also develop lower levels of social adjustment. This is further supported by a recent study by a study by Herman et al.
- Sleep quality. Teachers’ quality of sleep is also likely to suffer more when they are teaching compared to when they are on vacation. A study by Kottwitz et al. also found that time-related stressors in the job affected teachers’ quality of sleep.
- Commitment to one job. Stress is often the cause of high turnovers in the academe. The study by Joungyoun Kim et al. found that teachers who believed that stress brought benefits were more likely to stay in one job.
Why stress management for teachers is important
There is no arguing about the significance of support for educators. As you can observe from the cause and effects of stress that we listed above, they are deep and systemic. However, that doesn’t mean you are entirely powerless as an individual. You can rely on proactive coping methods such as stress management. You are helping shape the future by molding young people; therefore you deserve proper care and recognition.
15 proven stress-relieving tips for teachers
The tips we listed down on this section consist mostly of things you can do on your own. However, don’t hesitate to reach out to other people, your fellow teachers, and a community such as our Teachers’ boards here at ADS or our All Digital School Facebook group. If you’re feeling exhausted or depressed, take your time to follow these steps below.
Practice the S.T.O.P. method.
The S.T.O.P. method stands for Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, and Proceed. It’s a mindfulness practice that helps you become more aware of your surroundings, helping you calm your racy thoughts. When should you do S.T.O.P.? You can practice S.T.O.P. when you are feeling anxious, distracted, or stuck on autopilot. When you’re being overwhelmed by schoolwork, just remember this method and you can proceed to take on your tasks with more intention.
View stress as a friend.
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests you view stress as a friend and not an enemy. A study has found that thinking about stress as harmful is even more dangerous to your health. They even found that 43% of those surveyed had a risk of dying because of stress. However, those who were not worried about dying from stress lived longer. Therefore, try thinking of stress as more of a friend who’s giving you a hard time, but don’t see her as fatal to your health.
Don’t dwell on perfection.
Sometimes, you just want to do things right—and that’s okay. However, wanting to be right and perfect all the time will be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Dwelling on being a perfect teacher to your students at this trying time might take a toll on your self-esteem. That is because when you make mistakes, you will be too self-critical. Ultimately, striving for perfection in your work will cause burnout. Besides, we’re all on survival mode, so you have to chill and be lenient with yourself this time.
Practice proper breathing.
Another mindfulness practice you should do more often is proper breathing. There is breathing, and there is proper breathing. The latter will help you relax better, reducing the dangerous effects of too much cortisol in your body. When you breathe properly, your body also eases down. This will send a message to your brain to relax as well. When you’re feeling like drowning, the first step you should take is to breathe in through your nose, feel your diaphragm contract, and then exhale.
Recognize your triggers.
The first crucial step of effective stress management for teachers is to identify the stressors or triggers. You might not notice it, but your habits are causing you to become more exhausted. Are you still browsing social media a few minutes before you sleep? Are you overeating at night? Those might be doubling your exhaustion levels. To identify if those are triggers, try a week without doing those things and see if your stress levels improve.
Take notes of what you’re feeling.
Rain clouds cause heavy downpours. Similarly, stressed people also carry heavy emotional baggage. Naturally, you should unhinge those negative feelings you might have been bottling up. How can you do this? You should start journaling since this will clear your mind of those cluttering thoughts and make space for the more positive ones. Moreover, journaling will help articulate your experience, therefore validating your feelings. As a result, you won’t be too hard on yourself for feeling that way.
Meditation brings many science-based benefits to battling daily stress. One of the most fascinating benefits is how it helps reduce the production of cytokine. It is a chemical that promotes inflammation in your body due to stress. Frequent meditation will help a person destress easily, thus minimizing the risk of inflammation and sleep disruption caused by cytokine storms. Did you know that patients who had severe COVID-19 diseases had a cytokine storm syndrome?
Don’t pretend or stop pretending.
