Yay, another new year! Where does the time go? Being a teacher is a stressful job, but one of the most rewarding vocations available. Sometimes, it is possible to lose sight of the important things in life, as the stress of the job takes over your life. We all make resolutions with good intentions, but reducing work stress is critical for ensuring that the job doesn’t absorb every waking moment in your life.
Below are 12 suggestions on how teachers (and school leaders) can reduce stress, for themselves, for colleagues, and for pupils. Some of the suggestions might seem obvious, but it’s nice to be reminded, and to allow you to reflect on opportunities you have to reduce some of the stress in your life. Don’t get distracted with the work/life balance myth (click here for article), but focus on decisions that are truly achievable.
We urge you to share this post, and these ideas, with your colleagues and management in school. Discuss the ideas one by one during a staff meeting or inset, and explore how you can all work together to help reduce stress in your school, improving the well-being of all the school community.
1. Explore opportunities for you to learn
Our students are learning something amazing every time they come into our classrooms (hopefully), and their innate hunger to learn can be used as an inspiration to develop a skill or increase your knowledge on a certain subject. By becoming a learner again, you will be able to recall some of the difficulties your students face with learning every day, and this empathetic nature will resonate when dealing with your pupils. Share your learning with colleagues; share your learning with your students; broaden your knowledge. Time and motivation is the greatest barrier to learning, especially when you’re trying to hold down your job and contribute to family life, but start thinking about what you would like to discover, keeping yourself sharp, interested, and distinguished. If nothing else, learn a new language.
2. Do something nice, unexpectedly, to someone who wouldn’t expect it
George Michael was famous for many things. Amazing music, an amazing voice, and wearing dodgy clothes in corny 1980’s pop videos. We jest, obviously, but one thing George was not well-known for was for donating vast amounts of money (from his personal fortune) anonymously and unexpectedly to people who were faced with grave challenges in their lives. George didn’t want recognition – he just wanted to help in the best way that he could. RIP George. But one lesson that we can take from this is the impact unexpected kindness can have on people. Teachers are (mainly) intrinsically kind – and this is expected in many respects and part of the daily life of being in the job. But random acts of kindness can have a positively major impact on the recipient, whilst making the bestower feel happy about themselves, especially if done in a understated or anonymous manner!
3. Start that hobby
You know the one. You’ve always had an interest in something, but work and life just gets in the way. Well, no more! Get back on your hobby horse, and allow yourself to get re-absorbed with that passion that is now neglected in your life. Photography is a great hobby for anyone – most of us have smartphones with cameras, and the results can be mightily impressive. Painting / drawing can be very therapeutic for people, and you could start an artistic journal of pictures that help refine your skill. Bird / nature spotting; building things; plane/train spotting; stamp collecting – we’re not judging any hobby that people enjoy – each to their own – and as long as it offers an enjoyable distraction, then get back into it. If your hobby is really enjoyable, then you could explore turning your hobby into a career – you know, if teaching becomes too much!
Please write. Whether with a pen and diary, or an online journal, writing is a great therapeutic way to help clear your mind, refine your thoughts, and develop ideas or instances to help you grow as a person. Making notes about interactions you have had with people; things you have promised people; things people have promised you; things you have done well; things that didn’t quite go to plan; frustrations with yourself; frustrations with other people. Everyday there is something to write. Keep your writing private if necessary, and you will soon have an complete chronicle of life experiences, along with a clearer mind, that might just allow you to sleep at night without too many things going around your mind. You never know, it could actually be a positive experience – give it a try!
5. Read, read, read!
This seems really easy for some people, and a big challenge for others. Some people can lose themselves in a book in a noisy staff room at lunch times, whereas other people demand silence and no distractions to be able to read a single line! No matter what, set yourself a target to read a certain number of books in the next few months, for nothing other than reading for pleasure. You might have a favourite author or genre. If time is too much, read books that your pupils enjoy reading, so you can share their enthusiasm in an author; read poetry; read a high-end (non work-related) magazine; read a paperback; read on a Kindle; read, read, read!
6. Plan / book your next trip away
It’s good to plan ahead and to have something really positive to look forward to. Planning a trip really offers a light at the end of a very long tunnel sometimes, so chat with your friends or family, and explore places where you would like to visit. It can sometimes be surprising what is nearby to where you live, so expense and long travel times are not always necessary, so figure out what you loved about previous holidays, and plan or book for that glimmer of relaxation that awaits.