Managing Teacher Stress

In news that will surprise no teachers, a new study has found that 93 percent of elementary school teachers experience high levels of stress. But schools can mitigate the harmful effects of stress by providing proper supports, highlighting the importance of a holistic approach to teacher well-being.

Teachers’ psychological stress also affects their physical health. In another study, 46 percent of high school teachers were diagnosed with excessive daytime sleepiness and 51 percent with poor sleep quality, compromising health, quality of life, and teaching performance.

One simple strategy for finding presence in the day is to express gratitude. This is an example of Hebb’s Law: How often do you drive home from work and when you think back on the drive you do not recall the details? That is because it becomes routine and we can block out some of those memories (disassociation). The more times the neural pathway is traveled, the less effort it takes to stimulate the pathway the next time. “Neurons that fire together wire together."

This is why what we focus our attention on grows. So if we are always looking at the negative, that is what we are going to get. Practicing gratitude shifts our focus onto what is going right and looking for constructive ways to solve problems.  

Try it:  Look around your workplace and find something to appreciate. Concentrate on how this feels in your body. Check back with that feeling later in the day. Linking your physical feeling to your positive thoughts will either create a new or strengthen an existing neural pathway, wiring your brain for positivity. 

(excerpts from Tennessee Building Strong Brains curriculum & Practicing Presence by Lisa Lucas)