How Teachers Can Manage Stress

 

Guest Writer: Anna Kucirkova

When your body reacts to a situation and causes mental, physical and emotional pain, we call that stress. Despite stress being a negative thing, it can also be a source of motivation leading to increased productivity. When stress affects a person severely, it’s called chronic stress. Chronic stress is not beneficial at all and it leads to some serious damage. The best way to deal with this type of stress is by learning how to manage it. Below are some methods to overcome stress and its effects.

Effects of Stress

Stress will manifest its self either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Stress will also affect communication.

physical issues

Some physical issues that result from stress include stomach upset, muscle pains, energy loss, headaches, nervousness, and insomnia, among others. Symptoms may vary from a person to another because the body responds differently when subjected to stress. Long term stress can lead to heart-related diseases and panic attacks which feel like a heart attack. Many people also experience eating disorders, which can lead to obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, hair loss, ulcers, acne, or diseases affecting your digestive system.

emotional effects

Stress has been known to cause depression and anxiety. Excessive worrying can lead to a person feeling overwhelmed and a loss of self-esteem, which can then lead to the avoidance of others. People affected by stress are normally moody and easily irritable, making them little fun to be around. According to mentalhelp.net, chronic stress can be a major cause of thinking problems(cognitive), bipolar disorders, personality, and behavior changes.

communication

When it comes to communication, stress can manifest itself in a number of ways. Stress may lead to high emotions due to anger or frustration. It can also be a major reason a person isolates himself from other people. This cuts all communication and the person is unable to get the help that he/she needs.
A stressed person can easily misjudge someone trying to communicate with them. Stress can also be a reason why a person is unable to speak in public due to anxiety.

How to Curb Stress

know the cause of stress

The first step is actually establishing the cause of the stress. Since everyone has different stress triggers, it is better for one to know his or her own triggers and then try working on it.

increase communication

Most people experience stress because of hiding problems for themselves. For example, in the workplace, you can talk to your boss about a task you are finding difficult to accomplish. In academics, you can try to seek help in areas you don’t understand instead of stressing about it. Also in your relationship communicate early about things affecting you to avoid building tensions and having a meltdown. By expressing oneself, stress levels will go down. If you are experiencing long term stress, a professional therapist might help you feel better.

Other Ways to Reduce Stress

Exercising

Exercise will help reduce tension, anxiety, depression and also relieve stress. Your overall life quality will improve generally if you work out.

Eating healthy

Overindulging in caffeine, alcohol, sugars, and nicotine increases the stress levels in your body. Foods rich in vitamins and magnesium help your body to have strength when you experience stress.

Meditating, praying, and getting enough sleep are some of the other actions you can take to manage stress. Also, indulge in a hobby and some fun activities.

Since stress is a part of our life, the best we can do is manage it. Following the above steps will help you manage stress, resulting in a real life change.

 

The 5 Options Exhausted Teachers Have

For most teachers, another school year is in the books. If you’ve been off for a couple of weeks, you have probably already started to forget the suffocating exhaustion you felt over the past ten months. If you’ve just begun your break, then you’re probably still catching up on sleep, relaxation, and your favorite Netflix shows. But one thing is for sure: if nothing changes, you’ll be just as tired next year as you were this past year.

If this is you, then you really only have five options.

1. You can persist.

My suspicion is that most teachers choose this option. They put their heads down and keep going. They accept that they’re going to spend much of the school year stressed out, beaten down, and just plain physically whipped. Some may have made peace with it, while others grudgingly accept it as part of the job; after all, they know plenty of teachers in the same boat. These teachers will return in the fall, and the fall after that, and the one after that, and they’ll keep on keeping on, plugging away and doing their best, all the while wishing things could be different but not taking any steps to make them different.

2. You can neglect.

Those who don’t persist may neglect their responsibilities. These are the teachers who hang on to their jobs but have allowed the spark they once felt for it to flicker and die. They’re the ones that give the rest of us a bad name and offer critics of teachers’ unions just enough fuel to keep their criticisms burning. Unfortunately, we’ve all known a teacher like this, either as a colleague or from our days as students. These teachers have been tired for so many years that they’ve given up hope of things ever changing and they’re counting the years to retirement. They do as little as possible and hope to be left alone. Don’t be this teacher.

3. You can quit.

Many teachers walk away, either from their district in the hopes that the grass is greener at a different school, or they leave education altogether. There’s no shame in quitting, especially if you’ve decided that your heart just isn’t in it anymore and you have something else you want to do with your life. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting out of a profession that’s harming your mental and/or physical health or in taking your talents where they might be more appreciated. My friend Dan quit a few years back and has never regretted it, as you can read here.

