Stressed Out?

More Remedies for Reducing Teacher Stress & Burnout

stress-1837384_1920_johnhainWelcome back to our series on music teacher (and other professionals) self-care.

First, as presented in this insightful article by Chris Mumford, we confirm the notion that “stress is inevitable,” but “how you respond to it can spell the difference between a long, rewarding career or one cut short by burn-out.” Based on new research, he offers some surprising (and even counter-intuitive) techniques to better deal with it, including these “9 Stress Management Strategies Every Teacher Needs to Know.”

  1. Breathe (properly)… When you’re experiencing intense levels of stress, breathe in deeply (put your hands on your stomach and feel it expand out), for four seconds, then exhale evenly for four seconds. Keep this up for two-three minutes for maximum effect. 
  2. Embrace the stress… Viewing your stress in constructive ways [reframing] will actually cause your body to respond to it differently and prevent long-lasting physical damage.
  3. Be imperfect… Teachers are often prone to perfectionism and its ill effects: they often feel that they aren’t doing enough, or that their mistakes are magnified because of the importance of their job. If you find yourself feeling this way, fight back.
  4. stress-2379631_1920_DavidqrPractice emotional first aid… Do you beat yourself up when you experience failure or make a mistake? [Find] ways to break the negative patterns of thought.
  5. Be grateful… We have to stop, quiet our minds, and create “stop signs”—little reminders of things that we should be grateful for every day.
  6. Limit “grass is greener” thinking… You will have challenges anywhere you go.
  7. Work smarter, not harder… Find ways to delegate some of your work, or invest in tools or technologies that will make your life easier. 
  8. Ask for help… doesn’t make you weaker, it makes you better at your job.
  9. Make a connection… When you connect with another person, your body produces oxytocin, which is a chemical that helps repair the heart. If you help your neighbors, family, etc., you’re much less likely to experience the negative effects of stress. 

 

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Just Breathe… According to the Navy SEALS!

The calming, deep-breathing practice (#1 above) can be learned by reviewing a host of resources, including the book Maximizing Your Human Potential and Develop the Spirit by former Navy SEAL Mark Divine, as well as these websites:

Examples of two different NAVY SEALS breathing exercises advise us on how to reach a more relaxed state:

TACTICAL BREATHING (to alleviate “fight or flight” tension)

Place your right hand on your belly, pushing out with a big exhale. Then breathe in through your nostrils, slowly drawing the breath upward from your belly to your upper chest.

Pause and exhale, starting from your chest and moving downward to the air in your belly. Imagine your belly button touching your spine.

Once you’re comfortable with a full, deep breath, repeat it, this time making the exhale navy SEALStwice as long as the length of the inhale. For example, inhale to the count of four, pause briefly, and exhale to the count of eight. Repeat three times.

Stephanie Vozza

BOXED BREATHING (to help ground you, sharpen concentration, and become more alert and calm)

Expel all of the air from your lungs
Keep them empty for four seconds
Inhale through your nose for four seconds
Hold for a four count (don’t clamp down or create pressure; be easy)
Exhale for a four count
Repeat for 10-20 minutes

Reuben Brody

 

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Mind Over Matter

Our own minds may be our own worst enemies. Have you read the insightful article “Sustaining the Flame – Re-Igniting the Joy in Teaching Music” by Karen Salvador in the December 2019 issue of Music Educators Journal? She offers research-supported strategies for nurturing courage, peace, and resilience as well as suggested habits of thinking and action. Samples of “cognitive distortions,” a term of which I had never heard previously defining “irrational beliefs,” is addressed by “reframing” our inner voice during specific incidents of emotional distress.

MEJ December 2019Her common examples of cognitive distortions include the following. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Disqualifying (discounting) the positive events
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Filtering (focusing entirely on the negative elements of a situation)
  • Double standard (placing unreasonable/unattainable expectations for ourselves)
  • Personalizing (or “taking something personally”)
  • Polarized (placing people or situations in unrealistic “either or” categories)

Additional recommendations by Nicole Stachelski for combating stress and burnout are listed in the article:

  1. Laugh with your students
  2. Eat your lunch (take a break or enjoy social time)
  3. Schedule regular physical activity
  4. Drink more water (and visit the bathroom as needed!)
  5. Prioritize your work and set boundaries
  6. Keep a consistent bedtime
  7. Delegate – don’t be afraid to ask for help
  8. Focus on what’s really important

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More Ideas — Just Pick One!

Take a gander at this excellent Scholastic.com teacher blog-post by Nancy Jang summarizing “15 Ways to Reduce Teacher Stress.” Can you try at least one new strategy this week that resonates with you and your life?

