Teachers - the unsung heroes whose impact extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. They are the superheroes who embark on a mission to inspire young minds, ignite a love for learning, and shape the future. With their superpowers of knowledge and compassion, they navigate the complexities of education fueled by an unwavering dedication to their students.
But beneath the invincible exteriors, teachers are not immune to the challenges they face. A teacher has to juggle between grading papers, meetings, classroom management, lesson planning, and simultaneously tackle their personal lives. Sounds relatable? Rest assured…you are not alone. In this scenario, stress management for teachers becomes essential to ensure that they are able to discharge their duties effectively.
Teachers around the world face a similar situation and experience burnout. The key reason for this burnout is “improper time management”. As a teacher, time management becomes extremely difficult. There is so much pressure to plan and impart knowledge that we often lose ourselves in the process. This negatively affects our mental health and results in suffering.
There are several factors affecting the mental health of teachers, including heavy workloads, challenging students, administrative pressure, and limited resources. Such factors can contribute to burnout, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Teachers must acknowledge and address these issues to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
So, how do teachers find out if they are experiencing burnout? Here’s what you need to know:
Symptoms and Signs of Burnout
In the opinion of Dr.Priyanka Dang, DHA licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 8 years of experience,
"The way we think is going to impact what we feel, and how we feel is going to impact the way we behave, and behaviour is something which is visible to everyone.”
When we experience burnout, we give away certain signs and symptoms that point toward our mental stress such as:
Lack of sleep
Eating too much
Eating too little
Having chest pain
Having problems with gut
Needless to say, it's mostly the physical symptoms that we don’t realise are associated with our mental well being. All we know is that— something is wrong with our body, but we don't know what it is. Some of us are able to identify if we are depressed or anxious but cannot figure out how the body is reacting to this stress.
Whenever we feel stressed, our body produces cortisol also known as “the stress hormone”. The trouble is that too much cortisol can cause “cortisol toxicity” and that is exactly when we experience the above signs and symptoms.
However, experts believe that teacher stress, in the right amount, can be a catalyst for optimal performance.
Yes, you read that right. When you are able to strike the perfect balance, stress becomes a propeller rather than a burden. Read along to know more on this.
The Balancing Act: Harnessing Stress for Optimal Performance in Teaching
According to Ms Priyanka Dang, there are levels of stress and anxiety which are just right and help us to perform better.
She explains the role of cortisol that our brain releases when we are under stress. Cortisol helps us get into action and navigate challenges with heightened focus and alertness. It’s like a surge of energy that prepares us to tackle the demands of the classroom, ensuring we are primed to deliver our best performance.
However, too much cortisol leads to “Cortisol toxicity”, leading to the deterioration of our well-being. The key, of course, lies in figuring out the right balance between teacher stress and mental health.
But how do you manage stress as a teacher?
Let’s explore the secrets to thriving under pressure and ensuring that the right amount of stress can be a powerful ally so that we can reach new heights of success, both in and out of the classroom.
Tips for Stress Management for Teachers
In this section we will discuss some insights for managing teacher stress both within the school environment and in various aspects of your life outside of it. These strategies will empower you to thrive professionally while also enjoying a balanced and fulfilling life beyond the classroom.
Tips for Stress Management in School
Teaching can be demanding. We have listed these tips for teacher mental health which will help you enjoy a balanced and fulfilling teaching experience. Let's explore them to know how to navigate the challenges of the classroom while prioritising your teacher mental health and well being.
1. Use Distractions (A.C.C.E.P.T.S)
Imagine you're at school and a child X has been hit by child Y and the parents of child X come and complain. You get extremely overwhelmed by this situation as you're put in a spot.
What are you gonna do in such an overbearing situation especially when people are pointing a finger at your class and your management?
During such times, it becomes extremely important for us to manage our emotions and focus on emotional regulation.
This is how Dr Priyanka explains emotional regulation,
“Distressing emotions can seem impossible to overcome but you have to understand that this is how the brain deals with emotions. They fade out over a period of time unless and until you want to hold on to it really tightly”
To deal with such situations, we use a mnemonic called (A.C.C.E.P.T.S)
A stands for Activity: Do something that requires your thought and concentration. For e.g. Read a book.
C stands for Contribution: Contribute to others. For e.g. Volunteering, Donating to a cause.
C stands for Comparison: Compare your situation to something more stressful or painful.
E stands for Emotions: Do activities that evoke opposite emotions. For e.g., if you're sad, you watch a happy movie. If you're anxious, you practice deep breathing.
P stands for Pushing Away: Postpone the situation for some time or block painful thoughts using imagery.
T stands for Thoughts: Use mental strategies or activities to shift your focus to something neutral. For e.g. Think about the tiles on the floor or the kind of bricks on the wall.
S stands for Sensation: Use your senses to distract yourself from your emotions. For e.g. Take a hot bath or have something really spicy
2. Focus on Interpersonal Communication
Sometimes we all feel that—- “we are so clear with our communication but still people don’t get us”. But that's not true. There might be something about our communication that is threatening or our body language might be inappropriate.
You may widen your eyes, start crying, or slouch while you speak. It could be anything. A number of things can break down interpersonal communication.
To have better interpersonal communication, practice this mnemonic called D.E.A.R.M.A.N
D stands for Describe: State clearly what you want now.
E stands for Expression: Express your emotions freely.
A stands for Assertiveness: Clearly state what needs to be done and be assertive while giving instructions.
R stands for Reinforce: Reward the other person if they respond well. Maybe try smiling or saying a thank you.
M stands for Mindfulness: Be mindful of the goal of your communication and do not get distracted.
A stands for Appear Confident: Use your body language to appear confident.