4. You can fight.

If the causes of your exhaustion were mostly external and you’re thinking of quitting because of them, then next year might be the one you decide to fight back. There are a lot of things that exhaust teachers — I wrote about four hidden contributors in my book Exhausted — and many of those things are the result of demands placed on you by others. Time is always in short supply for teachers, so when you’ve got unsympathetic administrators who require lessons plan while regularly gutting planning time, it’s understandable when teachers let their frustrations be known. If you’re on the verge of quitting, then you might as well see if you can’t first change your situation by bringing your concerns to administration. Nothing changes on its own, and if you’re about the quit anyway, then you have nothing to lose by knocking over a few metaphorical chairs on your way out the door.

5. You can change. 

If you’ve been exhausted every year you’ve taught, then it’s time to consider why and what you can do about it, since you know it’s untenable over a long career. Knowing that the only other choices you have are acceptance and suffering, submission and resignation, quitting, or pitching a fit (however diplomatic it may be), you might decide to look inwardly and control the only thing you can: yourself.

Chances are there is a mixture of external and internal factors contributing to your fatigue. There are ways you can satisfy the requirements of your job without pouring all your energy into it. How you do that is essentially the purpose of this blog and the subject of the books I’ve written. If this is the choice you will make — if you decide to try changing your mindset and practices — then I ask you to start by checking out my books Exhausted, Leave School at School and The Teacher’s Guide to Saying No. They’re quick reads that can put you on a more sustainable path.

For those who need more help and are serious about lasting change that will turn your career around, try Angela Watson’s acclaimed 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Thousands of teachers swear by it; you can see what they say here. If you decide to give it a go, do so quickly so you can take advantage of the Early Bird benefits, such as these three free resources to help you spend your summer effectively and early access to the Facebook group so you can begin sharing best practices with other teachers who’ve decided to make a change.

 

 

How to Get a Refreshing Sleep Despite a Busy Schedule

Guest post by Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies

 

Getting a good night’s sleep is very important for your physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.

With the hustle and bustle of our daily activities, a night of refreshing sleep may seem like a luxury. Not getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation can affect your level of productivity and energy levels.

For many of us, our day to day activities and busy schedules can keep our minds churning and over thinking, preventing us from getting the sleep that we need.

Making some adjustments to your day and nighttime habits can have a great impact on how well you sleep. This article aims to tell you how to get a more refreshing sleep despite having a busy schedule.

How To Get A More Refreshing Sleep

1. Be In Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm

Getting in sync with your circadian rhythm is very important in getting a refreshed sleep. Having a regular sleep-wake schedule keeps you more refreshed than sleeping the same number of hours but at different times. The following tips can be helpful.

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day as this helps to set your internal clock and optimize your sleep, an alarm clock might help.
  • Limit afternoon naps to about 15 to 20mins. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, long naps in the afternoon can only make it worse.
  • Do activities such as washing dishes or getting clothes ready for work the next day if you feel sleepy before your bedtime. This will prevent you from sleeping too early, waking up later at night and be unable to go back to sleep.

 

2. Control Your Exposure To Light

A naturally occurring hormone called melatonin is controlled by your exposure to light, this hormone regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

It is secreted more when it is dark, making you feel sleepy. Too much light exposure decreases its secretion, making you more alert.

Here are some tips to control your melatonin levels:

  • Expose yourself to bright sunlight during the day as this affects your alertness. Let as much natural light into your workspace during the day.
  • Avoid bright screens like television, phones, and tablets within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The light emitted from these devices can be very disruptive and prevent you from falling asleep on time. Listen to relaxing music or audio books instead.
  • Make sure the room is dark when it is time to sleep.

3. Exercise During The Day

Regular exercise helps to improve sleep at night. For a night of better sleep, the timing of your exercise needs to be right. Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep pattern.

  • Finish moderate to vigorous workout at least three hours before sleep time.
  • Low impact exercises like yoga or stretches can help promote sleep.

4. Eat And Drink Smartly

Your eating and drinking habits during the day play a huge role in how well you sleep.

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine especially close to bedtime. It is important to know that caffeine-containing products like coffee can cause sleep struggles even up to 10 to 12 hours after taking it. Smoking can also disrupt your sleep pattern.
  • Avoid heavy meals at night, try to eat dinner early in the evening. Very spicy or acidic foods should also be avoided as these can cause heartburn.
  • Avoid taking alcohol before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids near your bedtime because it results in frequent trips to the bathroom during the night.
  • Cut back on sugary foods, they can interfere with the deep stages of sleep.

