Three strategies to manage stress: teachers and education staff

KS2 Leader Bethan Ware shares what she does to help manage her stress levels.

Articles / 3 mins read

We know that much of the stress that teachers and education staff experience is caused by systemic issues and sometimes the cultural mindset at some schools. But there are still some strategies and that we as individuals can use to help manage our day to day stress within this context.

These strategies are not going to work for everyone. But sharing the things that I tend to do that help me manage my stress, can hopefully make a difference to other teachers and education staff.

1. Do a quadrant plan

I struggle terribly with mental load as a teacher and leader. To deal with that load I use a quadrant plan. It's like a traditional to-do list but split into four. How you title each quadrant will be different for everyone. My titles are:

  • class teacher to do
  • leadership to do
  • home to do
  • family to do

This helps me compartmentalise all of the different things that are rushing through my brain and reduces my stress levels. For example, if I’m doing something with my family, and I think “oh I've actually got to do that IDP and speak to so and so”, I can just jot it down in my leadership to do quadrant. That way I I have acknowledged it, it's added to my list, but I'm back and present with whatever it is I'm doing at the moment.

2. Setting boundaries and saying no

Something that is crucial but difficult to do, is setting boundaries and saying no. It's not in our nature as educators to say “no” – we tend to say “yes” to everything. We have the constant dialogue in our heads “but it's for the children, I must do it for the children”.

But you need to check in with yourself, and make sure you let go of things that are going to cause you burnout. There's nothing wrong with protecting yourself. Also, as a leader, I check in with staff to discuss if they are taking on too much. This helps to ensure they can manage their workload without increasing their stress levels.

Brian Dyson the CEO of Coca-Cola, talks about having glass balls and rubber balls in life. You need to think: what are your glass balls? And what are your rubber balls? So that when you're juggling all of these balls, think about which glass balls do I need to focus on, because if I do they will smash, and consider which rubber balls you can let go of, because they are going to bounce up again.

I really love that analogy and I remind myself to prioritise my glass balls that I cannot let go of. It really helps me to set those boundaries.

3. Grounding relationship

You need a grounding relationship, whether that's a partner, friend, family member or colleague. This is a person that gives you space to vent about what you are experiencing right now.  

We know speaking to someone is important – the Education Support helpline offers this too.

When you talk to someone, this gives you chance to explore your feelings and acknowledge your emotions.

You need someone to listen to you; to help you see the bigger picture; to grant you permission to give yourself space when you are struggling.

I love quotes and one of my favourites is: “If you don't take a break, nature will do it for you.” It is essential as a teacher and educator to have that partner to give you that perspective and permission to have a break when you need it.

Bethan Ware is a KS2 Leader at a primary school in Wales. She runs @tenminuteteach on Instagram.

We provide a free and confidential helpline. You can call 24/7 for emotional support: 08000 562 561. Please don't wait until things are really difficult for you or you're in crisis to ring that number. Of course you can ring then but it's very important that maybe we support you at an earlier stage if you're struggling.

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