Create your balance. Design your life.

Self-Care for Teachers and Other High-Stress Professionals

By Erin D’Addio

Teachers experience a slow-burning kind of stress.  In “Stress in the American Workplace,” by Charlotte Kuchinsky, jobs where people need to conceal their true feelings and hide emotions (like teaching and social work), are considered among the most stressful.  Jobs in which workers are bombarded with constant negativity, behavioral issues, and complaints also rank high on the list. While teachers are not on the front lines of danger (like firefighters, police, or soldiers), they often deal with safety concerns, troubled individuals, and volatile situations.  Schools are often “on lock down” for threats that need to be evaluated by law-enforcement and teachers are called on to protect the students in their care.

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A study funded by the American Psychological Association says that, “more than one-third (36%) of all workers say they typically feel tense or stressed out during their workdays, with 20% reporting that their average daily level of stress is an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.”  While stress varies from person to person, mindset and self-care play a hue role in a person’s ability to cope.

Ways to alleviate stress:

1. Mindset:  People in high stress situations need work towards keeping a positive outlook.  Mindfulness exercises, gratitude practice, and other positive thinking practices can greatly reduce stress.  People also need to make sure they have a healthy place to express their true emotions. Journaling, finding a mentor, or even therapy are healthy suggestions for careers that often require people to keep their emotions inside for long periods of time.

2. Nutrition and Exercise: It is no surprise that an unhealthy body increases stress.  Exercise is also an efficient way to boost endorphins and re-focus the mind.

3. Maintain A Support Network: Turning our gaze to another person’s issues, and helping them through difficult situations, has several benefits.  Helping other’s often puts life into perspective and people are more likely to be there for you when the favor is returned.  Rather than pulling away from friends and family during times of stress, reaching out for support (and giving it in return) ensures a long lasting system.

4. Cultivate Other Aspects of Yourself: The mind needs distractions.  Hobbies, interest groups, volunteering, and spiritual endeavors are all healthy ways of re-focusing the mind away from issues that cause stress.  When people dwell on their problems, the stress gets worse.

5. Manage Pain in Healthy Ways:  In a study about the cost of pain in the workforce, researchers tracked time loss attributable to common pain conditions, including arthritis, back pain, headaches, and other musculoskeletal discomfort. Workers struggling with pain lost an average of 4.6 hours per week. Specifically, workers with headaches lost 3.5  productive hours per week, and those with arthritis or back pain lost 5.2 hours per week on average. This translates into an approximate $61.2 billion loss for employers, per year.  Pain medication, alcohol, and other addictive coping behaviors cost even more–in therms of health and financial loss.  Teachers have to find healthy ways to manage or eradicate pain.  Regular doctor’s visits, acupuncture/holistic medicine, proper footwear/insoles, and workplace ergonomics can help reduce or control symptoms.

Teachers, among other professions, are on their feet for extended periods of time. Back, neck, and knee pain are common ailments in the profession. I have found great relief in using the Sof Sole Plantar Fasciitis Orthotic Insoles, which you can order from Insoles and Beyond. As a first grade teacher and I am on my feet all day. I love to wear slip on ballet slippers, but they do not provide the cushion or support I need. I have developed Plantar Fasciitis and often came home with extreme pain in my feet.  I was given a pair of these to try and I highly recommend them.  They fit nicely into a variety of shoes and are not bulky. I wore for an entire week and I am happy to report that I was able to get out of bed each morning and not limp to get ready for work.  As a result, I was able to start each morning with energy and a positive outlook, instead of pain.

If you suffer from back, knee, or foot pain, getting a pair of proper insoles will change your stress levels and keep you going.  If you have plantar fasciitis, you should also do regular exercises to help flare ups.

While work life balance and employee health are important issues to employers, it is our responsibility to develop a proper regimen of self care.  Stress levels, pain levels, health, job performance, and our relationships are at risk.  Many people in stressful jobs, like teaching and law-enforcement, feel like they are answering a call.  As with any situation where a person is looking out for the well-being of others, it is too easy to loose sight of oneself.  Life they say on the planes, “Put on your oxygen mask first!!”  You are less helpful if you are not in top form.

**My insoles were provided by Insoles and Beyond .  I did not receive any compensation for using the product, or for mentioning the product, and the views expressed in this article are my own.  That said–they are wonderful (and not just for sports)!  You can find more information about them here or here.

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