Science of Stress Series Part 2: Getting to the Root of Your Stressors

Science of Stress Series Part 2: Getting to the Root of Your Stressors

This is Part 2 of The Science of Stress Series, if you haven't read Part 1 click here.

Understanding Stressors

A stressor is something that creates stress in our lives. For teachers it could be deadlines, testing, student behavior, school culture, lack of planning, the list goes on and on.

In order to effectively handle a stressor you have to understand the reasons why the stressor exists. You need to be able to name the stressors and identify why they are stressing you out. This allows you to effectively problem solve and recruit the right types of help/resources.

Naming our Stressors

You can probably do this fairly easy, when you think about your job what brings your blood to a boil or makes your palms sweat? What is it specifically that makes you stay up at night? Once you have identified that, we can talk about why those things cause you stress.

Identifying the Why

Teaching is stressful, but one thing I have seen is that every teacher has different stressors for different reasons. The reasons for the stress typically relate to the teacher as a person, their emotions, their insecurities, and their needs or expectations.

Two teachers complaining about “not enough planning” have the same complaint but for different reasons. The first teacher is stressed about not being able to plan engaging lessons and is upset because she feels she’s doing a disservice to her students. The second teacher is stressed because she needs more time to follow up on student behavior and enforce consequences. (UGH, this is already stressing me out!) So, two teachers, same complaint, completely different reasons. If we focus just on the complaint of "not enough planning," it limits our ability to creatively problem-solve and seek the right resources or help. 

In order to problem solve stressors you have to understand the root of the stressor.

Let’s Look at Some Examples

The stressor is not enough planning time.

Reason why this is a complaint: The lack of planning means the lessons are not thoughtfully planned, which results in a lot of unstructured time in your classroom and leads to student behavior.

The stressor is too many deadlines.

Reasons why this is a complaint: The number of deadlines is hard to keep track of, leaving you falling short on some projects. This brings up insecurities and fear of being considered inadequate.

The stressor is student disrespect.

Reasons why this is a complaint: You have an expectation that students should respect teachers and a clear idea of what respect is and isn't. When students don’t meet your expectations, it affects your ability to influence them, impacting your sense of control. The disrespect also affects you on a personal level, reducing your motivation and straining your relationships with students.

How To Find the Root

 Finding the reasons behind your stressors can be tricky. If you dig deep and brainstorm, or recruit the help of your best friend it is a lot easier. One suggestion I make to teachers is to use the "WHY" exercise. When you think about your stressor, keep asking and answering "why" until you strike a nerve. Once you have struck a nerve, you have found the root of the stressor.

And once you have identified the reasons behind the stressor, you can start to problem-solve and work towards eliminating it. Which takes us to Part 3.

Part 3

Here is the link to Part 3: Problem Solving your Stressors! Click HERE

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