According to a recent poll, 46% of teachers report having high daily stress, tying them at the top for the most stressful occupation in America. Teacher stress that becomes chronic can play a role in a classroom’s environment and student achievement. Here are some tips that teachers can use to calm themselves down when they feel their anxiety in the classroom rising, as well as tips for distressing at the end of every work day.
Pay Attention to Your Breathing
Every human feels stress and some more than others. Teaching is a demanding job with stressors ranging from students to parents to test scores. It is important that teachers have the tools to be able to calm themselves down when they feel their anxiety in the classroom rising. One easy way to start the calming process is to pay attention to your breath. When someone is anxious or angry, they typically start to take short, quick breaths. A person’s fight-or-flight response is triggered and begins to loop, making anxiety increase. Deep breathing helps to disrupt this loop and begin to calm the person down. It is helpful to focus on slowing exhalation so that it is double the length of inhalation. Blood flow will increase, heart rate will go down, and blood pressure will decrease. Breathing is a technique that can be used anywhere and at anytime without needing any special tools on hand.
Stay Calm Through Visualization
Visualization is another good technique for managing anxiety in the classroom. Along with deep breathing, a stressed teacher can close their eyes and create a mental picture of what it looks like to stay calm. This could be a favorite place, a comforting meal, a favorite memory. They can refer back to this image whenever they feel anxiety rising to help stop that anxiousness in its tracks and get their stress back to zero.
Sometimes changing one’s focus can help them reevaluate the situation. When appropriate, walking away from the cause of the stress and giving oneself a break can help put the situation into better perspective. Decision making skills will increase, and words that are meant to be left unsaid will remain so. While it’s not always easy for a teacher to walk away from a space, simply moving to a different location in the classroom can provide the distance necessary to destress.
Destress at the End of the Day
Breathing, visualization, and walking away are all good in-the-moment techniques for managing stress. Yet many teachers go home at night bringing their daily stress with them. Some find it helpful to listen to calming music on the drive home. Others find journaling beneficial. Putting thoughts down on paper can help think through them and come to a logical conclusion about what someone is feeling and why. It can also help with brainstorming ways to decrease stressful situations like this in the future. Exercise before or after work is another great way to lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, and keep feelings of anxiety at bay.
According to some, education is one of the most stressful occupations in America. Using things like breathing, visualization, and walking away can help lower stress in the moments it is happening. Quiet music, journaling, and exercise are good preventative measures. These techniques will help a teacher’s stress stay minimal and in turn, the environment in the classroom will stay positive.