Give me a Break: a Teacher's Tips for Coping with Stress
As a teacher, Jo is familiar with the pressure school staff are under. She shares a technique that will help you reflect on your day and notice your achievements.
Life of a Teacher
Fighting over hairclips, screaming about whose socks are whose and desperately snatching some leftover bruised banana for breakfast. This was my morning before dragging the children to nursery, in the rain, with my bike and a scooter ramming into my ankles at every step. Then I went to school, feeling exhausted already…
We all understand that in order to look after others, we need to look after ourselves first. But how often, as teachers, do we get the time for self-care?
Juggling it all
There are times in the day, when I’m in my classroom, the children are all on task (mostly on task) and it feels like this is the job that I signed up for. But we all know that the actual teaching is not the problem – it’s all the juggling round the edges that actually pushes us to the edge. The small pressures add up; the sense of never being able to achieve everything, and sometimes the feeling that I just want to stop the ride and get off.
At the beginning of a new year I was feeling less than ready. I realised that if one more person said to me, ‘are you okay? You look really tired,’ I would scream at them, despite their caring intentions. It felt like the stress was leaking out of me - and it was affecting others around me – my own children, my partner and the children in my class. I needed to take some control and put a better spin on things.
Three good things
One thing I started was the ‘three good things’ activity that I had heard about. It's really simple. You just think of three things that have gone well in your day and write them down in the evening.
Some days I really struggle to be positive and I think, can I write ‘got out of the house without having a full blown row?!’ Well, yes, I can.
Anything that you feel went well, however large or small, is worth noticing. When you write them down, try and think about how you feel about the event and what caused it. Doing this activity has made me realise that I often cling on to the parts of my day that went badly, and often ignore what went well.
Writing down three things helps me recognise the triumphs in my day. It can also help increase our levels of happiness and refocus our energy towards appreciating the stuff that does work in our lives. If you want more info, this website is a good place to start.
Stopping and Noticing
It’s such a small addition to my day, but the ‘three good things’ is making a difference. It is not removing all the work that is thrown at me at school, or the stress of feeling pretty overwhelmed. But, I thought about it this morning when I was getting ready and it helped me to stop and notice the positive stuff, gearing me up for the day. It makes me feel more confident and not quite so burdened. I think it makes me easier on myself about the bits of life that I can’t control. And when I wake at 2am and my brain is swimming with the things that I haven’t done, it’s a way of stopping these racing thoughts, focusing my mind and sending it down a more positive track.
It can be hard to add another task to our precarious balancing act. However, the habit is there now and I can feel the results. So I will try to carry on with it, especially when I need it most.
More For School Staff
Check out 360° Schools, your one-stop shop for mental health, wellbeing and resilience for your whole school.