Most teachers are familiar with a bit of anxiety. For some, however, it can become debilitating, leaving them unable to function professionally. An interesting article from Jamie Thom in the TES, who suffered burnout himself and offers advice on how to reduce anxiety.
We will always experience a degree of anxiety in our working lives; this can be healthy and drive us to be better at what we do. Rather than fighting against feelings of stress and anxiety, it can be more helpful to take a more detached approach.
This job saps energy, calling on us to perform sometimes for more than six hours a day. Feelings of anxiety can seem supercharged when we have not allowed ourselves enough time to rest.
Cutting down on caffeine, stopping all work and electronic devices at least an hour before bed and sticking to a sleeping pattern have worked wonders for me.
Instead of always beating ourselves up about our work, viewing ourselves with the same care, kindness and empathy that we have for our students is vital for our own mental health.
Prioritising what gives us joy and meaning, alongside our work, will make us calmer and better in our classrooms: family, friends and hobbies are essential in allowing us to step outside of anxiety.
Stoicism and strategy
Stoical philosophy encourages us to consider what we have control over, and to focus our attention on that. We can’t control many of the causes of anxiety in the workplace, but we can control how we respond to them.
Thinking strategically can help us to feel in control. Knowing what we are working towards, and where anxiety trigger points in the coming weeks could be can help us approach them from a stronger position.
At times we need to force ourselves to pause and recognise the positives. That can be a simple as writing down three things that have stood out in the day: a wonderful piece of work; a delightful interaction with a young person; a moment in a lesson in which everything clicked.
Building this as a habit will mean that anxious thoughts begin to be dampened by a more positive perspective.