Does your day ever get on top of you? Have you ever felt like quitting teaching all together? You are definitely not alone. Here we explore expert-recommended ways to keep calm and carry on.
Teaching is considered to be one of the top three most stressful professions according to academic Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester’s business school, and a former UK government adviser on well-being. He states: “Of all the occupations I’ve studied, and that’s about 80, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations,” he said. “The hours are long and antisocial, the workload is heavy and there is change for change’s sake from various governments.”
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 1 in 10 new teachers quit the profession in their first year, with October and November statistically being the time when teachers feel the most strain. So what can you do to beat the blues? Here are some of the ways recommended by experts:
Jill Berry, former headteacher and education consultant says: “Schools need to encourage a dialogue about workload and stress management. We carried out a couple of surveys into well-being and stress and discussed the results at my school. We considered what new initiatives we were introducing and discussed taking out other activities, so we weren’t constantly adding to the school calendar. We talked about what was a reasonable amount of work to do over a holiday.” If this isn’t an option at your school, find a sympathetic colleague with a friendly ear.
Apply pressure to a point between your second and third knuckles (near where your finger and hand meets). Move your thumb down your middle finger toward your palm, you will be able to feel a soft, slightly indented spot, which is on the inside of your finger if your palm is facing up, and if you apply medium pressure here, it activates a nerve that loosens the area around the heart, so any of that fluttery feeling you feel when you’re nervous will end up going away, says Sharon Melnick, author of Success Under Stress.
Angry rants are rarely appropriate, but it sure feels good to vent. So rather than causing a ruckus, write a letter, or better yet, design a postcard. Not only is the act of creating calming in itself, it also gives more value to the expression. If you feel that way inclined, there’s even an anonymous website where you can send them to be published.
An Australian study in 2008 found that chewing gum can help relieve anxiety, reduce stress and even improve alertness. At least when you need to take a deep breathe it will be a fresh one!
Well okay, it doesn’t have to be cats, but it’s a scientific fact that “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Potassium (found in bananas) helps to regulate blood pressure as well as improve energy and recovery when we are stressed. Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins. They’re also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help lower blood pressure. Handy to keep in your handbag are blueberries are full of vitamin C and antioxidants, which our bodies need when we are stressed to repair cells, or a small amount of almonds which deliver vitamins B2 and E. Both of these nutrients help bolster the immune system during times of stress.
Yes of course, it’s 2015 and there’s an app for everything. Including de-stressing. The Huffington Post has a round-up of some of the best right here.
Elena Aguilar, a transformational lifestyle coach, says: “Examine the goals you’ve determined for yourself, your students, your school, your department, etc. Prioritize them. Now, if it’s within the scope of your decision-making powers, strike out the last one on the list. The primary obstacle to school improvement that I see is the problem of “doing too much.” Districts have strategic plans with 27 initiatives, schools have four annual goals, teachers have six professional practice goals, and so on. This is not an effective way to make change. If we could all prune our goals (and I am aware that many of us don’t fully have control over this) we’d focus and could slow down. Even if you can’t prune goals, raising this as an obstacle and addressing the inefficiency of working in this way is important.”
A lot of stress comes from the self-imposed desire to be perfect in everything we do. Failing or making mistakes can have you self-examining yourself to the point of madness.
Turning one simple defeat into an accomplishment can minimize feelings of self-hatred, allowing you to achieve more of your important goals. Remember, it’s an art project, so make it pretty.
There are a plethora of ways to connect with teachers around the globe to inspire yourself when your batteries are low. Not only is there our own Facebook Art Teacher Forum, we also love Art Teachers: Beg Borrow Steal, and there are a number of great Twitter feeds such as #BFC530 (breakfast club 5.30), #k12artchallenge, #arted and many more.
If your stress is severe and persistent, please check the signs to see if you should seek help from a medical professional.
Write a list of the reasons why you became a teacher, and what positive things you have achieved so far. And if you ever want a little extra affirmation of how much difference teachers make, check out this wonderful gallery of drawings from children around the world who think you’re doing just great.
This article was mostly illustrated by the young artists on the Creatubbles platform. Did you like their work? Be sure to click on the pictures to go to the artwork and leave them a message. They would be thrilled!
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