  1. Close the door during prep time.
  2. Make a SHORT and DOABLE “Must Do” and “May Do” lists.
  3. Delegate items to parent volunteers.
  4. Lay out your outfit and prepare your healthy lunch the night before.
  5. Get a full eight hours of sleep.
  6. Don’t correct every piece of paper.
  7. Work out!
  8. Get up early!
  9. Stay away from negativity.
  10. Don’t take things home.
  11. Plan time every week/day to enjoy something that is not remotely related to teaching.*
  12. meditate-1851165_1920_PexelsLearn something new.
  13. Plan a trip.
  14. Don’t over-commit.
  15. Take ten minutes a day and mediate.

*Probably one of my own worst habits was not modeling number 11 above. No matter how busy you are with your daily in-school teaching and extra-curricular music/coaching activities, the full recommendations are important to consider:

Spend time with your family and friends, travel, work on your garden, read for pleasure, take a hike. Learn how to turn off being a teacher. Balancing your time to just be YOU (not the teacher you) allows you to be renewed and have more mental energy for your students.

Nancy Jang

A few more ideas are offered by Jennifer Gunn in her blog-post from Concordia University “How Educators Can (Really, Honestly) Unplug – And How Stress Affects Us.” As always, it is suggested that you read the entire article at the link provided.

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Get a change in scenery
  • Focus on some serious self-care
  • Make plans with friends
  • LOL
  • Unplug, literally
  • Schedule your work time and your fun time

 

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Balance

Work Life Balance ZelinskiIn almost every health and wellness article, we hear the emphasis of prioritizing and seeking a more equitable use of personal time, achieving what Ernie Zelinski, author of the best-selling book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, refers to as “work/life balance.” Future blogs on samples of “super stress reducers” in “setting boundaries,” time management, and innovative organizational tools will be forthcoming.

Several books are also recommended readings for addressing the issues of teacher health and wellness. We have already reviewed several of these. More to come.

 

Our next journey to an in-depth look at music educator self-care will explore more fully TEACHER BURNOUT. To stay up-to-date on past and future articles, publications, and workshop presentations on this topic, be sure to revisit the “Care” section of this blog-site.

 

Resources

 

PKF

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com

  • “laptop-woman-education-study-young” by Jan Vašek
  • “stress” by johnhain
  • “stress-despair-burden” by Davidqr
  • “boat-teamwork-training-exercise” by skeeze
  • “mental-health-wellness-psychology” by Wokandapix
  • “stress-relief-help-sign-relax” by Pete Linforth
  • “meditate-meditation-peaceful” by Pexels
  • “handstand-beach-sea-ocean-sand” by MatanVizel
  • “wooden-train-toys-train-first-class” by Couleur

wooden-train-2066492_1920_

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

An Engaged Mind Makes for a Happy Retiree

Boost Your Health and Outlook on Life with Brain Stimulating Activities!

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Have you fed your brain today? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, retired or not! How do you maximize your brain health and have fun doing it?

Intentionally Energize Your Mind

According to Dr. Angela K. Troyer in her August 2014 Psychology Today blog , “One great way is to find leisure activities that challenge and engage you, and to participate in them often.”

Dr. Troyer says the research is clear. “In recent years, there has been accumulating evidence that participating in activities that make you think hard and learn new things is good for your brain health. People with such active, engaged lifestyles tend to do better on memory and other cognitive tests than people who are less engaged. Even more encouraging is research showing these same individuals are less likely to develop dementia – such as Alzheimer’s disease – than those with less active lifestyles.”

She summarizes her top 6 ways to engage your brain with advice for new and challenging learning. She concludes, “It’s important to pick something that makes you think a bit.”

  1. Nurture your inner artist. You have heard me rant about this before. Music educators, go back to your “creativity roots” which inspired you to enter into this profession and “make your own music.”
  2. dancers-in-white-1440514Take up a new hobby. Now that you have the time, go exploring… and the skies the limit! But don’t forget, anything worth doing “engages the mind!”
  3. Explore cultural activities. Near or far, this is a no-brainer! We are talking about the very things we love and have experienced most of our lives: the symphony, ballet, theater, opera, museums, etc.
  4. Do old activities in new ways. How creative are you? Dr. Troyer asks, “If you already have some favorite activities, think about how you could ‘shake them up’ and make them into novel, challenging activities.”
  5. Learn something new, just for the fun of it. How courageous are you? What are you waiting for? You should have an extensive to-do list of things to try for the first time.
  6. Take the ultimate “formal learning” challenge. Enroll in a course at the local community college, community center, or library, or sign-up to volunteer in a new organization doing something you have never done before.

Read Dr. Troyer’s full article at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201408/6-ways-engage-your-brain.

curious-cat-cutout-1405973Curiosity does not kill the cat… or the retired person either!

Do you know the differences among IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), and CQ (curiosity quotient)?