N stands for Negotiate: Be clear on what you are willing to negotiate or compromise.
3. Set Clear Boundaries
The last thing as a part of the stress management for teachers toolkit and the most important is boundaries. Be clear about what is acceptable to you and what is not acceptable. Be well aware of the boundaries you set for yourself in terms of behaviour, treatment, compromises, etc. Make sure to practice this in your personal life as well.
The answer to all your conflicts lies in boundary settings as they outline what behaviours we will accept and we will not accept.
Read this beautiful script given below by our expert on days you feel stressed:
Tips for Stress Management Outside School: Embracing the HERO Within
Let’s now turn our focus to teacher stress management beyond the school gates. Here are some valuable practices that will keep a check on the factors affecting the mental health of teachers and ensure that they enjoy the well-deserved downtime and achieve a sense of harmony outside of professional responsibilities.
HERO is an acronym that stands for Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism.
Let’s explore each component:
Cultivating hope involves maintaining a positive outlook and believing in the potential for positive change. Fostering hope by setting achievable goals, celebrating small victories, and identifying room for improvement can immensely help teacher mental health and wellbeing.
Let’s put it into practice:
A. Set Goals and Intentions:
Set meaningful goals and intentions for yourself. By envisioning a bright future and outlining specific objectives, you can foster a sense of hope and purpose in your daily practice. This can involve creating lesson plans aligning with your personal or educational goals, establishing professional growth objectives, etc.
B. Practice Gratitude and Appreciation:
Cultivating gratitude is a powerful way to express hope and positivity. Taking a few moments to reflect on things you are grateful for can help you focus towards the positive aspects of the profession. You can keep a gratitude journal to jot down things you are thankful for, big and small.
Expressing appreciation towards students, colleagues, and yourself can also foster an environment of hope and optimism and support teacher mental health and wellbeing.
🎯 Get, Set, GOAL!
Accomplishing your goals become easier when you approach them with clarity. Put a ✔️ on your teaching goals with this
goal setting template
Building a sense of efficacy means having confidence in one’s ability to make a difference in students’ lives. Teachers can enhance their efficacy by reflecting on past successes, seeking professional development opportunities, and embracing a growth mindset that values continuous learning.
Let’s put it into practise:
A. Challenge Yourself
Challenging oneself and stepping out of the comfort zone are indeed effective steps to build efficacy and personal growth. When we push ourselves beyond familiar boundaries, we expand our skills, confidence, and resilience. This is another excellent way to ensure that teacher mental health and wellbeing remains positive.
B. Seek New Opportunities
Next up on the list of tips for teacher mental health is seeking new opportunities. Volunteer for projects that require you to learn new skills or collaborate with others. Attend conferences or workshops to expand your passion, knowledge and network.
C. Celebrate Milestones and Achievements
Acknowledge and celebrate your milestones and achievements along the way. Take time to appreciate your progress and the effort you have put into your pursuits. Reward yourself for your accomplishments, both big and small.
Download it for free and use it as your wallpaper or display it proudly on your bulletin board as a reminder of your excellence!
Resilience is the ability to spring back from challenges and setbacks. Stress management for teachers can become effective when teachers work on their resilience. This can be by practising self-care, establishing healthy boundaries, seeking emotional support, and engaging in activities that offer relaxation and stress reduction.
Let’s put it into practise:
A. Pamper Yourself
Next one among tips for teacher mental health is pamperng yourself from time to time. Taking time to indulge in activities or experiences that bring you joy, relaxation, and rejuvenation can recharge you after a challenging lesson. It is a great way to ensure stress management for teachers.
This mean that you should not forget to express kindness and appreciation to yourself. So go ahead- book that spa, binge on your favourite cake or pack your bags and drive off to a scenic getaway.
Also, next time if a colleague asks you about how do you handle stress and pressure as a teacher, give them this tip and help them reconnect with themselves.
B. Build a Supportive Network
Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, mentors, teacher communities or colleagues who can provide encouragement, guidance, and perspective during difficult times.
Recommended for You
Just like you offer guidance and support to all your students, you too need it. A teacher-mentor acts as a support system, helping you develop skills and become better educators. So, take the first step and seek guidance from a teacher-mentor today.
Book a 20-minute online session for FREE!
Cultivating optimism is another very effective way of handling teacher stress. It involves adopting a positive perspective and focusing on solutions rather than looming on problems. You can foster optimism by practising gratitude, surrounding yourself with supportive colleagues, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Let’s put it into practise:
1. Practise Daily Affirmation:
Select affirmations that are positive, specific, and meaningful to you. They should reflect the qualities, beliefs, or outcomes you wish to reinforce or cultivate.
2. Overcome Resistance:
It’s normal to encounter resistance when starting affirmations. If negative thoughts arise, consciously acknowledge them, but then gently redirect your focus back to the positive affirmations. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself of your worth and potential.
A great way to do this is by putting up positive affirmations for teachers at places that you often check or see. For example, as a wallpaper on your laptop or mobile phone, pinning it up on your bulletin board, or sticking it on your desk.
Download them for FREE and put it up to remind yourself that you are doing great as a teacher.
Imagine a cup that represents your well-being. It starts full, brimming with enthusiasm and passion. As you pour yourself into your work, pouring knowledge, guidance, and support into your students, your cup gradually empties. It’s in those moments that we must pause and replenish ourselves.
So, dear teachers, remember to prioritize your teacher mental health and wellbeing. Fill your cup with self-care, personal and professional growth, and support. By doing so, you will be better prepared to pour your passion, knowledge, and inspiration into the lives of your students. And in the process, you’ll discover a deeper sense of fulfillment and joy in your teaching journey.
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Devangana is a writer here at Suraasa. Other than writing, she enjoys gardening and painting.
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