Teaching is regularly reported as being one of the most stressful occupations, with just over half of teachers reporting that they are under great stress several days of the week. It’s a growing – and worrying – trend, contributing to rapidly increasing levels of teacher burnout: 40 to 50% of teachers leave within their first five years, and 9% won’t even make it to the end of their first year.
Contributing to these statistics are several oft-cited causes of teacher dissatisfaction: long hours, heavy workflows and lack of respect. For most teachers these are an unfortunate realities of the profession, thorns that can cripple even the most dedicated and driven educators. And while these issues are coming under increasing scrutiny, meaningful change often comes in fits and starts.
Don’t let the stresses of teaching damage your mental state; employ these techniques in the workplace to keep yourself motivated, positive and healthy. You owe it to your students – and, more importantly, you owe it to yourself.
- Make time to recharge
Different people draw energy from different situations. For extroverts, recharging might be about having a conversation with a fellow staff member or simply venting to a friend via text. Introverts may find comfort in taking time to themselves, listening to music or reading a book. Whichever category you fall into, try to set aside a few moments each day – just before school starts, in lunchtime or a free period – to energize.
- Stay physically healthy
Physical activity has been shown to puncture stress, raising feel-good endorphin levels and reducing the symptoms of anxiety and mild depression. If you can’t find the time to exercise, incorporate it into other activities; you can exercise on lunch duty while standing at the head of a class or even sitting behind a desk. Stress can also be reduced by eating nourishing meals and getting plenty of sleep (which is also aided by exercise).
- Take your personal days
Many teachers feel guilty about using their sick or personal days, especially when they’re simply tired or run-down. But mental recuperation is just as valid a reason for taking leave as physical illness. It’s not lying or cheating. It’s an essential part of doing your job. In the long run, you and your students are better served by you taking a day off to rest than by attempting to teach when you’re under the weather.
- Connect with coworkers
Even though you’re surrounded by students all the time, teaching can be a solitary profession. And from a distance, it can sometimes seem as though everyone else has everything under control, that all the problems you’re facing are unique to you. Connecting with your fellow teachers helps provide perspective – everyone’s in the same boat – and allows you to share advice and support. Everyone benefits from a supportive, understanding work environment.
- Don’t stress about stress
It may not feel like it, but a little bit of stress is actually good for you. Short-term stress boosts brainpower and heightens both memory and learning. So don’t panic about feeling a little anxious or distressed for short periods of time – it’s just a natural part of the human experience. When stress becomes chronic – lasting weeks or even years – it might be time to think about how to address the situation and take meaningful action.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.