As I mentioned in a previous post, my geriatric car recently broke down. Like most of you, I am chronically strapped for time (not to mention cash), so this event was unwelcome to say the least. What’s more, I’d had this car for over 15 years, and the thought of parting with it, embarrassingly enough, actually had me in tears. About an hour after I hung up with the mechanic, I was walking out to the parking lot when a thought hit me like a ton of bricks: Whoa. I am so glad Clementine hasn’t been hit by a car.
Last week’s post focused on strategies that could be used in ten minutes or less to help you cope with stress once the stress cycle is in full force. How did it go? Were any of them effective for you? I’m hoping at least one of you flagged down a stranger with a dog. Today I’d like to focus a bit on strategies for stress prevention. If last week’s strategies were your Robitussin, these will be your Echinacea.
Congrats, teachers, you made it through October! October is a notoriously long month for teachers, and it’s followed by November, a notoriously short month–so everything’s (turkey and) gravy, right? Well…maybe not.
If you’re running on empty; or worse, you don’t realize you’re running on empty because you haven’t checked in with yourself since September, it might be wise to take a few moments to recharge. I’ve put together a list of stress reduction tips that you can implement in 10 minutes or less, until your internal battery can reach the nearest outlet (Thanksgiving break).
A friend of mine recently posted an article on Facebook about the challenges of teaching middle school, suggesting “tough skin, sarcasm, and copious amounts of wine” as tips to overcome these challenges.
His post reminded me of another I’d seen a few weeks earlier: a photo of a child printed on the label of a wine bottle, a gift from a set of parents to their child’s teacher. The custom label read, “Our kid might be the reason you drink, so here’s a bottle on us.”
As a therapist-in-training, I often hear the following: “It is the relationship that heals.” While a body of research seems to back up this claim, explanations for why a relationship is healing or how it is used to heal is largely determined by a clinician.
Personally, I adhere to a theory that people grow when they feel seen and heard; people suffer when they are silenced. Much of our psychological suffering is caused by “experiential avoidance” (in other words, our tendency to resist emotional pain), which we learn as a result of seeing important others (parents, teachers, etc.) fail to acknowledge our emotional pain.
For my dissertation project, I’m exploring the impact of an eight-week teacher stress prevention and mindfulness (SPAM) group that I’m facilitating at a couple of schools in Austin. The teachers in my SPAM groups talk a lot about their job-related stress and anxiety. Beginning teachers in particular tend to talk about anxiety related to managing a classroom, student achievement results, and getting observed by coaches and administrators. Teachers who have a long track record of high achievement are uniquely susceptible to experiencing job performance anxiety, and unfortunately, this feeling can have some negative consequences.
Hi. Happy May. My name is Jenson. I was a 2006 corps member in NYC, and I taught first grade in Brownsville, Brooklyn at P.S. 156. Ready for the acronyms? I have been a CMA once, a CS twice, an MTLD thrice, and I am currently coaching a team of CSs and LSs preparing for Tulsa Institute 2014. When not reciting acronyms, I’m a third-year doctoral student at UT Austin in counseling psychology. This part of my life involves doing lots of things: working with children in a psychiatric hospital, learning how to therapize, attempting to ward off soul-crushing debt. But here’s the part that might interest you: I research teacher stress.
As you might have guessed, I didn’t have to enter academia to learn about the issue. Between teaching six-year-olds how to read and teaching teachers the wonders of behavioral narration, I’d gotten a pretty good read on the situation. What interested me most was the way teachers experience stress; what, specifically, most stresses them; and how in the world we might support the mental health and well-being of those in the world’s most important (and stressful) position. The following is a list of some of the things I have learned in three years on the academic side of the field:
- CMs and alums are stressed. For my preliminary doctoral research, I surveyed 62 current and former CMs (all currently in the classroom) and two-thirds ended up in the “stressed group.” Shocker.
- But they’re not alone. Current research suggests that chronic stress plays a significant role in the rising attrition rate for novice teachers in general. Studies also show that pressure to raise student test scores causes teachers to experience more stress and less job satisfaction.
- You’ve got a friend. Relationships among colleagues in school buildings have a huge (maybe even the largest) impact on teacher well-being. This is true for administrators as well. There may be more than one good reason to attend that Thursday-night happy hour…
This week’s post is the second part in a series about cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is the technical term for the process of challenging our irrational thoughts. This process involves first paying attention to thoughts and recognizing when they are irrational. If you read last week’s post, you have probably begun to notice some errors in your thinking. You may have realized that there are certain categories of irrational thoughts that you are more prone to engaging in than others. The next part of cognitive restructuring involves challenging irrational thoughts and learning replacement thoughts and behaviors. Let’s break this next part of cognitive restructuring down into concrete steps.
The following four-step process is taught at Harvard Medical School, and it’s one way to help derail stress that is caused by distortions and negative thoughts. When you notice yourself engaging in irrational thoughts, you can do the following:
Step 1: STOP. Consciously call a mental time-out.
Step 2: BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths to release burgeoning tension.
Step 3: REFLECT. Ask some hard questions regarding the rationality of your thought. The following is a list of “Challenging Questions” that can guide you in assessing the accuracy of your thoughts: