Working in education is extremely rewarding, but there are always those school days that feel extremely difficult and stressful. Some stress is perfectly normal, but if it gets out of control, stress can lead to some pretty harmful health concerns including hypertension, headaches, and even anxiety and depression.
This school year, be proactive about keeping your stress levels under control — and your health in check. Try these 10 de-stressing tips to find out which work best for you.
- Stress Triggers
Stress can be caused by many different factors — long hours, unruly students, piles of papers to grade, administrative observations, etc. Make a list of all the work-related stressors in your life. Delineate between those you have control over and those you don’t. Begin tackling the list by choosing the one or two items you have some control over that cause you the most stress. Create a plan to manage the stressor(s), write down a goal, and be sure to follow through.
- Deep Breathing
Deep breathing can have a powerful physical affect in reducing tension and helping the body relax. Clinical research shows that regular deep breathing exercises affect the heart, the brain, digestion, and the immune system. They can have immediate results and can also be used to reduce the production of harmful stress hormones.
Try the 7/11 exercise: Breathe in for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of 11. Do this a few times each day, particularly when confronted with your stress triggers.
We’ve all been there — staying up too late to grade assignments or preparing for tomorrow’s meetings. But getting enough sleep is critical to your health and to reducing stress. Try setting an alarm for when it’s time for bed, and do your best to get seven to eight hours a night. Maximize the sleep you do get by “unplugging” (i.e. turning off the computer, phone, TV, etc.) an hour before bed.
- Good Nutrition
A healthy diet does wonders for your health and state of mind. Eat nutritious foods and avoid too many fatty or sugary foods that deplete your energy. Also be sure to drink enough water. An estimated 75 percent of people in the U.S. are chronically dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink 8, eight-ounce glasses of water every day. You may need more or less depending on the climate you live in, your body type, how much you exercise, etc.
Health experts argue that sitting is the new cigarette. Prolonged sitting can cause serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Getting enough exercise is critical to your health and can also alleviate stress. Go for daily walks, take a yoga class, or join a softball league. Prioritize this time and use it to clear your head: You will feel more energized and will be much healthier.
- Support Network
Establishing a good support network is critical to keeping sane throughout the school year. Lean on your colleagues for advice, trade ideas, and create mentoring relationships. Friends and family can also provide invaluable support by lending an ear on days when you just need to vent. You can further expand your network through educator-based online support networks and learning communities. Join one or more, and share in a wealth of knowledge from educators across the country.
Being organized is a proactive way to reduce stress during the school year. Just think about how much time you waste searching through email or computer files to find what you need, rewriting misplaced work, or trying to manage your calendars. Setting an organization plan now — and sticking to it — can help reduce stress, improve efficiency, and make you more effective.
Meditation can have a tremendous impact on your ability to de-stress. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and can bring clarity to your thoughts and promote peace and balance. Even a few minutes of meditation can significantly reduce stress. Here are some different techniques to try.
Visualization is another effective tactic for reducing stress. Give it a try. Sit comfortably and think about a peaceful scene (a beach, the mountains, a favorite spot in your neighborhood). Or, visualize yourself realizing a goal.
Having a sense of humor will do wonders for relieving stress. As an educator, you need to learn to find humor in unexpected places and laugh at things you may initially find irritating. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter promotes a stronger immune system, increases your ability to cope with difficult situations, and can improve your mood by lessoning depression and anxiety.
We all know that the school year can be stressful. It is critical for your health and sanity to develop a plan to tackle stress before you get overwhelmed. Try these strategies to determine which de-stressing methods work best for you, and then put them to use this school year!