12 signs of stress

A little can give you extra verve during important occasions like interviews, but too much stress can have devastating effects on your life.

Like any problem, it makes sense to deal with it as early as possible to get the best results. Jessica, secondary school teacher suffered from recurrent minor illnesses. “. I eventually went to the doctor and he suggested that it could be stress and started asking about my lifestyle. I just burst into tears because things were just too much,” she says. “A couple of years ago, I could have dealt easily with problems like that but suddenly they felt impossible to solve. I felt overwhelmed for large parts of the day and noticed I was snapping more, at my class and at home with my family.”

After a long phone call to a trained coach at Teacher Support helpline, Jessica realised that her workload was excessive and frequent changes meant that she could never settle for long. “There was no support at my school, either,” she says. She realised that she had the power to change her situation, set to work on the changes, and at the same time made sure that she had a better work life balance.

So what are the signs of stress? Here are 12 common symptoms:

Moodiness and over-sensitivity
If things that you would normally laugh off suddenly seem to irritate you, then this could be a sign that you are stressed. “I’d just taken the class register one morning when I noticed that I’d filled out the afternoon register by mistake,” says Lydia Matthews, primary school teacher. “I got myself into such a state about it that I even started sweating. Normally, I would crack a joke with the class about my mistake and calmly re-take the register.”

Constant worrying
At the end of the day, take some time out to recall your thoughts throughout the day. How many of your thoughts were expressions of concern?

Feeling overwhelmed
“I can cope with most things as I’ve been teaching for 17 years,” says Ann Shaw, secondary school teacher. “Any additional tasks from management had me in tears in the bathroom. I just couldn’t cope at all” Too much work pressure or a build-up of worries related to work or personal matters can leave teachers feeling overwhelmed.

Finding it hard to remember things
Drawing a sudden blank, or forgetting things that you would normally remember is a typical sign of stress.

Pessimism
Is your cup half full or half empty? Do you always see or expect the worst?

Muddled thinking
Knowing your class timetable is crucial to smooth class management, but if you turn up with your class in full PE attire in the sports hall on a day when you’re scheduled for literacy hour, then that’s a sure sign of muddled thinking and a strong indicator of stress.

Over or under eating
Changes in eating habits are often associated with emotions and worries. “Within the space of two months, I went up by two dress sizes,” says Minah Shah, primary school teacher. “I’m sure it was related to an imminent Ofsted inspection.”

Increase in drinking or smoking
Drinking or smoking more than usual, or any involvement with drugs can be a way that some people choose to deal with stress. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually deal with problem, but simply masks it and in many cases makes the problem worse.

Reduced work output
It could be a sign that it’s time for a holiday if you find that your work output is lower than usual. Teachers often slow down a little coming up to the end of term as energy levels drop. But if your work output is lower at the start or in the middle of term, then you could be stressed.

Frequent minor illnesses
Stress can lead to lower immunity and a tendency pick up minor illnesses.

Loss of libido
Changes in sexual drive is often associated with stress

Sleep disturbance
Have your sleeping patterns changed? Do you find it difficult to get to sleep, or find yourself waking in the early hours?

High blood pressure
Keep a check on your blood pressure by visiting your local GP. High blood pressure can lead to severe and life-threatening conditions such as stroke so it is essential to keep this under surveillance.

Some people may show many of these symptoms - others may not. The symptoms may also be due to a health issue and it is always best to consult your GP for advice. Stress has many symptoms and more of these are detailed below, but again symptoms vary according to individuals:

Emotional changes
Irritability or agitation; general unhappiness; loss of sense of humour; poor self-esteem;, feeling demotivated; becoming withdrawn; feeling isolated

Thought changes
Impaired judgement; finding it hard to concentrate; indecision; racing thoughts or mind blanks

Behavioural changes
Floor pacing; nervous habits; increased sickness absence

Physical changes
Aches and pains; fatigue; sweating; headaches; shallow breathing,; accident prone; stomach upsets; fast heart rate; disregard for personal appearance

With thanks to the Health and Safety Executive

Need more advice? Visit the Teachers’ survival guide