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7 Stress Busters for Teachers

July 5, 2010

Why is teaching one of the most stressful jobs? If you look at the main causes of stress, the answer is plain to see.

Stress is generally attributed to:

  • a feeling of not having enough time
  • a feeling of uncertainty
  • a combination of the above

Next time you are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed at work, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I worried there isn’t enough time?
  • Am I worried because I don’t know what is going to happen in the future?
  • Am I worried because I don’t think there’s enough time AND I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future?

It’s no wonder why moving, getting married, and having a baby are listed as the most stressful periods of a person's life (and why it is not recommended to do more than one of these things at a time). Sometimes just knowing the source of your stress can make you feel better. If you do nothing else to relieve your stress, isolate the root cause of it.

When I’m feeling stressed out, I like to think about one of my favorite quotes from a creative writing guru.

"Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important, just lie down."

—Natalie Goldberg

Okay, so you may not be able to lie down on your desk when you are supposed to be teaching about the present perfect, but you can remind yourself that stress only gets worse if you take life too seriously. Here are 7 Stress Busters you probably already know. Please accept this refresher course.

Tip #1

Give Yourself a Time Out

The times when we are the busiest in life are the times when we need a break the most. Go for a walk or run at lunchtime instead of marking report cards. You know the reports will get done by the deadline. They always do. Figure out what a break feels like to you. If you’re like me, you may need a KitKat or an hour at the library or a date with your journal. If you’re like other people, you may need an hour at the gym or the golf range or the sushi counter.

Tip #2

Raise Your Hand

Don’t keep your stress to yourself. Share your concerns with someone who may be able to relieve some of your stress. Again, isolate the cause of the stress. Do you need to talk to someone who can help you find extra time or someone who can offer advice about presenting at a conference for the first time?

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths."

—Etty Hillesum

Tip #3

Check If You’re Breathing

Breathe in your monkey troubles (through your nose) and breathe out a September-you (even if it’s not September). Repeat for at least two minutes. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with your class. Your students will likely enjoy a mini-break from the lesson to help you breathe. After the breathing exercise, ask your students to discuss what they do to relax.

Tip #4

Make a High-Five List

Every weekday morning (or the night before) write out 5 things that have to be done by the end of the next day. Make sure to tackle the thing that is causing you the most stress first. If you think you won’t have enough time to mark the tests, do that task first. Give yourself a high five if you complete the first thing on your list. Sometimes just the act of writing things down will help you tackle life’s laundry.

Tip #5

Look for a Human Who Needs Your Shoulder More Than You Do

Keep your eyes and ears open for someone else who may be feeling stressed out. Your body will benefit physically and mentally from the act of helping someone else in need. And, as a reward, the universe will probably give you back the time and energy you need to complete your own high‑five list.

Tip #6

Laugh at (or Dance with) your Emergency

Ask your students to share their favorite jokes or most embarrassing moment stories. Challenge the students to make you laugh. Teach (and demo) all of the different types of laughter (belly laugh, giggle, snicker, howl, snort). Never underestimate the power of laughter. If laughter doesn’t work, try music.

"If I have the presence of mind to flick on some music, the day is saved nine times out of ten."

—a wise friend

Tip #7

Make Friends with a Pirate

Have you ever noticed how quickly kids make friends at a park? “My friend is going home,” my son often cries after five minutes of playing pirates with a stranger from the shark-infested puddle. What can you do to make a new friend and widen your support network during your time of stress? (The parent of that other pirate, or the clerk selling the KitKat may be all you need in the moment.) Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project recommends setting yourself a goal of making three new friends in each new situation (e.g., at a new job or in a new neighborhood). If you’re worried about a new teaching post, or presenting at a conference, concentrate on making three new friends instead of worrying about time or uncertainty.

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Comments (2)

ana (Guest)

tara, this is wonderful. applicable to teachers, and others too. i like the last one! i really need to work on making friends with a pirate. i'm always amazed at how easily kids make friends.

(p.s. thanks for the quotation!)

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sorayya (Guest)

thease are great tips to relieve stress. I am an stressed person who is seeking for some advice about how to eliminate stress.

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