If you’re feeling overwhelmed today, you’re not alone. Teachers across America are struggling with unprecedented levels of mental stress. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence conducted a national survey of more than 5,000 U.S. teachers.
When asked to describe their mental health and stress levels, the five most common terms that educators used were “sad,” “overwhelmed,” “anxious,” “fearful,” and “worried.” Thankfully, positive psychology can help you to build your resilience to stress, prevent burnout, improve your overall well-being, and lead to better outcomes in your classroom.
Common sources of mental stress
Pennsylvania State University recently investigated the most widespread triggers of mental stress for teachers. The study found that job demands and access to work resources were the most common causes of stress among educators. This was often due to new policies or new classroom strategies being implemented without teachers’ being given structured training and support.
Other sources of stress, according to Pennsylvania State University, include school culture (including school leadership, or lack thereof) and high job demands.
How stress messes with your brain
When you’re faced with a stressful situation (such as ambiguous pandemic policies, unreasonable work demands, or new curriculum requirements without adequate resourcing or training support), your body’s stress response kicks in. Stress hormones course through your body, quickening your heart rate and raising your blood pressure. Your breathing speeds up, flooding your system with oxygen. Your skin gets flushed and heats up, and you may even break into a sweat.