As a teacher, you are probably already very aware of the stress that creeps into your workday. And you are not alone. According to a 2016 study, forty-six percent of teachers say they feel high daily stress, which is on par with other intense professions such as nursing and medicine.1
Yes, we can all agree that teachers have one of the toughest, yet most rewarding jobs around. While a little stress is normal, when it builds, it can lead to a number of physical symptoms and job burnout. The good news is that there are many things that you can do to help alleviate the stress in your life so you can enjoy it more.
Stress Relievers for Teachers
- Accommodate your basic needs first. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? In his theory, all of a human’s higher-order needs (self-esteem and self-actualization) can only be achieved when the lower-order needs (physiological, safety, and love) are met first. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you maintaining a healthy diet? Are you drinking enough water? How are your relationships at home? By acknowledging your basic needs first, you are setting a foundation that will lead to less stress in the classroom.
- Just breathe. When you are stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Your fists might ball up, your heart may race, and you might feel sweaty or nervous. You can control and put a stop to these feelings by slowing down and focusing on your breath. Deep breathing calms your nervous system and brings your body and mind back to a less agitated state. Follow this link for a quick lesson on breathing techniques to reduce stress.
- Practice mindfulness. You have probably heard a lot about the power of mindfulness. There are many books, apps, and YouTube videos dedicated to helping people become more mindful. (Try this guide to start your practice.) In fact, “Mounting scientific evidence from hundreds of universities—including dedicated centers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the United States and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom—strongly suggests that mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being.”2 So grab a book or download an app or podcast today and start discovering the power of mindfulness for yourself. And if you are interested in bringing mindfulness practice into your classroom, check out this link for a wealth of resources and videos.
- Take a walk. When you have a break at work, put your sneakers on and take a brisk walk around outside. Strive to clear your mind while walking. Yes this means forgetting about your “to-do” list. Instead, focus on what you see, smell, hear and feel. Even 5-10 minutes will do wonders and help get you ready to conquer the rest of your day! (This is mindfulness in practice!)
- Focus on one thing at a time. As a teacher, you probably feel like a master multitasker. However, when you multitask, you are not able to focus on doing each task well. Break your tasks into smaller more manageable tasks and dedicate a set amount of time to each one. You will feel more accomplished and cross more off your list this way. Voila — less stress!
- Plan for tomorrow, today. Your mother probably told you, do not put off to tomorrow what you can get done today. She was right! Before you go to bed, pack your lunch, pick out your clothes, and get your next day organized. When you jump out of bed in the morning, you’ll start the day off on the right foot.
- Write it down. According to an article by Michigan State University, “Journaling can be a great stress reducer through organizing one’s thoughts, clearing one’s mind and facilitating problem solving.”3 This stress-relieving technique can be even more powerful if you write down whatever is in your head before bedtime.
- Talk with someone who understands. Discuss your frustrations with a friend, colleague, or your principal. Sometimes just getting it out helps a lot. Counseling can also help.
- Exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”4 Exercise helps produce endorphins (feel good hormones). It is also a moving meditation, which means that you are moving purposefully, mindfully. It also eases symptoms of anxiety and depression. New to exercise? Start small. Join a group exercise class like yoga or cardio kickboxing, commit to after dinner walks around the block or even pick out an exercise on demand, YouTube video, or podcast that you think you might like.
- Do something that makes you feel alive! What makes you feel great? Maybe it is taking an art class, going out to dinner with friends, spending time with family, skiing, or even reading a great book! Whatever it is that makes you tick — do it! Laughter and fun might just be the best remedy for stress.
Do you have any stress busters that you would like to share with other teachers? Please comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas!
1. Turner, C. (2016, December 30). Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All. Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/12/30/505432203/teachers-are-stressed-and-that-should-stress-us-all↩
2. Alidina, S. (2017, March 20). 9 Ways Mindfulness Reduces Stress. Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://www.mindful.org/9-ways-mindfulness-reduces-stress/↩
3. Journaling to reduce stress. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/journaling_to_reduce_stress↩
4. Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. (2018, March 08). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469↩