Teachers and stress: the two go hand in hand like the inevitability of good and bad weather in the month of August in the Netherlands. It was a good decision of yours to look up how to achieve stress reduction. Of course this counts as well if you are not a (qualified) teacher or class teacher. In this article we will deal with what stress actually is (there is more to it than you think!). Consequently, we will share some tips with you for optimal stress reduction.
What is stress?
You might think you know what stress is and you have probably felt the necessary amount of stress throughout your life. But do you, really, know what stress is when you are experiencing stress? Because there is a good chance that you are too stressed out to take the time and feel into it.
I know this might sound a bit vague, so let us dive into it.
First of all, stress can be divided: there’s eustress, the one which you feel when something exciting is coming up, something you know you have to do and want to do. You’ll probably feel eustress prior to making that bungee jump. Then there’s distress: sweaty hands, your shoulders up to your ears, the contracted muscles throughout your body, and that horrible feeling that you’re not going to make it. Worst of all, you know that having stress can have serious repercussions for your health – but what does this do to you when you are in distress and you know it is bad for your health? Exactly, it leaves you even more stressful.
Accept your stress
Physiologically, stress triggers the autonomic nervous system and results in spikes in the stress hormones, one of which is cortisol (and you’ve probably heard of). There are numerous ways this can affect our health (even as bad as heart attacks). If you want to know more about the physiological effects, there’s tons of articles which you can find online.
Yet we all experience stress in our own way. That feeling of being overwhelmed, of all of it just being too much to handle. The demands we feel are placed on us. The things we want to do versus the things we have to do.
Stress, ultimately, is wanting things to be different than they are. Leading us to feel stressed, we create the story that we tell ourselves and others, “I’m stressed,” which only ensures we will maintain the stress in ourselves for the rest of the day. Can you accept your stress when you experience it? Can you feel the tension in the muscles, breathe, and let go of it? Accepting your stress is a major step already. Give yourself a pat on the shoulder and read how, now that you have spotted and accepted your stress, you might try and find means of stress reduction.
Stress reduction: how to reduce stress?
First of all, stress occurs to every one of us. You are probably not going to get rid of all of it. That said, here are some tips that are going to help you reduce stress.
Meditation helps to spot the symptoms in your body and mind. And, seriously, there are more different symptoms than you might expect, varying from tensions in the muscles to insomnia and from headaches to dizziness. Meditating also helps to alleviate stress, by countering the “stress response” with the “relaxation response”.
Furthermore, meditation will teach you to reframe stress and, rather than being caught up in our stress, we learn to observe the mental patterns and to become less affected by them physically. It is as if you zoom out of yourself and watch your life as if being a dream. With more experience, you will learn two major things – It doesn’t really matter what happens & This, too, will pass. Learn to let go of the past and the future, and automatically you let go of major stress factors.
“A 2018 study — in which participants used the Headspace app — found that eight weeks of meditation in the workplace resulted in a 46% decrease in distress and a 31% reduction in negative feelings.” Check out more information about the app here.
It will be no surprise to you that exercise is great for your health: it does your body good. Rather than stirring up those detrimental chemicals in your body, exercise boosts your endorphins and makes you feel good whilst also distracting you from your daily worries. Are you seriously looking into stress management? Seriously add Exercise to the list.
Firstly, being physically active pumps up your endorphins (promoting joy in your brain, causing it to produce those happy-feel-good neurotransmitters).
The three major benefits of exercise
Secondly, exercise is like meditation in motion: whereas in meditation you sit still and observe the mind, in exercise you concentrate on your bodily movements (making you forget about the troubles of the day). Optimistically and energetically you focus on a single task, resulting in increased optimism and energy: that’s boosting happiness with happiness!
The third major benefit is that exercise improves your mood. Regular exercise can make you feel more self-confident, helping you to make those stress-related thoughts evaporate, make you feel more relaxed and a reduction of the aforementioned symptoms of stress. In addition, a better mood improves sleep (which stress often disrupts).
Even if you think you do not have time for exercise – and we are teachers; believe us, we know – this does not mean that you should stress out more so as to make time for exercise. There are a lot of ways to introduce exercise into your life without it having to be time-consuming. This can mean going for walks in gap hours, joining one of your classes’ football or basketball games during the break (also a great way to bond more with your pupils) or at-home exercise in the evening. There are tons of YouTube videos and applications for the smartphone out there. Find one you like, hop in and do the workout that seems interesting to you.
Maybe you can do one now? Don’t worry, we don’t mind if you pause here and read on afterwards.
4. Specify your stress factors
So now you have learned what stress is and what the major causes are. Do you know what stress also is? Vagueness.
What does it mean when you tell yourself, “I’m stressed,” or “I’m so busy,” or “I can’t do this”? Stressed about what? So busy with what? Can’t do what? You are stressed because the future is coming towards you like nuclear bombs and you have no idea what it is indicating. Try and indicate what it is really you are stressed about. Keep asking yourself wh-questions, especially why.
Here is an example:
“Because I’ve got a lot to do.”
“What have I got to do?”
“Check tests and prepare lessons, mainly. There’s a hundred other things too.”
“How important are the hundred other things?”
“I suppose I can write them down on my to-do list.”
“Okay. Why am I stressed about the tests and lessons?”
“Because I can’t finish them in time.”
“Why is that a problem?”
“Because I have to.”
“Why do I have to.”
Etc. etc. etc.
So if you keep asking yourself questions like this, suddenly you’ll notice you have been worrying yourself shitless whilst you are actually in the safest environment possible. A solid, concrete building, children that can make you laugh. There is nothing seriously harmful possible. This can help you zoom out suddenly and grow a bit more careless and a bit less serious. There’s nothing wrong with that. Also,it brings us to the next and, final, tip.
5. Deadlines are not lethal
Deadlines really aren’t lethal. For some reason, our overtly serious brains take the word Deadline a bit too seriously. Guess what happens if you miss a deadline? Nothing!
It is just another trick to make you sweat and work yourself into oblivion, but if you dare to say no there’s nothing wrong with paying a visit to your employer and telling him you won’t make a deadline. If you explain it well enough (having gone through the questions of Tip 4), your employer will most likely acquiesce.
Work out your priorities and identify your stress situations. Learn to not react to imagined results, but if you find yourself reacting to something in a manner you wish you had not – don’t go reprimanding yourself to that. We have trained the inner critic to become more and more critic. Give yourself a pat on the back every now and then, you are probably doing a formidable job!
So, don’t dwell on past mistakes, let go of bottled-up frustrations. Meditate, exercise, read books (Mr McElroy [link] will give you a healthy laugh!), take your time and think positively.
It’s worth the twelve weeks of holidays.
– Tristan Klumpenaar –