5. Relax And Clear Your Head

Stress and worry from a very busy day can make sleeping at night very difficult. When you eventually sleep, you may find yourself waking up to think, making falling back to sleep a struggle. These steps can help you relax and make you stop worrying.

  • Learn how to manage your time effectively and handle stress in a more productive way.
  • Try not to overstimulate your brain during the day because it becomes hard to slow down and unwind at night. Set aside specific times to check your phones or social media and focus on one task at a time.
  • Leave office work at the office. If you really have to bring it home, try and finish up at least 2 hours before bedtime. This also applies to school work and homework.
  • Try leaving the office on time so you can also avoid traffic and get home on time.

6. Improve Your Sleep Environment

A regular and peaceful bedtime routine is very important as it sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to shut down. Your sleep environment can also make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.

  • Keep your room dark so that you can fall asleep on time. Also, make sure that your room is cool with adequate ventilation and quiet. If you can’t avoid noise, try using earplugs or a sound machine.
  • Ensure your bed is comfortable and these includes your bed covers, pillows, and mattress. You don’t need to break the bank for this, you can get a good budget mattress.
  • Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex. Try not to watch TV or use your computer in bed. This makes it easier for the brain to shut down and falling asleep becomes a breeze.

7. Get Back To Sleep

Waking up briefly at night is normal but falling back asleep may be a struggle, especially if you have had a busy and stressful day. The following methods can help you go back to sleep.

  • Do not stress over the fact that you can’t fall back asleep as this only encourages your body to stay awake.
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation can also help you go back to sleep. Remember that the goal is to be relaxed and not just to sleep.
  • If it is worry or anxiety that has caused you to wake up, make a brief note on a paper and try not to overthink. Tomorrow is a new day to resolve it.

Teachers Don’t Need To Find Their WHY

find their why

Every couple of years or so, a Big New Idea sweeps across the business world and ends up being adopted by (or forced on) education leaders. Fish! Philosophy, SMART goals, strategic planning, data-driven decision-making, and choosing your One Word have all found their ways into central offices and welcome back PD days. One of the latest of these fads is finding your WHY. This one is brought to us by Simon Sinek, who you probably know from this video:

Finding your WHY (he’s the one who capitalizes it) is about identifying the reason you do what you do. It’s your passion, your reason for existing. Sinek describes it as, “why you get out of bed in the morning and why anyone should care.”

Because we revere business in this country, schools love hopping on the bandwagon when these fads emerge from the ether. When a business management expert sells a few million copies of his new book and racks up a few million views on YouTube, you can bet there will be plenty of school administrators champing at the bit to shoehorn their ideas into their organizations. “How can this apply to teaching?” they’ll ask.

The truth is, sometimes it doesn’t. Unfortunately, that rarely dampens people’s enthusiasm for it.  I’m willing to bet there are thousands of teachers across the country who have been asked to find their WHY in the last few years. Administrators who push this question have good intentions, but they’re focused on the wrong problem.

Teaching is pregnant with meaning. Teachers do not need to find their WHY. I know very few teachers who don’t recognize their purpose. All of us know our work is meaningful. That’s why most of us chose it instead of fields that paid more but offered less meaningful work. Teaching is a mission-driven profession entered into by largely selfless people for noble reasons. Most teachers are idealists at heart. You have to be, considering the challenges of the job and the modest tangible rewards for doing it.  No teacher enters the profession confused about its importance. In fact, one survey of 30,000 teachers found that 100% of them (that’s all 30,000!) were enthusiastic about the profession when they started. That’s because they were 100% sure of their WHY. Even veteran teachers haven’t forgotten why they’re there. Since finding meaning in one’s work is a major contributor to personal happiness, it’s not surprising that teachers rate their lives better than all other occupation groups except doctors. 

But teachers are far less happy when they’re actually at work. 61% say their jobs are always or often stressful, and they rank their work environment lower than farmers, construction workers, and miners do. How can this be? If teaching is so meaningful — if teachers know their WHY — how can they be so unhappy at school?

Simple. Teachers don’t burn out and quit because they lose their sense of purpose; they burn out and quit because they can’t pursue that purpose. 