Fake positivity is only as good as teenage puppy love. It feels nice at first, but it won’t serve you well in the long run. Faking positivity may boost your confidence for a while, but it won’t be good for managing stress every day as an educator. That’s because it will only lead to pretending that everything is fine. When you lie about being tired, you often overestimate yourself as well, causing you to burn out. So, if you’re tired, stop pretending you’re fine. It will only backfire… We promise.
Sort out your priorities.
Want to survive distance teaching? Start sorting out your priorities. Think of yourself as a chef in a 5-star restaurant. Your patrons are expecting 5-star meals. Do you think they would get exactly what they desire if the chef is indecisive with what they need to cook at first? So, strive to sort out your priority tasks for the day. This way, you’ll have more time at the end of the day. Having extra time on workdays will give you more time for recreation. This, in turn, will give you the energy and motivation to continue what you’re doing.
Stop imagining problems or situations.
You have to start being skeptical about the plausibility of the stressful situations you’ve been imagining. Most of those circumstances might not even happen at all. Now, we know it’s hard to do, especially with the pandemic we’re trying to survive. However, you can use your wild imagination instead to relax. For example, you can use guided imagery to gain a sense of calm and relief. Picture yourself being in your happy place—whether it’s your favorite shopping mall or a grassy meadow. Add more details. You will feel joy within a few minutes.
Eat the right food for stress management.
Yes, there are ideal foods for stress management! It may be cliche at this point, but you have to eat right to feel right. Munching on the best food that combat stress will give you the strength and endurance you need to work during these trying times. The best foods to boost your stress management are comfort foods like oatmeal, pasta, whole-grain bread, vitamin C-rich food like oranges, and magnesium-rich vegetables like Spinach. Munching on magnesium-rich foods will help you avoid headaches and fatigue.
Find a way to release your frustration.
Bottling up your frustration will only result in an explosion of anger sooner or later. Therefore, you have to find a way to release it without hurting anyone. First, you can vent to a close friend or a coworker you trust. Make sure they are ready to listen as well. You can also start creating a mantra about dealing with things you can’t change. In Stoicism, the most fundamental lesson is about focusing on what you can only control. This way, you will deal with fewer frustrations.
Learn how to say no once in a while.
Learning how to say no has never been more polarizing today. You would want to help your students or friends, but you wouldn’t also want to exhaust yourself. What should you do instead? Remember that it’s always okay to say no. Refusal is not downright rejection. Besides, you can always compromise or recommend someone who can help them instead. We’re all in a pandemic trying to survive—you will feel less stressed if you stay true to yourself.
Make time for your hobbies.
What have you been neglecting before this pandemic? Did you write a short story, draw a portrait, or promise yourself to learn how to cook sourdough bread? You may need to be vigilant these days, but allow yourself some time to recreate. Spending time on your hobbies will help you effectively manage work-related stress. Based on this study, people who had hobbies were happier and less stressed than those who didn’t. So, let yourself play hard after working hard.
Learn how to forgive yourself.
Last but not least is you should learn how to forgive yourself. Did you know that this particular action will directly reduce your stress? In life, we’re bound to make many mistakes. We’re only human. We’re not gods who have the upper-hands in every situation. Accepting this and then learning how to forgive yourself for it will instantly help you feel lighter and less responsible. To start letting go of resentment and become less stressed, you have to begin with forgiving yourself.
Being an educator certainly is challenging, especially today where the pandemic has violently shifted the educational system to the digital road. However, don’t lose hope if you’re having a hard time adjusting. Your students rely on you—therefore, you should learn how to take care of yourself during these trying times. Just follow our tips about stress management for teachers and you’re good to go.
How can teachers help students with stress?
Stress often roots from disarray. As a result, teach kids how to manage their time. The benefits of being organized with your time and priorities are amazing. Your students will feel more accomplished and less stressed when they know how to sort out their priorities.
How do teachers handle stress inside the school?
It’s recommended for teachers to practice mindfulness, create an outlet, or find a safe space somewhere on the campus. The latter is especially recommended if you’re about to have an outburst. Knowing you can always access a safe space nearby will more likely calm you down. You will be reminded that school is a safe space as well.
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