Of sound body and mind

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Are you irritable, tired, anxious, depressed, forgetful or accident-prone? Do you have headaches, digestive problems or succumb to every germ that's doing the rounds? Are you eating more chocolate or drinking more? If so, then you're suffering from stress.

Teaching is a stressful job and when you're new it's even worse, so it's nothing to be ashamed about. It's defined as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them. It arises when they worry they can't cope". Stress affects different people in different ways but you need to cope with results of it and handle the causes. Given that there is no one cause, there's no simple solution.

Stress management is a process, not a simple repair job. Look out for behaviour, mental health and physical symptoms. The first step is to recognise that the problem exists and tell someone how you feel - almost all teachers are kind and caring but they can't help you unless they know what the problem is. The Teacher Support Network* has an excellent online stress assessment you can use to identify your levels. It gives you a report, and you can email to anyone else who you think might benefit from knowing the result. It also contains suggestions for coping better. The teacher support line is open every day and staffed by trained counsellors and has a new counselling and coaching centre, LTL Connect.

Analyse the causes of your stress. You need to be very honest. Try listing your troubles, then dividing them into those over which you have some control, and those that you haven't. Work on practical solutions to those over which you have some influence.

Look after yourself by eating well and keeping fit, which could mean taking up jogging or going to the local gym, but even a quick 20-minute walk can help and that's something you can start on today.

Relax. Recovering from the high alert positions that our bodies may have been in for long periods during the day is important, but hard to do. Do something that forces you to think about something other than work, that needs your active involvement. A good quality and quantity of sleep is a must too. You need to be in tip-top form to teach, so invest in your body.

* www.teachersupport.info

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