Stress is something that can be hard to define because everybody experiences it and reacts to it differently. One thing is for sure — everyone has it. Generally, stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. For school employees, sometimes it can seem like stress is everywhere.
A little stress can be a good thing, but many studies have shown that chronic stress impairs performance and is harmful to health. Nearly half of K-12 educators reported high daily stress, according to data from the 2013 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.”
– Jill Bolte Taylor
Educators may experience stress for any number of reasons, both on and off the job. These include:
- Isolating work situations
- Lack of administrator support
- Difficult parent/educator relations
- Pressure from standardized testing
- Pressure to perform without resources
It is important to recognize how you react to stress since reactions are warning signs from your body letting you know that something is wrong. Chronic stress can contribute to or cause many serious health problems, including hypertension, stroke, heart disease, ulcers and more.
Some signs of stress according to the American Psychological Association (APA) include:
- Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
- Upset stomach
- Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Loss of appetite or overeating “comfort foods”
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Jitters and anxiety
- Irritability and short temper
While stress can’t be eliminated from our lives, you can manage how you respond to it. And, workplace conditions causing stress can be changed.
- Be physically active – just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress according to the National Institute of Mental Health
- Eat healthy foods to give your body needed nutrition
- Take breaks when possible
- Avoid overusing alcohol or other drugs
- Practice relaxation exercises, deep breathing, or meditation
- Take time for yourself – you deserve it!
- Talk to your family and friends for emotional support
- Work with your local and colleagues to change the conditions causing stress
When school employees are able to manage their stress, personal productivity, engagement and happiness will increase.