Citing issues of solving the complexity of life (ever try to set-up a new printer?), the article “Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence” of The Harvard Business Review (see https://hbr.org/2014/08/curiosity-is-as-important-as-intelligence/), touches on the value of the curiosity quotient. “CQ… concerns having a hungry mind. People with higher CQ are more inquisitive and open to new experiences. They find novelty exciting and are quickly bored with routine. They tend to generate many original ideas…”

Author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic makes two important conclusions.

  1. Knowledge and expertise (like experience) translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.
  2. Although IQ is hard to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. As Albert Einstein famously said: ““I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Although we no longer have to spend our lives at school solving “complex problems” and motivating students to study and appreciate music, being passionately curious is exactly what all retirees should strive to be and do every day!

How do retirees face the tumultuous passage of leaving full-time employment?

heart-in-your-hands-1311548.jpgIf you have not read a previous blog of mine, “Advice from Music Teacher Retirees to Soon-To-Be Retirees,” check out the reprinted version on the Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/advice-music-teacher-retirees-soon-be-retirees. The act of retirement is a very stressful transition, and what would be worse is sitting around mindlessly watching television or allowing your brain to “atrophy!” In the article, I refer to Dr. Amit Sood’s writings, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living: “This a time of enormous change. You are leaving your job and friendships with colleagues and finding new things to do.” He recommends, “Find meaning in new passions, including possibly using your work skills in a new job or volunteer work.”

My own ideas on stimulating our brains have more to do with a journey into the unknown… to steal a quote from Star Trek, “to boldly go where no one has gone before!” If you have not experienced any of these, take a gander. However, you should customize (and frequently revise) your own unique list.

One retiree’s bucket list of “brainy engagements!” Not enough hours in the day…

  1. face-questions-1567164Just like a rehearsal – start off with a mind warm-up! Go to the website https://curiosity.com/. You will be amazed to read topics from the sublime to the ridiculous – examples like “Cats and Dogs Drink Very Differently” to “How Does Memory Work in Your Brain.”
  2. Have you perused the awesome coursework and lectures in iTunes University? Download the app to your smartphone… it’s free and you won’t be sorry!
  3. You need to visit the “Best of Bonk” website about creativity and critical thinking in education, hosted by a modern-day genius Dr. Curtis J. Bonk from the Indiana University of Bloomington: http://www.indiana.edu/~bobweb/cv_hand.html. Almost makes you wish you were still teaching?  
  4. Also, don’t forget to sample the inexhaustible iTunes library of free video and audio podcasts on nearly every subject in the world.
  5. In a thousand years, one could never consume all of the material available from Ted (the famous “Ted Talks” either online at http://www.ted.com/ or the TED Radio Hour hosted by Guy Raz) and YouTube.
  6. computer-monitor-tablet-and-mobile-1241520Leo the Tech Guy program and site at www.twit.tv and www.tech guylabs.com offer an extensive archive of broadcasts solving problems and recommending purchases of computers, software/apps, smartphones, cameras, home theater, and other devices.
  7. Here are a few more “very educational” and “mind nourishing” websites and television channels, many with online versions of full length episodes and videos: The Discovery Channel http://www.discovery.com/, National Geographic Channel http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/, The History Channel http://www.history.com – to name a few.
  8. Believe it or not, there are many free brain-games websites, such as http://www.games.com/brain-games and http://www.brainbashers.com/. I cannot vouch for their educational value, but word games, Sudoku, and logic puzzles can be… stimulating.
  9. If you miss being a teacher and creating tests (did we ever enjoy assessments?), there is a even website for taking and sharing quizzes: http://www.quibblo.com/.
  10. chess-world-1415252Finally, hobbyist websites are a wonderful resource. Examples: photography Flickr,  Shutterbug, and Tips from the Top Floor; family history research programs www.ancestry.com, www.familylink.com, and https://www.myheritage.com/; sewing http://www.sewingsupport.com/general-sources/sewing-websites.html;  woodworking http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/highland-woodworking-links-woodworking.aspx and http://www.woodworkers-online.com/p/top-100-woodworking-sites.html; gardening http://www.gardenguides.com/ and http://www.garden.org/; cooking http://www.epicurious.com/, http://www.bestcookingsites.com/, and http://online-recipe-websites.no1reviews.com/cooking-websites.html.

Blogs are all about sharing ideas. Comments to this site are welcome! You are invited to “join in the fun” and submit your own “engaging mind” resources!

Make it a point in your life to discover something new every day. Happiness and good mark-learns-to-row-1468576health is all about nurturing our skills/talents, exploring new pathways, facing new challenges, engaging our minds, and enjoying the “good life” after full-time employment. Nothing is stopping you from starting a new career, learning a new language, writing a book (or reading everything you always wanted to at the library), learning (better) how to act/dance/sing/play a new instrument, taking a trip to a new country (or city in the US) or journey to your backyard with a camera, and modeling the essence of the Robert Frost message, “I took the road less traveled by…. and, that has made all the difference.”

Additional Resources:

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox