Let’s face it; teaching can be stressful. Very stressful. We’re some of the most overworked and underappreciated workers out there. Sometimes it all gets too much for us, but you don’t have to suffer on in silence.
There’s lots of help and support out there, and lots of strategies and techniques you can adopt, that might be the stress-reliever you’ve been searching for. Hopefully, it’s one of the 12 tips we have for you here.
What causes teacher stress?
The research shows that there is little doubt that teachers are stressed, and possibly increasingly so. In 2018, YouGov conducted a survey of 911 teachers and found that 83% of them are stressed due to their job. They were then asked to pinpoint the most significant reasons. These were the most commons responses:
- Workload from marking
- Education policy
- Inspection regime from Ofsted
To add to teacher’s stresses and anxieties, 58% thought they were underpaid for their work, and 84% said they didn’t believe their profession was valued by society.
Stress relief tips for teachers
- Remember you’re doing a good job
- Take care of physical health
- Try mindfulness
- Two stars and no wish
- Eat the right foods, and avoid the wrong ones
- Don’t be afraid to talk about it
- Work smarter, not harder
- Try some new apps
- Remember what you enjoy most about teaching
- Sometimes, say no
- Ask around, try and use what works for you
12 Teacher stress-busting strategies for reduced stress in the classroom
If the wellbeing and futures of pupils are the heart of what you’re doing then you’re doing a good job. Teacher guilt can form a large part of teacher stress. ‘That lesson didn’t go how I wanted it to.’ ‘I didn’t deal with that situation in the best way possible.’ ‘I should be marking right now.’ Sound familiar?
The fact that you’re even having these reflections shows how much you care, but you’re still human and it’s okay for things not to go as you’d hoped. It’s also okay to give yourself permission to take time off during evenings and on weekends. You can only do what you can do which includes self-preservation of your mental health.
This doesn’t mean hitting the gym every day or running miles and miles, unless that works for you. Find activities that you enjoy and make time for them. Head outdoors on the weekends and explore your local area.
Exercise is proven to be one of the very best stress relievers there is, reducing stress hormones and generally controlling your mood better. Dust off those running shoes and get out there!
You don’t need to commit lots of time to sessions of mindfulness, but that doesn’t make it an easy practice. It requires a lot of concentration and when your mind is on maths marking, English lesson planning and choosing a book for guided reading, that can be a real challenge.
There are many benefits to mindfulness; for time-poor teachers, the biggest benefit is that it can be done anywhere, at any time. Next time you’ve had a stressful lesson and find yourself with an empty classroom and 5 minutes, have a go at one of these mindfulness exercises recommended by Mind.
It can be so tough to focus on the positive, but if you take the time to look for it by giving yourself two stars each day, you might see a change in your mindset. Consider writing down two things that went well; two things you were grateful for; or two things you’re proud of. Once you make yourself responsible for writing two positive things down a day, you will start to notice and look for these things.
Alongside exercise and an improved diet (more on that next), getting a good night’s sleep is another one of the best ways to reduce stress in the classroom.
The science behind it, as explained in this piece in verywellmind, shows that prolonged stress is correlated with hyperactivity, decreased sleep duration and reduced Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep – which is basically the deep sleep that’s so important for you to recharge your batteries.
There are plenty of things you can do to aid better sleep – exercise, turning off your tech and eating well are just three. Whatever you need to do, it could be the key to reducing your overall stress levels.
Things like improving your diet, sleep and exercising might not be specific to teaching, but they are universal tenants of stress relief that will help anyone to reduce the amount of stress in their lives.
Obviously, drinking coffee or alcohol and eating stodgy, carb-filled meals before bed are a definite no. In general, research suggests you should eat less saturated fats and sugar and eat more fibre. Happily, we’ve got a blog with five healthy recipe ideas for busy teachers.
In general, a healthy diet leads to a healthy mind and body. Throw in some exercise and a good night’s rest, and you’ve got a recipe for some seriously reduced stress levels.
Sometimes, all it takes is a sounding board or pair of ears to listen to how your day has gone. Bottling up your problems and pushing them downwards is certain to lead to prolonged stress, so don’t be afraid to chat through your issues with colleagues.
Hopefully, your school is encouraging that dialogue and doing their best to help. If nothing else, a conversation about the stress you’re currently under might lead to someone else chipping in to help or a handy hack you could introduce in your life.
It’s another tip that could quite easily apply to 99% of the workforce, but it applies to few professions more than teaching. Us teachers have, frankly, a mountain of things to do, so trying to introduce some working hacks could make all the difference.
Try to mix up how you work through the day in one or a few of these ways:
- Draw up to-do lists: A visual representation of your workload can help break tasks down step-by-step. It leads to a great feeling as you tick off each item and see that workload reduce.
- Prioritise: Realistically, you just aren’t going to get everything done. Put the things that are most important you at the top, and that way you’ll be more likely to dedicate some time to them. You could even incorporate your family life and interests into this – helping you put home life before work life when you need to.
- Set realistic targets: If you turn up for work every day thinking you’ll plan a handful of lessons, mark a load of papers and get round to replying to all those emails, it can be demoralising when you fail to tick them all off. Be realistic. Things get in the way and you aren’t a productivity machine. Set some targets you can achieve, and you’ll feel better when you nail it.
In the search for better wellbeing? Why not try some of the many apps available from smartphone’s app store?
You might have already heard of some of the most helpful. Headspace and Calm are great for mindfulness and meditation. Many people use them to relax after a stressful day in the hope of a good night’s rest.
Give one of those a try and take a look at some of the other suggestions in our roundup of the best wellbeing apps.
When things are really getting you down, it’s important to remember exactly why you got into teaching in the first place. Teaching is one of the most fulfilling professions out there. Make sure you take the time to appreciate the joys of the job.
Plus, is there something specific about the role that you particularly enjoy? If so, put some time aside every month to make sure you’re doing it. Sometimes that little reminder is all you need.
It’s fantastic how hard-working, noble and dedicated teachers are in their efforts to make a brighter future for their class. But sometimes, we all need to take a step back and think of the bigger picture. Your mental health should always be paramount. We like to do as much as we can to help people out, but sometimes you have to take the selfish route and simply say – no.
Wellbeing is such a hot topic that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when it comes to what actually helps. The truth is, what works for one might not work for another. But it’s always worth trying out.
Ask your friends and colleagues their tips for stress relief and have a go. Daily yoga, reading, a bath, reading in the bath, whatever works for you. Try to build up a reserve of techniques to relieve stress levels so that when things have really gotten on top of you, there are a few things you can try out.