HOW TO MANAGE WORK RELATED STRESS
0. While everyone experiences stress at different rates or intensity levels, we are no stranger to it. Generally speaking, stress is any physical or emotional reaction to something that frustrates, angers or makes us nervous. Nowadays, people are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted due to long periods of stress as a result of increasing demands in personal and work life. As you read this, you are probably nodding your head in agreement. This well-known phenomenon of prolonged periods of stress is also known as burnout.
1. Although burnout exists in every job, the education sector has notoriously high levels of it plaguing its workers. Several studies show that teachers often experience high levels of stress in their day-to-day duties and these are carried over into their personal life. It is important to consider that delivering lessons is only one aspect of the job description. Teachers spend hours and hours of their downtime planning lessons, grading assignments and thinking about how to best help their students. As a result, they often neglect their own needs.
2. By not placing a priority on their own wellbeing, there are countless consequences. For starters, educators enduring burnout can be faced with a ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction. The former presents a scenario where the human body physically responds to stress, by increasing adrenaline and energy to tackle what is causing the irritation. The same response occurs in the latter, yet the body decides to flee instead of deal with the stress head-on. Regardless of the choice that a teacher makes in response to their stressors, they become more vulnerable to common sicknesses, like colds and the flu, as well as more serious ones such as depression or anxiety.
3. Thankfully, there are numerous coping mechanisms to aid in the battle against burnout. A proactive approach including managing time and setting goals may be key in alleviating stressful situations altogether. In a busy schedule, it is essential to set aside time for oneself. What’s more is the activities that you participate in during this reserved break. Regular exercise has been proven to do wonders for burnout and you do not even have to go to the gym to reap the rewards. A brisk thirty-minute walk, particularly in nature, has aided many people’s symptoms of stress. Furthermore, yoga and its meditative components are also useful in stress relief.
4. Of course, these methods of coping with stress are all easier said than done. Many would argue that it is nearly impossible to disconnect from today’s technological devices and the seemingly never-ending influx of work-related emails and text messages. With that being said, the saying, ‘There’s an app for that’, also extends to solving the problem of burnout. These days, you can find several free apps on your mobile devices or tablets to guide you through mediation. You can watch endless videos on the Internet that play soothing music and give you step-by-step instructions on how to disconnect. Ironic, isn’t it?
5. Nevertheless, the pros of decreasing burnout are endless. Lowering your stress levels will help your body achieve an internal balance. By reducing the amount of energy that goes into stressful situations, you will feel more energized. Moreover, regular exercise helps the human body release endorphins which boost one’s mood. A side effect of this includes becoming physically and mentally stronger.
6. Additionally, there are several things a teacher could do during the work day to prevent burnout. On break, doing little exercises at your desk can provide some relief to a stressful day. Similarly, distracting yourself with a creative activity, such as an adult colouring book, can help to refocus tension or negative energy. Or, why not extend these activities to your students? Pacing your lessons with less-rigorous and more fun activities can increase a student’s learning by giving them a break from a hectic timetable. After all, some students also experience burnout.
7. Having learned about how to identify and combat burnout, what is left to do? It is important to not beat yourself up if you become stressed. Though uncomfortable, stress is a natural and unavoidable part of human life, unlike burnout. Changing your mindset and practicing gratitude will help you feel more positive in the face of adversity, and allow you to make better decisions on how to cope.