Stress management for teachers. And other paid (and unpaid) carers.
Posted by Elena Verigo
11th Apr 2018

I am no super woman and, as a teacher, I too struggle to stay sane at work. It is even more painful seeing a colleague completely squashed by the weight of planning, marking, assessment and paperwork. Especially, if you don't know how to help. Anxiety, frustration, anger and loss of sleep are all too common among staff in our schools. The pressure may lead to serious mental health issues in teachers who arrive feeling perfectly fit for work. Here are a few stress management strategies for those of us who are slaving away in demanding care jobs.

Think small. Think big.
Don't be a control freak. Ignore the tiny things that don't have a major impact on the children's learning and your performance management. Think big. Where do you see yourself this time next year? In 5-10 years time? Note how the current (painful) situation is helping you get there. Stay with that vision in mind. Talk to yourself with encouragement. Be nice to yourself. You are doing something amazing. You are changing lives. Yes, even when it really doesn't look or feel that way.

Yes, I'm talking about the good old SMART targets. "Achievable" is key here. You need reasonable targets. You can't have it all. The neatest classroom, the fanciest displays, perfectly differentiated lesson plans and super detailed marking. NO ONE can achieve that, full stop. Set realistic goals. Prioritise. They say, perfect parents don't exist, be a real one. Same advice applies to us, teachers. You are human. Imperfection is part of being human. Leave perfection to robots.

A good friend is like a life vest.
Have regular catch-up sessions with at least one good friend. Someone whose words and company fill you will hope and positive energy. Do talk to colleague. They'll let you know you are not the only one - not copying, missing deadlines, furious at bossy parents and demanding leadership. But don't overdo it with ranting and moaning. Find a friend outside of school who will allow you to let off some steam, but not keep you trapped in negative thinking. Choose someone who isn't too helpful, bombarding you with their clever advice. You probably don't need any advice. Just a sympathetic ear and a hug.

Say, "To hell with it!"
You've heard it millions of times before. Hear it again. It's JUST WORK. You must say "no" to extra requests that are clearly ruining your life and health. Make a list of things that tire you out most. If anything can be changed - change it. Accept or simply reject the rest, move on and then...go home. You know how it is. No matter how many hours you spend in school, you never get on top of it so just go home.

The usual.
Exercise. Watch our diet. Get as much sleep as possible. I don't mean anything super revolutionary like going to the gym five times a week. Try walking (some of the distance) to/from work. Try to have three, if not five-a-day. Don't overdo it with alcohol on Friday night so you wake up feeling refreshed on Saturday morning rather than with a hangover. And try to have a gentle, calm start to the day, every day.

Don't gamble with your mental health. If you feel it is more than you can cope with, consider moving into a less stressful post elsewhere.

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