Apparently April is Stress Awareness month and it is also probably the most stressful month of the year for many teachers. This is the month when we really try to cram in as much information as possible into our pupils ready for national testing in May so it feels very appropriate.
Teaching is becoming more and more stressful as the years go by. Every year there are new pressures on top of what already seemed like a full load. A year ago, I felt almost at the point of giving up my job completely as the stress was becoming too much. A supportive head and husband helped me through it but I have been determined that I was not going let myself feel that way again.
This year, I think that the stresses on teachers are even greater for many reasons that have been well documented elsewhere. However, although I feel hugely pressured and things have kept me awake at night, it hasn’t been as bad as last year. So what has been different?
Exercise has helped, especially walking. I live in a fairly built up area but there are a couple of walks that almost feel as though you’re in the countryside with streams and fields. Walking by water always makes me feel better.
I have also tried to build in time away from home with my husband. If I’m not at home then I can’t go onto my laptop and look at my planning again. Being somewhere completely different helps my mind to switch off properly. It’s also lovely to see new places or just walk by the sea.
However, think that a big part of the reason is that I have been more aware of the symptoms and therefore in a better position to deal with things. Last year, by the time I realised what was probably wrong with me, it was almost too late. This year, I have made a conscious effort to step off the hamster wheel when I felt that things were getting on top of me. It might be just for a short while such as going out for a walk at lunch time in the sunshine or maybe ditching the grammar exercise in their books in favour of a lesson done on whiteboards that won’t generate any more marking. Being aware of what is happening to you is really important. Stress builds up gradually and the effect can be catastrophic. I got away quite lightly but don’t ever want to feel like that again.
I don’t think that the stress in our profession is going to get better any time soon and so we need to get better at handling it. Hopefully Stress Awareness Month will help us to do that.