Articles and Advice

How is Your Stress Level?

A recent survey reported that 70 - 90% of working adults feel stressed at work and at home. Certainly all of us feel the stresses of daily life at one time or another. In fact, some stress can be motivating when it represents learning a new skill or taking on a challenging new project. But stress can also be dangerous when it elevates to the level in which it impacts health, wellness or appropriate behavior.

Working with young children is joyful and fulfilling. It can also be tiring and sometimes physically and emotionally stressful. Children require us to be infinitely patient and flexible. They are also rarely aware of the toll that their needs and demands can take on their caregivers. As adults we are responsible for monitoring our own stress levels and those of our colleagues. This requires us to be aware when stress is affecting our attitude, behavior and work and to take action when observing the effects of stress in ourselves or others.

Signs and impacts of stress

Prolonged exposure to a high level of stress can affect health, wellbeing and behavior. Among the potential impacts of stress are a variety of illnesses and diseases. Stress can also have subtle signs such as insomnia, weigh gain or loss, forgetfulness, muscle aches and pains, and headaches. The behavioral impacts of stress can also be concerning. Stress is related to irritability, short temper, and impatience. Obviously, these traits can lead to very serious problems for anyone who is expected to exhibit patience, kindness, empathy and gentle redirection throughout the day.

Things you can do

Since some amount of stress is inevitable, it is important to prepare yourself with some simple stress-reducing strategies. For example:

  • Use your break time well. Do not try to accomplish a week's worth of errands during your lunch hour. Take time to rest, relax and recharge with music, a good book and a brisk walk.
  • Share your concerns and challenges. Identify a colleague or mentor who can help you think through solutions to your classroom challenges. A veteran teacher may have some 'tried and true' tips to help you navigate stress-filled situations.
  • Breathe and exercise. When you feel your temper rising or your muscles tensing, stop and take a deep breath. Just the act of breathing in and out deeply can calm frayed nerves. Regular exercise is also a great long term stress management strategy.
  • Get enough rest. The impacts of stress are exaggerated when you are tired.
  • Call attention to signs of stress in others. If you notice a colleague becoming nervous, anxious or short tempered, bring the behaviors to the attention of your supervisor so that help can be delivered. It is much better to offer a helping hand or a minute away from the classroom than to have a tragic mistake happen. Remember, our first priority is the wellbeing of the children.

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