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Self-help tips for teachers to combat stress

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

When it comes to teaching, the words ‘stress’ and ‘workload’ never seem to too far away from the discussion.

Of course, this is hardly a surprise.

Long before ‘exam reform’, ‘funding cuts’ and ‘recruitment crisis’ became major issues in schools, the ever-present problem of excessive workload was a constant concern for teachers.

Indeed, it is the problem of workload that is probably the major contributory factor to the recruitment and retention crisis we currently find ourselves in. The stats don’t lie.

A recent YouGov poll reported that 32% of teachers considered themselves to be ‘very stressed’.

A shocking 83% described themselves as ‘stressed’.

Morale is not good.

It probably hasn’t been this low since the strike days of the mid-1980s Thatcher years – and there is no simple solution. Teacher workload is a complex issue, but when it has such a negative impact on the profession, we need to do all we can to improve the situation.

Major changes are needed and it’s easy to be defeatist and say that the change that is required will never happen.

At the end of the day, there is little that an individual teacher can do about that – but the future is still not a hopeless one. Sometimes it’s the small things that can make a real difference.

For teachers, a spot of daily self-help and self-care could well be the answer.

Here are some tips to keep stress at bay. Keep a diary or daily journal When lack of time is one of the major problems that teachers face, it might seem a bit daft to suggest some of that precious time be spent writing a diary or journal! However, well-being guidance (for all walks of life) frequently extols the virtues of journaling.

These days there are plenty of apps to make the process seem much less of a chore – literally a five-minute exercise, in fact.

And, of course, if you are old school and want to use pen and paper, that’s fine too.

The key principle is the same – to balance the negativity that occurs throughout the day with a few minutes of being positive and thankful for the good things that have happened.

Focus on what you have - rather than what you haven’t - got. Don’t let your job define who you are! Practise mindfulness and have a growth mindset Linked in to the idea of being grateful for what you’ve got is the notion of mindfulness.

A quick Google search will unearth a wealth of mindfulness tips, but essentially is about being mindful and more aware of what is going on around you, such as taking the time to focus on the sounds you hear around you, or the taste of your food will help to put you in a better frame of mind. In terms of having a growth mindset, it’s a case of practising what you preach with the kids you teach.

If they don’t believe they can make progress in your subject, they won’t.

In the same way, if you don’t think things can get better for you – they generally won’t either. Breaks and rewards In fact, we can gain a lot by thinking about the advice we give to students.

For example, revision guidance often reinforces the need to schedule regular breaks and the self-awarding of rewards and treats.

Think the same way as you approach your mountain of marking. After a hard day, it’s tempting to just ‘switch off’ – a Netflix box set and a giant-sized bag of chocolates tends to do the trick – and we all need some ‘me time’ on the sofa at some point.

However, it’s also good to ‘switch on’ too.

Taking up a hobby, learning a new skill or being physically active is much better for you in the long run than simply being a couch potato. To that end, make sure that you actually have a weekend of some description – no matter how busy you are at school.