Teachers don’t burn out and quit because they lose their sense of purpose; they burn out and quit because they can’t pursue that purpose. Click To Tweet

The unanimous enthusiasm young teachers feel when they start quickly wilts under the crushing reality found inside today’s schools. While every teacher starts off believing in the promise of their jobs, just 53% said they were still enthusiastic about teaching at the point they took the above-mentioned survey. Those who “strongly agreed” had dropped from 89% to 15%. The most dangerous year for a teacher is her first. More teachers quit after year one than any other year. The job didn’t suddenly become devoid of meaning for these young idealists. They quit because of the disconnect between what they want to do (their WHY) and what they believe they can do.

Say I start a food pantry because my WHY is to eradicate hunger in my community. My job will certainly not lack meaning. I will be motivated to seek out donations. I’ll research neighborhoods and identify potential clients. I’ll use traditional and digital media to get the word out. I’ll work with schools and businesses to organize food drives. I’ll move heaven and earth to fulfill my mission.

Now say that upon starting my food pantry, the health department tells me I can’t accept certain types of foods. Then I discover that it’s hard to find and keep reliable volunteers. Then I run into capacity problems; I need more space! Then some of my clients start showing up too often and taking more than their fair share. I have to make new rules. Some clients hate my new rules. I regularly run out of popular items and have to purchase them with very limited funds. Some complain about the food I do provide. Then somebody gets sick and sues me. Now I’m paying a lawyer. At some point, I might decide that having a WHY isn’t enough. There are simply too many impediments.

That’s what too many teachers decide.

If a lack of purpose was a real problem for teachers, then we’d expect greater turnover in affluent schools than in high-poverty ones. Teachers might rightly question the meaning of their job if they’re teaching in a wealthy district where kids are going to go to college regardless of their teachers’ efforts. Teachers unquestionably have a better chance at improving the lives of those who come from less. Finding meaning in their work isn’t the issue. The fact that far more teachers leave high-needs schools than affluent ones suggests that it’s not the meaning of the job that makes the difference in whether teachers stick it out, but the likelihood that such meaning can be effectively pursued.

It’s the barriers that are the problem. The lack of resources needed to do the job. The outside factors that influence students’ motivation and abilities. The insufficient training. The absence of mentors. The lack of parent knowledge or support. These are the things that make it hard to remain passionate about a mission that grows increasingly unlikely to be realized.

Even worse is the bureaucratic buffoonery that tends to be especially egregious in high-poverty districts. It’s exhausting to fight for what should be basic needs and rational policies. Teachers are too often forced to do things that conflict with their sense of purpose. No teacher went into the job to focus on test scores and compliance. They shouldn’t have to give a weekly reading test to a kid they know can’t read the test. They shouldn’t be prohibited from reading a math test to a student who’s excellent at math but can’t decode the words in the problem. They shouldn’t be forced to use this grading scale and enter this many grades by such-and-such a date. The decision to assign homework or not shouldn’t be made for them. They shouldn’t be precluded from taking lethargic students outside for a break or discouraged from providing students time to read whatever they want because they have to teach from a canned program that the kids despise and that doesn’t even work.

Those teachers find their WHY, but the why they find is, “WHY did I become a teacher again?”

Teachers already have a WHY. They don’t need soul-searching and deep introspection. Those who are burned out haven’t mailed it in because they believe teaching lacks meaning. They’re demoralized because the meaning inherent in the job has been stripped away in service to some other less meaningful goals.

Teachers do not need to find their WHY. They simply need to be allowed to pursue it.

Teachers don't need to find their WHY. They need to be allowed to pursue it. Click To Tweet

 

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Short-Term Gain for Long-Term Pain

Suppose you were offered the following choice:  $50 right now or $60 in six days. Which would you choose?

Now suppose you are offered $50 today or $60 in six months. Which would you take?

Your answer will likely depend on a number of factors, such as:

How hard up for cash you are.

Whether or not you’ve been given less than six months to live.

How much you trust the person offering you the money to return with it when he promises to.

And whether or not you believe you can invest the money and make more than the delayed option in the given timeframe.

Your choice will also depend on the fact that you’re human, and being human you likely prefer immediate gratification over delayed rewards. Although an extra ten bucks is an extra ten bucks no matter when it’s collected, robust research shows that most people take the smaller amount if they can have it now. Economists call this tendency to over-value immediate rewards at the expense of long-term intentions present bias.

Present bias explains why you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolutions. It’s why you blow up your monthly budget to buy that amazing purse during an Amazon Lightning deal. It explains why you destroy your diet when there’s a delicious pizza pie in front of you and also why you find yourself in a long line at the supermarket before dinner time with all the other procrastinators. It’s why one-third of Americans have nothing saved for retirement and why the average household owes about $7,000 in credit card debt.

