Feature

Stress - Work With It, Work Around It

Susan Thede

Many of us chose the teaching profession because of our commitment to students and our beliefs in these principles.

In spite of this strong commitment, or perhaps because of it, many teachers have experienced a sharp increase in their stress levels. In recent years they have grappled with the impact of the many changes in education. At times it has become almost overwhelming. For some, it has taken the joy out of teaching. Teachers tell us their self esteem and confidence have been hurt and diminished due to constant change, new demands and increasing expectations to do more and more under the microscope of public criticism and ongoing scrutiny. All of these seem to have little relevance for a teacher’s professional growth or their relationships with students.

What isn’t new and changing is that stress has continued to be a component of teaching for years.

There is no cure for stress, because it is not a disease.
Stress is a condition of life itself. It can be a constructive or destructive force, depending on how you manage it.
Stress can be the spice of your life or the poison that kills you.

- After the Chalkdust Settles

Taking Control of Stress

What is most important is how each of us takes control of our stress level in order to stay well by recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance and establishing a sense of wellness.

  • Know your limits and learn to respect them.
  • Try physical activity.
  • Share your stress with a trusted friend or colleague.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Make time for fun.
  • Be a participant.
  • Check off your tasks and accomplishments.
  • Accept that you do not always have to be right.
  • Visualize a quiet scene in your mind to help you relax.
  • Stop trying to fix others - they do not know they are broken!

Collegiality

The intensity and impact of work-related stress can be lessened when staff members work together and support each other.

Too often teachers feel a sense of isolation, of being burdened by too many pressures and sensing little or no support. As staff members you are close to the situation and are likely the first to know when a colleague needs someone to talk to, some advice or suggestions for outside assistance. Tune in to your colleagues and look for ways to offer support.

Through social conversations, frequent informal meetings, shared planning, informal mentoring, and the sharing of materials and ideas, teachers will feel part of a collective and not feel alone. Try to set aside past differences. As professionals, we are interdependent and need each other’s support during these challenging times.

Make it a priority to take 5 or 10 minutes of your recess to go to the staff room to take a break, talk to your colleagues, be part of a support group. If you are feeling stressed call Professional Relations Services at ETFO for confidential advice or contact your Employee Assistance Plan.

Health Concerns

Sometimes even the best efforts to maintain wellness are not enough and your stress level may rise to the level where it affects your health and quality of life. Perhaps a change or some time off should be considered after personal reflection and possibly consultation with your doctor.

Strategies to Manage Stress

Stress will not disappear - it is an ongoing part of every person’s life. While you can’t make it go away, you can take steps to improve the way you manage stress. It is important to keep these 3 Rs in mind:

  • Reduce stress - You have both the right and responsibility to reduce the negative effects of stress on your health and quality of life. Know yourself. Assess what creates and reduces your stress;
  • Recognize the need for change - You are entitled to a better quality of life. You need to change those things in life that trigger more stress. Learn how to change those stressors without causing more stress for yourself;
  • Reach out - You are not alone. There is help and support if needed. One source of assistance is Professional Relations Services at ETFO.

Professional Relations Services

Assistance is available at ETFO. Call 1-888-838-3836 or 416-962-3836 and speak to the PRS staff for advice and strategies for dealing with work-related issues. This is a confidential service offered by your Federation.

Take what you can...
Take time to reflect...
Take time to revisit...
Take time for youl

- After the Chalkdust Settles

Reference

The PRS staff at ETFO has developed a resource for members called After the Chalkdust Settles. This booklet is written specifically to assist members in learning strategies to cope with stress, increase personal well-being, establish a balance between work and home, manage conflict effectively, and promote a positive attitude and professionalism. Your workplace steward has further details or contact Shop ETFO at provincial office - www.etfo.on.ca

Susan Thede for ETFO's Professional Relations Services.

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