The role of teacher is littered with highs and lows. The stress of the job can reduce the best to tears, but more concerning can lead to physiological and psychological problems leading to heart disease, depression, anxiety attacks, sleep problems, auto-immune diseases, weight problems and more. It doesn’t sound pretty, but ensuring that teachers manage stress is vital in ensuring the job is done to the best of our ability, whilst also taking care of ourselves and our families.
In his post, Leo Babauta shares five small things you can do to help reduce stress levels, which we have adapted suited for teachers…
1. Be completely in one task.
When teaching, you are (usually) focused on ensuring that the pupils in your class are engaged in their learning, and you will be lost in the moment. These are great situations and it is important that you let everything else go, and just be in the moment with this one task. Let yourself be immersed in this one task, letting go of the feeling that you need to quickly rush through it, that you need to get on to the next task. This is usually the case when planning, marking, attending meetings, and so on. There will always be a next task — the nature of task lists is that they’re neverending. So let those other tasks come later. Just be in this one task, like it’s your entire universe.
2. See your ideals, & let go of control.
Fear is causing you to be stressed, not external factors like your job or family problems. Those external things are just a part of life, but they become stressful when you fear failure, fear people won’t like you, fear you’re not good enough, fear abandonment, and so on.
Unfortunately, the teaching profession is filled with fear: fear of judgements; fear of failing students; fear of upsetting your boss; fear of being out of favour with other people. This fear is based on some ideal (and you fear not getting that ideal): you have an image that you’re going to succeed, be perfect, have people like you, be comfortable all the time. These ideals are a way to be in control of the world that you don’t actually control, but they’re hurting you by causing fear and stress. Instead, let go of control. Be OK with chaos and uncertainty, and trust that things will work out. You’ll fear less and be less stressed.
3. Accept people & smile.
We get upset at other people because they don’t meet our ideals of how they should act. Instead, try accepting them for who they are, and recognising that, like you, they’re imperfect and seeking happiness and struggling with finding happiness. They’re doing their best. Accept them, smile, and enjoy your time with this person.
4. Take a brief walk.
When things are getting stressful, take 2-3 minutes to take a walk and clear your mind. A short walk does wonders. Find opportunities at break-time, lunch-time, at the end of the day. We can get consumed with the work within schools that we forget to leave the confines of the walls. Schools are not prisons (apparently), so escape – even if it’s just for a few minutes (at an appropriate time!!!).
5. Do short mindfulness practices.
You don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes to get the benefits of mindfulness. You can do a quick body scan (see how your body is feeling right now) in 10 seconds. You can pay attention to your breath for 30 seconds. You can watch your thoughts, fears, ideals for a minute. Make the most of ‘quiet’ times, in-between lessons, break time, quiet working time – you can walk mindfully, paying attention to your body, your feet, your breath, your surroundings, as you walk. You can do each of these kinds of mindfulness practices in little bits throughout your day. If you are teaching pupils to be mindful, practice what you preach.
We all deal with stress in our own individual ways, some positive and some negative, but try to keep perspective on what it really important in your life. It all sounds oh-so-very easy, but Babauta concludes:
Eliminate unnecessary tasks on your todo list, reduce your commitments by saying no to people, start a regular 5-minute meditation practice, eat healthier, exercise regularly, spend some quality time with loved ones, get more sleep, drink tea.
Original Article, adapted for teaching, with thanks: