Such dedication need not be negative. A teacher should, above all, be a person who wants to make a big difference in students’ lives. The challenge is to make that difference without permitting stress to drive you out of teaching. The challenge is to practice good stress reduction techniques.
Understanding Stress Reduction
An understanding of stress reduction must begin with an understanding of stress. Stress is not that stack of un-graded papers. Stress is not the child who insists on asking endless questions, no matter how well you explain. Stress is not a matter of two teenagers leaping into the aisle to fight, while the rest of the class chants, “Fight, fight, fight.” Stress is not the parent who calls repeatedly to complain that you are not doing what is best for her child. Stress is not even the principal inviting you to the office for a job review conference.
All of the above are stressors, not stress.
A stressor is a stimulus that causes stress. The illustrations above are of stressors. When Job broke that expensive science equipment, his action was a stressor. When Betty brought her father’s spearfish for show-n-tell – and stabbed it into your right arm – that was a stressor. They were stimuli that caused stress. They themselves were not stress, but they stimulated stress.
Stress is your RESPONSE to the above examples. “Good stress” or “bad stress” is produced dependent on your response. Which calls for job stress reduction?
On the one hand, you respond negatively in fight-or-flight mode. Adrenalin floods your body and muscles tense. Blood is shunted from extremities to core organs. All systems are “go” for fleeing or fighting the enemy.
On the other hand, you respond positively by becoming excited and challenged. Endorphins power happy determination to move ahead. You are flooded with a feeling of euphoria, ready to make the best of the stressor.
Stress, negative or positive, is your response to stressors.
We continue with a brief look at the two kinds of stress.
Eustress – Beneficial, Good Stress
Teachers, job stress reduction programs are unnecessary when the stress involved is eustress. Eustress is an appropriate, positive response to the stressors teachers meet. “Eu” means “good” in Greek. Picture joy and laughter. Eustress is pleasant, healing stress.
Eustress may appear to be an emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical overload, but it does not drain away power. It energizes you; helps you handle the overload. Teachers’ job stress reduction programs should begin with a presentation of eustress and the benefits it offers.
Distress – Detrimental, Bad Stress
Most teachers’ job stress reduction programs focus only on distress. Distress is an inappropriate, negative response to the stressors of a teacher’s job. “Di” means “two” in Greek. Picture double trouble coming your way. Distress is often a disabling, crippling stress.
Distress, like eustress may appear to be an emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical overload. Unlike eustress, distress drains power for anything other than fight or flight. Distress tires you; freezes the brain, and makes it difficult to handle the overload. Teachers’ job stress reduction programs should include a presentation of distress and the detrimental effects it carries.
Employ Stress Augmentation!
Paradoxically, teachers, job stress reduction can be as simple as job stress augmentation. You need to augment, or increase, eustress on the job.
Remembering that stress is nothing more than your response to the demands placed upon you, recognize that you have control over job stress. You may choose to respond positively or negatively; with eustress or with distress.