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By Patricia Smith, R.N.

As a new faculty member, the thought of a new school year brings both excitement and feeling overwhelmed! What will the students think of me? How will I get all of these papers graded in time? How will I handle the discipline problems? Why am I so tired? What ever made me think I could be a teacher? One instructor, after thirty years of teaching, admitted to the same reoccurring nightmare at the beginning of each school year- standing before the class without any clothes on!

Or perhaps you are a veteran teacher, returning bone weary. The public often believes a teacher's day ends at 3:00 p.m. What they don't see is the time and effort involved in grading papers, record keeping, assisting students after class, course preparation, attending school functions and committee meetings, the many hours spent on hiring committees, working with school clubs and organizations, and attending to professional growth and development.

Teaching is a rewarding profession in that it encompasses all of our resources -physical, social, psychological and spiritual. However, it is easy to become depleted! Being "other focused" - we often put our own needs and our family's needs last. Burnout is not uncommon. By recognizing the early warning signs of burnout, we can take steps to control stress.

Remember you don't have to give away the well! Buckets will do!

Utilize your resources. Other teachers, faculty development workshops, and professional journals and references can help with classroom management tips. Find a role model. Become familiar with and utilize student support services on your campus. You do not have to do it alone! As a teacher, you can create a psychologically safe classroom where optimal learning can occur. Look for opportunities to participate in college wide decision making processes and plan your own development. Refuel through growth and learning. What do you need to unleash your creative potential in the classroom? Finally, enlist the support of family and friends in your stress management plan.


We all feel the symptoms of stress.  What are yours?

Physical Symptoms

  • change in sleeping behavior *
  • change in appetite *
  • change in sexual desire *
  • back pain
  • allergies
  • chest pain
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • racing heart
  • nightmares
  • restlessness
  • stomachaches
  • frequent colds
  • constipation or diarrhea

*early warning signs of stress

Emotional Symptoms

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  • anger
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • difficulty making decisions
  • loneliness
  • nervousness
  • worrying
  • upset
  • unhappy
  • feeling trapped

Behavioral Symptoms

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  • withdrawing from family and friends
  • increasing use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • difficulty concentrating
  • being late
  • watching more TV
  • avoiding responsibility
  • arguing
  • neglecting appearance

Examples of Stressors

Financial Stressors

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  • bankruptcy
  • growing debt
  • child support
  • alimony
  • financial gain
  • fixed or reduced income
  • taxes

Daily Hassles

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  • child care
  • traffic
  • waiting in lines
  • equipment that doesn't work
  • losing or misplacing items
  • household chores

Environmental Stressors

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  • noise
  • crowds
  • smog
  • traffic
  • weather
  • crime

Family Related Stressors

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  • death of a family member
  • illness, injury or surgery
  • marriage
  • divorce or separation
  • pregnancy or adoption
  • being single or alone
  • sexual problems
  • caring for an elderly relative
  • moving
  • sexual problems
  • parenting
  • poor communication
  • problems with in-laws
  • a child moving out or returning home

Health Related Stressors

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  • poor eyesight
  • poor hearing
  • pain
  • sleep disorders
  • medication side effects
  • obesity
  • headaches
  • loss of mobility

Work Related Stressors

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  • overwork
  • a long commute
  • starting a job
  • a promotion
  • lack of training
  • lack of recognition or feedback
  • downsizing
  • a noisy environment
  • new responsibilities

Immediate Stress Reducers

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  • ask yourself  "Can I control this?"  If not, let it go....
  • breathe
  • SCREAM!!!!!!
  • take a walk around the block
  • music
  • bubble bath

Other Tips for Reducing Stress

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  • talk it over with a friend
  • consult with your health care provider
  • get up ten minutes earlier so that you are not rushed
  • choose a time and place to do your work.....and leave it there!
  • know what is expected
  • delegate
  • get organized
  • alternate right brain and left brain activities, e.g. mental and physical tasks or sleep
  • avoid clustering -- plan ahead if possible.  Too much change, too fast is stressful
  • welcome change
  • congratulate yourself for what you are able to accomplish
  • keep a journal

Time Management Tips

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  • schedule work
  • prioritize
  • break big jobs down into small parts
  • group similar tasks
  • take breaks
  • look for ways to increase efficiency -- return phone calls at one time, combine errands, cook several meals at once
  • are your beeper, cell phone, e-mail and voice mail running you?
  • include yourself in your schedule as your first priority, not your last.
  • learn to say no.  No is a complete sentence. No.
  • what are your favorite activities and when did you last do them?

Do you have a WELLNESS Lifestyle?

 Sleep, exercise, and nutrition are the first to go when experiencing stress. Extra attention to these will increase your ability to cope!

SleepClick To Preview

Are you sleep deprived? Eight -nine hours of sleep per night at regular times may be all that is needed to combat stress.

  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  2. Exercise during the day.
  3. Take a warm bath.
  4. Pray or meditate.

ExerciseClick To Preview

  1. Exercise at least 30 minutes each day to reduce tension and improve your health
  2. Choose an activity that you enjoy and look forward to.
  3. Try a new activity, for example, Yoga or Tai Chi.

Nutrition Click To Preview

  1. Eat breakfast
  2. Choose a low fat, high fiber diet
  3. Eat regular meals,
  4. Reduce sugar intake
  5. Don't over-eat.

Are you getting your FIVE a day? Five fruits and five vegetables per day are recommended for optimal health.


Relaxation techniques can improve well-being:

    1.  Progressive RelaxationClick To Preview

 Sit or lie comfortably. Tighten the facial muscles and then relax your entire body. Move on to other muscle groups - shoulders, arms, chest, legs, feet -- continue until you have tensed and relaxed your whole body.

    2. Visualization Click To Preview

Imagine a peaceful scene and imagine yourself in this setting.

    3. MeditationClick To Preview

Close your eyes and concentrate on a calming word or thought.  If other thoughts pass through your mind, simply ignore them.

    4. Deep BreathingClick To Preview

     Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and the other below your rib         cage. Inhale through   your nose and feel your abdomen rise. Exhale through your mouth, emptying your lungs, and allowing your abdomen to fall.  Let the exhales be twice as long as the inhales. The breath is a natural tranquilizer.

Develop a Stress Management Plan  Click To Preview

  1. Set your stress management goals and plan of action. Don't forget a target date.
  2. Get support. Tell family, friends and co-workers about your goals for extra encouragement.
  3. Keep a log or journal of your progress
  4. Reward yourself

Plan for Stress Management 

1.Find a job closer to home
  • Update skills
  • Attend conference
  • Update resume
  • Send resume to local colleges
  • Inform  family, friends and colleagues of plan
1.September 2001
2. Delegate yard work to kids
  • Lawn mowing to Matt,
  • Edging to Mark,
  • Watering to Shannon.
  • Increase allowance.
2. Immediately
3. Hire a teacher's assistant to help with grading
  • Contact a graduate student from the  local university.
3.August 2001
4. Begin exercise program
  • Schedule a complete physical exam
  • Buy new running shoes at next sale.
  • Walk 2 miles 3X per week. M, T, W
  • Run 1 mile ( walk the ends and run the lengths of track) - 3Xweek- Fri, Sat, and Sun at 8:00 a.m.
4. July 1, 2001
5. Eat "Five a day" (fruits and vegetables)
  • Add fruit to breakfast cereal.
  • Fruit yogurt for lunch, add low sodium vegetable juice and baby carrots to lunch,
  • Add vegetable medley to dinner.
  • Grapes and strawberries for snack. 
  • Cook some rhubarb.
5. Immediately
6. Increase spirituality
  • Prayer/devotion 2X daily.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Attend a place of worship/fellowship.
  • Take a walk.
6. July 1, 2001
7. Develop a hobby
  • Sign up for a 6 week sculpting class at local Parks and Recreation
7. July 25, 2001
8. Re-connect with family
  • Family reunion
  • Christmas at our house
  • Weekly family outings to fish hatchery, beach, park, movies, bike ride , sporting event or museum. Invite friends along.
8. July 4, 2001

Dec. 25, 2001

Finally, if stress gets out of hand, contact: Click To Preview

  • health care provider
  • local hospital
  • mental health centers
  • employee assistance programs
  • state and local mental health associations
  • student health center
  • clergy, social workers, nurses, counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists
  • or take a wellness or fitness class at the community college, park and recreation center, or university.

Don't let stress get the best you! Take steps now to control it. You are worth it!

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