Teach Tip Tuesday: Managing the small stresses.

Firstly I would like to welcome all our readers into the new year and let you know just how excited I am for 2019. This year is a year of change fraught with stress at every turn and I have to say that over the last few weeks it has been getting to me. When we let all the small stresses pile together it doesn’t take long for them to snow ball, leaving you with one unmanageable ball of stress that is difficult to get out from under.

Everyone has ways that they manage the small stresses. These might be subconscious management strategies or intentional ones. In my year of change to help manage this my strategies need to be up front and intentional because unfortunately doing it subconsciously is just not going to cut it.

I will exploring some of the big changes that are happening for me over the next few weeks but for this week’s Teach Tip Tuesday I have 5 strategies that you can use to prevent the snowballing stress effect.

1. Focus only on what you have direct control over. 

When everything is changing around you it easy to get frustrated, anxious and stressed over every change and every part of the change that you don’t understand. It is important to remember that you if you can’t control it to action it if you have to (because you can control if it is actioned) or leave it to revisit if necessary.

This year I have adopted a focus on my circles. The circles define for me what I do and don’t have control over and help me to keep this in perspective and yes sometimes I still lose perspective which simply results in being overwhelmed.

The circles are made up of three circles as below:

Circle of control

The inner circle is my circle of control and it encompasses the things I have direct control over, this is where I am trying to focus my energy this year. The second circle is the one that includes all things that I can influence through discussion, feedback etc but ultimately I don’t have control over the final decision this is the area I struggle with the most. Finally the circle of concern are all the things that I might worry about but have no control in the outcome, my focus is trying not to stress about things that sit in this outer part of the circle.

There are other strategies out there that utilise this same idea, allowing you to make a conscious decision to not focus or stress on an aspect that you have limited or no control over.

2. Find a positive in everyday

When everything seems to be against you and it seems that every hour brings another task that you can’t possibly complete in your day it is easy to be overwhelmed and each of those small stressful tasks becomes one mammoth task to deal with.

On these days before you leave take 2 minutes to think about the positives that you had that day. If it helps write it down.

Leaving the workplace with positive thoughts about your day helps to refocus you in a positive way on your return the next day regardless of the endless list that might present itself to you on your arrival.

3. Take a moment out of your day to chill

So often, especially as a teacher our days are full of meetings, lesson prep, student questions and of course the teaching, that there is hardly a moment to stop, to take stock and have a break.

Since the start of the term at least once a day I ensure that I make my way out of my office to the staff table and sit and eat my lunch or morning tea. I do this even if there are no staff in the staffroom with me. This is my time to detach from work for just 5 minutes, catch-up on Facebook, chat with a colleague or just generally sit.

By setting this time aside I can refocus on the next pressing task once I return to my office just as if I had walked in fresh at the start of the morning.

4. Organise your tasks

Having many tasks to complete in tight deadlines can be overwhelming.

Having an intentional way of organising your tasks can help to manage this stress. This may include:

Don’t end up with lists like this.
Woman Reading Long List — Image by ¬© Images.com/Corbis
  • General check lists
  • Prioritised lists focusing on deadlines
  • Prioritised lists focusing on the effect of the completion of the task on others.
  • Categorised lists focusing on the different categories of jobs
  • Urgent reminders in your calendar.
  • Scheduling regular meetings, classes and tasks in your calendar

I use all of these methods depending on the load of stress that I have. At the beginning of each term I set up my electronic term calendar so that I can easily see the time I have free each morning when I arrive to work. This helps me to be realistic about the tasks that I set for myself to complete each day.

5. Find your destressing activity

Over the years I have realised that managing stress isn’t just about what you do at work but also what you do once you leave work.

I have found that the best thing for me to help clear my mind when everything seems about to snowball is exercise. I build this in regularly into my weekly schedule.

For you it could be reading, singing, netflix etc. but I do think that it is exceptionally important to know what it is that helps you leave the work behind so that when all seems too much you can make a purposeful decision to address it through your activity that helps you.

Hopefully one of these helps you manage your stress this year to ensure that it is a happy and productive one. But remember sometimes we can’t manage everything on our own and need to find that person to help, a person to hold your umbrella just for a few moments while you reset and refocus.

If you don’t feel you can talk to anyone there is always help available:

Lifeline: https://www.lifeline.org.au/ or 13 11 14

Beyond blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ or
1300 22 4636


About cmcaton

I am a Secondary Teacher and Head of Department Mathematics in Education Queensland. I am passionate about the development of pedagogy that engages the 21st century student and love to explore their implementation in the classroom. Disclaimer: The thoughts on this page are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.
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