Teaching can be a stressful occupation, and it's important to support any peers who may be under pressure. Learn more about teacher stress and find out how to help out your fellow teachers.
Stress in the Workplace
According to just about everyone, being a teacher is stressful. Between instructing, grading, scheduling, and the seemingly endless list of other tasks to complete, preparing young minds is a mentally and physically demanding assignment.
According to a survey from the American Federation of Teachers, 73 percent of teachers and other school officials said that they 'often' found their work to be stressful. A further 24 percent said they were stressed 'sometimes.' Add that up, and you get a whopping 97 percent of teachers and officials who endure stress on a regular basis.
What this data suggests is that there is an excellent chance that some or even most of your fellow teachers are under pressure. If you happen to notice a fellow teacher struggling with stress, use the tips listed below to help them relax and get back on track.
Learn to Recognize Stress
Every individual responds to stress in a unique way. Some become irritable and lash out, while others internalize their problems and become withdrawn. A fellow teacher dealing with stress may not always be easy to spot.
Though symptoms will most likely vary from case to case, be on the lookout for the following signs of stress:
- Neglecting job responsibilities
- Nervous habits (pacing, nail biting, etc.)
- Emotional withdrawal
- Inability to concentrate
- Physical problems: headaches, chest pains, etc.
- Mood swings
- Substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco, etc.)
Lend a Sympathetic Ear
Sometimes, people just need to let off steam. Stress is often the result of an accumulation of factors, and being able to vent is a great way to relax.
Before trying anything too complicated, simply ask your peer if he or she would like to talk. While there's always the possibility of a more severe situation, many cases of stress can be resolved by getting everything off your chest. Chances are good that your peer has been holding a lot of things in, and the resulting catharsis from venting these grievances can be extremely soothing.
Your peer may also benefit simply from the knowledge that you are concerned for his or her well-being. Even if you are unable to provide any useful advice, the fact that you care enough to listen to problems and extend your sympathies can help calm things down. Stress is bad enough, but having to endure it alone is even tougher. Letting your peers know that they are not alone removes the feeling of isolation and helps them calm down.
Offer Advice, but Know Your Limits
If one of your peers is having trouble with a situation with which you are familiar, feel free to offer your own counsel. Maybe they're dealing with something that you yourself have encountered in one of your classes and even though you may not be a seasoned veteran, you can use what experience you do have to provide guidance and support.
At the same time, be wary of steering them in the wrong direction. If your peer is dealing with a major issue that is unfamiliar to you, do not pretend to be an expert. While you may have the best of intentions, it is possible that your advice could lead to unfavorable outcomes. Admitting that you cannot help may not be the most satisfying or effective solution, but it is better than ad-libbing a solution that could lead to more serious problems down the road.
Other Stress Management Techniques
In addition to the information listed above, the following list contains a few general stress management strategies that can be used by just about anyone. Feel free to suggest one (or many!) of these techniques to your stressed peers:
- Rest: Sometimes, the simplest solution is a good night's sleep. Taking a break and relaxing helps temporarily relieve pressing matters and leaves you feeling recharged and ready to tackle work-related issues.
- Exercise: Though it may seem like a chore, physical exercise is scientifically proven to help reduce stress. It doesn't even need to be especially strenuous; even as little as five minutes of exercise will reduce stress levels.
- Find a Hobby: In addition to being enjoyable, a hobby or special interest is invaluable because it takes your mind off your stress.
- Explore Relaxation Techniques: Yoga, tai chi, meditation, and prayer are all low-impact methods designed to relax the mind. Breathing exercises are also a helpful technique.
- Smile!: It might sound cheesy, but making happy faces can actually make you happier. In this study, subjects who smiled managed stress and felt better than those who did not. Try smiling right now. Feel any better?
No matter how you look at it, teaching is a stressful occupation, but that doesn't mean you or your peers are resigned to a life of anxiety. Keep a positive outlook, try to relax, and above all, help each other out, and things are guaranteed to be easier.