Teaching Fundamentals: Stress Management

Stress gradually takes its toll when an instructor feels overwhelmed by job pressures. Frequent pressing deadlines, long hours, conflicts, high expectations, insufficient resources, emergencies, sudden setbacks, financial constraints, and preoccupying personal problems are only a few of the things instructors may face every day which contribute to stress.

Stress management is particularly important during a program’s busy times. When tension and job pressures run high, the human body sometimes responds much as if it were in physical danger. It releases stress hormones into the bloodstream to prepare for self-preservation. This is a survival response which kicks the body into overdrive when there is threat of physical danger, but it is an overreaction for typical job stress. If it continues too long, it can gradually wear a person down and lead to physical and mental burnout. When there is too much to do, prioritize and delegate.

Occupational stress usually begins in the mind. When people “believe” they are under job pressure, their body follows their mind’s lead. It tenses up. Some common symptoms of stress are fatigue, irritability, nervousness, headaches, sleep and eating disorders, difficulty concentrating, etc. Left unchecked, constant stress can weaken the body’s immune system, increasing its vulnerability to a host of more serious illnesses.

Relaxation and exercise breaks are the most commonly prescribed everyday remedies for coping with stress. Though they both require an investment of time (something you -may think you have too little of already), many people find it a worthwhile trade, because afterward they are more productive and less anxious.

Occasional relaxation breaks can help relieve tension, restore equilibrium and keep your body and mind cooperating. Regular exercise is another popular and healthful way to relieve tension. As little as 20 minutes per day of aerobic activity (e.g., jogging, bicycling, tennis, etc.) can make a big difference in controlling stress.