Present bias also explains why good teachers get fed up and quit.

Short-Term Gain for Long-Term Pain

Suppose you are a principal who is offered the following choice: Help one child now or help many children over the course of 10 years? Which would you choose?

It seems obvious to help the many instead of the one and yet each year, thanks to present bias, principals do the opposite. They satisfy immediate needs at the expense of long-term benefits.

Beth Houf, principal of Fulton Middle School in Missouri and the coauthor of the book Lead Like a Pirate, once wrote that the reason great teachers are asked to do more is that’s what’s best for kids. She’s hardly the only administrator who believes this. And it’s hard to argue with such logic. When a needy student is right there in front of you, you’d have to be a monster to not want to help.

So principals move a struggling child from one teacher’s class into a more effective teacher’s room. They place more challenging students in the classroom of teachers who’ve mastered classroom management. They give the most competent educators the toughest intervention groups because those are the students who need the best instruction. They ask the most dedicated teachers to present at parent nights because they know those teachers will accept and that the presentation will go well.

They solve the problem in front of them without considering the long-term costs. They succumb to present bias. In doing so,  they make it more likely that their school and the future students who will attend it will suffer.

The Paradox of Success

In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown describes something he calls the “paradox of success.” For teachers, it works like this:

1. We start out focused on being the best teacher we can for our students. As young, overwhelmed teachers, we limit our efforts to what will make the biggest impact and we’re open to learning from others.

2. Because we are focused and always learning, we improve. Our success is noticed by our principals, who offer us additional opportunities. If successful with these, we become a go-to person who is offered even more opportunities.

3. The more we are asked to do, the less we’re able to focus on what led to our initial success. Our efforts are diffused as we are spread thinner and thinner.

4. We become distracted from our highest contribution, which is effectively teaching the students in front of us. We’ve undermined our own success by doing too much.

Some of this is on the teacher. Teachers need to get better at telling people no, which, not coincidentally, is the subject of my book, The Teacher’s Guide to Saying NOBut principals must also be aware of the dangers of the success paradox and present bias. Yes, your best teachers can help you solve your most pressing problems. Many of them will see your frequent dependence on them as a compliment and they won’t refuse your requests. But asking the same teachers to solve multiple problems will wear them out. It will make them less effective at their primary job. And it can, over time, drive them from your building.

I know a woman who was an amazing educator. She’d worked her way from teacher to principal of a Catholic elementary school in Wisconsin. Because she was so effective, she was asked to take on more responsibilities. Parents loved her, so she became the face of the organization. It wasn’t long before she was working 14-hour days while spending less and less time on her principal duties. She was relied on and she knew it. Her effectiveness became part of her identity, so much so that instead of admitting that she was overwhelmed and asking her boss for fewer responsibilities, she quit. Today, this talented educator works in a bank.

Combatting Present Bias

People have limits. That includes the most effective teachers. To keep them around for many years so they can help many students, principals should remember to fight present bias. They should hold off for the greater reward.

There are three ways they can do so. One study in Chile found that it wasn’t interest rates that worked best to compel people to save but peer groups and reminders. Those who announced their savings targets to others and set up text message reminders deposited money in their savings accounts 3.5 more often than those who were simply offered a higher interest rate. Principals who want to avoid overworking their best teachers can do likewise. Talk with other principals about what you’re intentionally doing to preserve your best teachers’ energy and set up frequent reminders or schedules so that you don’t return to the same people every time you have a problem that needs solving.

Forced commitments also work. One way to avoid giving in to present bias is to deny yourself the ability to act in the present. This is the concept behind automatic deposits and Christmas clubs. When the money isn’t there, you can’t spend it. By making it hard to access, you force yourself to delay gratification. Principals can force themselves to focus on the long-term wellness of their teachers instead of the short-term problems they want to solve by establishing rules for asking their teachers to do more. Keep a list of teachers who are already doing extra and forbid yourself from asking them to do more.

A third method is to imagine the future. In one experiment,  the faces of the participants were digitally scanned and altered to create a realistically aged version. Researches presented subjects with a hypothetical choice about their preferred retirement allocation. Those who saw the aged images of themselves chose to save more for their golden years. When tempted to approach your go-to teacher with a new problem for her to solve, stop and imagine your school without that teacher in five years. Picture yourself older. Envision a new batch of students.  Consider the problems that you’ll have to face and the very real possibility that there will be different people to solve them if you keep asking your best teachers to do more today.

 

Image source: Pixabay