Teachers, job stress reduction is important to your health. You know that. Your physical bodies, emotions, minds, and spirits are all involved in school work. Even on holiday, you may find yourself working, or at least thinking about your work.
Such dedication need not be negative. A teacher should, above all, be a person who wants to make a big difference in students’ lives. The challenge is to make that difference without permitting stress to drive you out of teaching. The challenge is to practice good stress reduction techniques.
Understanding Stress Reduction
An understanding of stress reduction must begin with an understanding of stress. Stress is not that stack of un-graded papers. Stress is not the child who insists on asking endless questions, no matter how well you explain. Stress is not a matter of two teenagers leaping into the aisle to fight, while the rest of the class chants, “Fight, fight, fight.” Stress is not the parent who calls repeatedly to complain that you are not doing what is best for her child. Stress is not even the principal inviting you to the office for a job review conference.
All of the above are stressors, not stress.
A stressor is a stimulus that causes stress. The illustrations above are of stressors. When Job broke that expensive science equipment, his action was a stressor. When Betty brought her father’s spearfish for show-n-tell and stabbed it into your right arm that was a stressor. They were stimuli that caused stress. They themselves were not stress, but they stimulated stress.
Stress is your RESPONSE to the above examples. “Good stress” or “bad stress” is produced dependent on your response. Which calls for job stress reduction?
On the one hand, you respond negatively in fight-or-flight mode. Adrenalin floods your body and muscles tense. Blood is shunted from extremities to core organs. All systems are “go” for fleeing or fighting the enemy.
On the other hand, you respond positively by becoming excited and challenged. Endorphins power happy determination to move ahead. You are flooded with a feeling of euphoria, ready to make the best of the stressor.
Stress, negative or positive, is your response to stressors.
We continue with a brief look at the two kinds of stress.
Eustress Beneficial, Good Stress
Teachers, job stress reduction programs are unnecessary when the stress involved is eustress. Eustress is an appropriate, positive response to the stressors teachers meet. “Eu” means “good” in Greek. Picture joy and laughter. Eustress is pleasant, healing stress.
Eustress may appear to be an emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical overload, but it does not drain away power. It energizes you; helps you handle the overload. Teachers’ job stress reduction programs should begin with a presentation of eustress and the benefits it offers.
Distress Detrimental, Bad Stress
Most teachers’ job stress reduction programs focus only on distress. Distress is an inappropriate, negative response to the stressors of a teacher’s job. “Di” means “two” in Greek. Picture double trouble coming your way. Distress is often a disabling, crippling stress.
Distress, like eustress may appear to be an emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical overload. Unlike eustress, distress drains power for anything other than fight or flight. Distress tires you; freezes the brain, and makes it difficult to handle the overload. Teachers’ job stress reduction programs should include a presentation of distress and the detrimental effects it carries.
Employ Stress Augmentation!
Paradoxically, teachers, job stress reduction can be as simple as job stress augmentation. You need to augment, or increase, eustress on the job.
Remembering that stress is nothing more than your response to the demands placed upon you, recognize that you have control over job stress. You may choose to respond positively or negatively; with eustress or with distress.
Look at the following two examples.
1. You face a huge stack of un-graded papers at the end of the day.
A distress response is to sigh, and take “flight” down the hall for another mug of stale coffee and some small talk. Eventually, you plod back to the classroom, “flight” still written clearly on every part of your body. You sit down forlornly, and gaze dejectedly at the clock. Your shoulders slump as you reach for the first paper. You wish for job stress reduction, unconsciously defining it as a magic wand that will make the papers go away. That does not happen, of course, and you begin to reap the detrimental effects of distress.
A eustress response is to smile, allot 2 hours to finish the work, and divide the stack into 8 stacks. Now you have bite-sized work piles. You set a goal of completing each stack in no more than 15 minutes less if responsibly possible. Promising yourself a cup of coffee after the first hour, you tackle the first stack, eager to meet or beat you goal. Augmenting eustress, you enjoy job stress reduction and all of its healthy benefits.
2. Betty insists on asking endless questions, no matter how well you explain.
A distress response is to “fight” with Betty, stress reduction hopes shattered. You feel neck and shoulders muscles tighten. A frown yanks your mouth downward as you approach Betty’s seat. Unconsciously, you clench your fist. You will not permit Betty to demand so much attention, and you make that very clear in sharp, “fighting” tones. Betty cowers into silence, and you begin to reap the detrimental effects of distress.
A eustress response is to smile quietly, and see Betty as one reason you decided on a teaching career. You want to teach Betty stress reduction along with proper listening techniques. You wait for a time when the rest of the class is occupied, and then go quietly to Betty’s desk. Smiling, you take Betty’s hand and lead her gently into a quiet, private part of the room. Relaxed and happy, you set a goal with Betty. You and she will work together to help her listen in such a way that she needs fewer questions. As she learns to control her response to the stressor of listening, she can win small rewards along the way. By the time Betty returns to her desk, you both are happy. Augmenting eustress, you enjoy job stress reduction again.
Tip: Teachers, job stress reduction is a choice. No elaborate stress reduction program is necessary if you have the backbone to commit to augmenting eustress and refusing to engage in distress.