So, 2017! A new year, and after the one just passed no doubt all are hoping for better times ahead, globally, if not personally.
Staying positive throughout the school year is an ideal that just might be worth pursuing. It’s natural for there to be dips in our sense of well being at various stages of the year, and we’re not talking about hollow positivity that refuses to acknowledge the very real problems that many teachers have to face day in day out. This is far more about having the attitude that problems can be addressed, solutions sought and progress made when tackled promptly, regardless of the context we’re working in.
However, there’s a sobering fact of school life that we should all be aware of. A survey in 2016 of more than 1000 primary and secondary teachers found that more than a quarter had resorted to medication to help them deal with work-related stress. In addition, nearly a third have sought the advice of their doctor regarding work stress and 15% have received counselling.
It’s worth reading that paragraph again. More than a quarter of those surveyed are on medication; a third required doctors’ advice for dealing with stress and 15% have received counselling. These are astonishing, although not entirely unexpected figures.
It goes without saying that symptoms of negative stress, anxiety and depression must be shared with an appropriate health care professional and that they are, in no way, caused by being “negative”. But there are some strategies that we can employ to help us on a daily basis to thrive just a little more than usual…
The research described in B. L. Fredrickson’s 2009 book, Positivity, suggests that we should actively seek to remember happy times. Not always easy during the course of a busy day for teachers, but some photos of good times strategically placed in your work space just might give you the boost you need if feeling low.
Several researchers have suggested that an attitude of gratitude can help us to seek out the positive in life. Simply jotting down three things you’re grateful for at the end of the day can lift your mood. I’ve noticed that people are increasingly choosing to share their gratitude on social media. It’s an option!
If the term ahead seems to stretch in front of you relentlessly, you need to punctuate it regularly with things to look forward to. Perhaps a theatre trip, concert, holiday at half term, a weekend break, meals out (or in) with friends, play dates with your children, or something on your bucket list; you know what will work for you.
There’s no doubt that feeling connected with others can help to guard against the negative effects of excessive stress. When we’re connected with others, we have a broader perspective on life and the sense that there is more to life than just work. Seek out friends and family, maintain relationships with others and make links with colleagues.
These ideas just might help to improve the way you feel on a daily basis but are no replacement for medical help if you think you may need it.
Here’s to a great year ahead!