The last year confounded teachers, students, and parents as they tried to navigate a “new normal” in the wake of a pandemic. Lingering fears about COVID variants, combined with conflicting rules about masking and other health precautions, have led to a worrisome increase in anxiety among educators, students, and parents.
According to one survey, teachers experienced more job-related stress during 2020-2021 than other workers, prompting many teachers to leave the field entirely. In response, many mental health professionals recommend that educators, students, and families practice a few time-tested stress busters as they enter the new school year.
Many people focus on their problems during stressful times, rather than engaging in purposeful, enjoyable activities. They adopt a passive lifestyle that amplifies the anxiety.
To combat stress, people of all ages should stay active. Besides producing endorphins and other “neural chemicals”, sustained physical activity requires time, which allows people to refocus their attention on something besides the problem at hand. Experts suggest that adults and students should consider activities, such as walking, jogging, biking, weightlifting, or gardening.
Choose healthy habits.
Nervous eating is a natural stress response, but it typically leads to unwanted results, including weight gain and an unhealthy focus on body image. People often try to forget about their stress by binge-watching television or by spending hours on social media or gaming. Others “numb” themselves with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Unhealthy habits do not alleviate stress; in fact, they can worsen anxiety because the person is not dealing with the stress or its causes.
Rather than allowing unhealthy habits to continue, people should choose practices that promote wellbeing. One way to combat stress is to plan healthy meals and set aside time to enjoy them. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains regulate body functions so that people feel stronger and better prepared to meet the day’s challenges. Getting enough sleep allows the mind to process the day’s events and release nagging tensions. Simultaneously, the body has a chance to rest and repair itself naturally. The result is greater concentration and an enhanced ability to solve problems.
Connect with others.
During the pandemic, people were forced to quarantine themselves if they showed symptoms of illness. While these precautions are necessary, extended isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, sadness, depression, and despair.
Time with family and friends provides a sense of perspective, as well as an opportunity to talk about worries. Experts recommend that people who feel stress avoid social media and opt instead for positive in-person connections and personal phone calls. Adults and students should consider attending a church, joining a club, or volunteering their time.
Educators, students, and families might want to consider journaling. Writing about one’s feelings is incredibly therapeutic for many individuals. If people include Bible verses and track their prayer requests, they may begin to see God’s answers.
If journaling does not seem appealing, people should find another way to express themselves. Here are a few ideas: Write songs, poems, or stories. Dance, play, or listen to music. Draw or paint. Whatever it is, people experiencing stress should find their inner voice and express it!
If people feel overwhelming or debilitating stress, they should talk to someone they trust. It is important to seek counsel. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (ESV).
A trained professional counselor can help people who are struggling with stress discover the root of their anxiety. Together, they can find effective ways to cope.
Make an attitude adjustment.
Some people view the world negatively; their glass is always half-empty. Some experts believe that pessimism can lead to damaging attitudes, including cynicism, hostility, polarized thinking, jumping to conclusions, and catastrophizing, all of which can intensify stress levels.
By contrast, people who perceive their experiences from a positive point of view tend to find contentment, inner strength, and peace. James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (ESV).
Life’s challenges are opportunities to grow! A positive attitude adjustment can help people manage their stress and learn valuable lessons.
The Bible says that God gives willing individuals a fresh point of view, enabling them to find wisdom, peace, and hope in difficult circumstances. Philippians 4:6 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
As the author A.W. Tozer said, “When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”
Leave time for self-care.
Educators and parents should create adequate time and space to care for themselves. As role models and caregivers, they have a responsibility to guide the next generation. Careful decisions, clear communication, and appropriate responses take time and energy. Stress can impede an adult’s judgment, particularly in critical moments.
Consider the following observations by leading educators and authors:
“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” Parker Palmer
“Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.” Roy T. Bennett
Looking for more ideas?
Prep4Success Academy offers practical support to teachers, students, and families. Our founder, Kathy Howard, has over thirty years of experience as an educator, with an emphasis on guidance counseling.
Check out two of our most popular products:
The Prep4Sucess Mental Health Check-Up equips people with coping skills to thrive in trying times.
Our Self-Management curriculum focuses on methods that empower students to succeed in school and life. This package includes “Stress Management: Defining and Assessing Stress” and “Stress management: Surviving and Thriving”.
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Author: Kathy Pierce Howard, creator of Prep4Success Academy curriculum for educators and parents to enhance student motivation and success. For more TOOLS and to sign up to receive this blog go to www.prep4successacademy.com