Managing Stress

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Stress is your body’s natural reaction to an excess of mental and emotional pressure. Long-term stress can affect every part of your life, from sleeping problems and high blood pressure to depression. Stress is always a threat regardless of your job, but leading classes of 30 pupils 5 times a day and then working late into the night marking and preparing more lessons is bound to push some teacher to breaking point. The following techniques are proven to help you manage your stress levels and ultimately improve your quality of life.

Meditation

Meditation is a centuries old technique for training the mind and entering a relaxed state of altered consciousness. For Buddhists, and other religious followers, meditation is a key part of their philosophy and practiced as often as possible in order to help their spiritual development; however scientists and psychologists who have studied it have found the results of meditation to be positive regardless of their spiritual beliefs.  

While researching into the effects of meditation Peter Sedlmeier et al, discovered more than 160 studies that evidenced the a ‘positive and substantial effect on factors of wellbeing, including stress, negative mood and anxiety’ in the paper The Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Meta-Analysis. What’s more is that experts like Dr. Amishi Jha, from the University of Miami, tell us that just 10-20 minutes a day can be effective in changing your reaction to stress and improving attention span and memory. Learn more about the beneficial effects of meditation in headspace.com’s The Science Behind Meditation article available here.    

There is no need to sit in a certain way or practice for hours before getting it right, you can find plenty of instructional videos on how to meditate almost anywhere at any time. To learn more about meditation and try it out for yourself visit http://www.mindfulmuscle.com/ or try one of their top rated meditation video guides available for free here.

Exercise

Aside from the innumerable other ways exercise can increase you physical and mental fitness it is proven that aerobic exercise actively reduces stress levels in humans, with researches also concluding that those who exercise regularly are 30% less likely to suffer from depression. Through encouraging a release of endorphins cardiovascular exercise, that is anything like walking and running that raises your heart-rate and makes you break a sweat, can give you a short-term high that lifts the mood and promotes a calming feeling. Often called a ‘runners high’ most people would of have experienced this feeling after a strenuous run or sports game, however the effects of cardiovascular exercise are far from short-lived. Over the last 10 years researchers, such as clinical health psychologist Dr Patricia M. Dubbert, have been proving the positive impact of physical exercise on psychological well-being.

But how much exercise do you need to schedule into your week in order to get the most psychological benefit from it? Isn’t the long working hours the very reason why teachers and other professionals become over-stressed? Well researches have discovered that only a few minutes running, just a few times a week can have a very positive effect. A study by Biomedical Scientist Dr Rachel O’Callaghan in 2004 concluded that 20 minute or longer sessions of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise performed 3 times a week for 12 weeks has the most influence on the subject’s capability to manage stress.

Organisation

Planning your tasks properly, ensuring you are aware of your upcoming deadlines and learning to say no when you don’t have time to accept more responsibilities will help you beat stress. For teachers it can often be difficult to maintain organisation with such a heavy constant workload, however making a plan for each term that allows for extra time when something unavoidable crops up will help you keep on task and up-to-date with deadlines. There are plenty of online platforms that will help you organise your time more carefully such as Podio, TeamWeek or Planboard which is made specifically for teachers.

Social Support

An obvious one perhaps, but sharing the fact your stressed and talking things through with your friends, family, a psychiatrist or even spending time with a beloved pet is a sure way to make yourself feel better and alleviate the stresses of the day. It has been proven that having a good network of social support and people you can rely on leads to less chance of depression, decrease stress levels and reduce cognitive decline; however physical problems, like cancer and cardiovascular or infectious diseases, are also less likely for those with a high levels of social support. With so many convenient ways to stay in touch with your friends and family, at any time, this is the natural first step for anyone facing long-term stress.

Take a Break

Whether you are going on holiday with friends and family, visiting a spa or taking a quiet weekend to yourself having a break from work is obviously one of the most wide-spread ways to beat stress. However it is important to note that using this time as a chance to overindulge in alcohol or drugs only provides a short rest-bite from stress and with the hangover it is likely that the stressed feeling will return. Studies have proven the importance for everyone, no matter how old, to set aside time to relax as studies. One such study involving 131 German teachers found that after a 2 week break from work they generally felt less emotional exhausted and more engaged in their work for around a month, and that these effects were prolonged in teachers who found time to relax after work and at the weekends.

Medication

When all else fails and you have talked to your doctor, you may be asked to consider taking medications like beta-blockers and antianxiety drugs some of which can lead to psychological dependency and other unfortunate side-effects. However there are a lot of different options out there for natural and synthetic ways to decrease stress levels and in some cases cutting back on drugs you may ingest regularly, like alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, may be the answer. On the other hand Nootropics, or smart drugs, can provide an alternative to more conventional drugs they include nutraceutical, dietary supplements, cognitive enhancers and extracts from super-foods. This article is a good place to start for those looking to find out more about these potentially helpful medications. Other alternatives come in the form of natural or herbal remedies. Although they are often dismissed as ineffective old wives’ tales, the more scientists study these plants, the more they are learning that they have a real worth in helping people stay healthy indeed many important drugs were discovered by looking more closely at old herbal remedies and today plenty of common medicines make use of old ingredients like the use of menthol and Olbas Oil in cold remedies. To learn more about the most effective natural remedies for stress take a look at this article.

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