This week I asked a lot of teachers, coaches and educational professionals, ‘What stresses you out about your job, and how do you deal with it?’ Some of the recurring themes were:
  • working too many hours or having too many students.
  • being unfairly criticised by parents or colleagues.
  • meetings that waste time and achieve nothing.
  • managing ‘bad’ behaviour in class.
  • dealing with individual student needs.
  • not having enough time to do the job ‘properly’.
  • feeling responsible without having the power to do anything about it.
  • worrying about where the next freelance job is coming from.
  • not feeling that their skills and experience are appreciated.
In some places I asked, this was a huge outpouring. Almost no-one, however, commented on how they dealt with the stress. Ignoring it and looking forward to the next holiday is not, in my experience, an effective strategy in the long term. Literally as I was writing this last sentence, my email pinged, and I had a message from the universe, or rather from Eckhart Tolle’s present moment reminders:

‘’Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.’’

Exactly. There is absolutely no point in expending energy feeling angry or resentful or upset about thing being different from how we wish they were. So, what can you do instead? Firstly, try writing down everything that stresses you out about your job. Actually do it. Make a list and then come back to read the rest of the post.

What’s in your control.

Start by underlining all the things that you can see immediately are in your control (as far as anything is) and consider how you could change them. For example, if you know that drinking too much coffee makes your stress worse, you can stop doing that and drink more water. If you know you add to your stress by being disorganised, think of some strategies. For example, how you manage your to do lists. If making these small changes was all you did to manage your stress, it would still make a huge difference. If you feel resistance to making these changes, ask yourself why? Is part of you (your Inner Troll) quite enjoying being stressed? Next highlight all the things that you don’t feel are in your control, but that you could perhaps alter with a bit of effort and teamwork. For example, could you do anything about the way that meetings are run so that they became shorter and more focused? Notice when your Inner Troll starts the ‘yes, but’ game. ‘Yes, but I can’t do that because…’ and push yourself a bit to find some solutions.

What’s out of your control.

By now, you probably have a pretty long to do list, but if you want more… look at the things where you really can’t do anything to change them. For example, if you can’t change the format of meetings, consider how it might feel if you could just accept that they will take two hours, and use the time to work on your mindfulness. Notice the feelings arising, notice how you and other people respond. How often do you get the chance to sit and do nothing for two hours? Be aware of any resistance to that idea of seeing things differently- that’s your Inner Troll again, telling you that you have a right to be frustrated or angry. Of course you do, but is it doing you any good or changing anything? Finally, look at your list and choose 3-5 changes to put into place this week. Next week, you could perhaps add a few more. Over time if you do this honestly you’ll start to see a real difference.