What Can You Control?

“It is said that stress is the distance between what you have control over and what you’re responsible for. Using that definition, teaching is a very stressful job”

Amy Benjamin, Teacher and Educational Consultant

Stress. We’ve all experienced it in some capacity in our own lives. However, there are two distinct types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress are positive sources of stress such as awaiting a promotion, having children, a wedding, etc…

Distress is a negative source of stress that enters your life such as the ongoing pandemic, behaviors in the classroom, a large workload, stress at home, etc…With the ongoing distress occurring, it is important to recognize it in order to avoid burnout. Burnout is described as “A syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do people work.” (Maslach and Jackson, 1986, p. 1).

Symptoms of burnout are:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Irritability/Aggression
  • Physical/mental exhaustion
  • Problems in work relationships
  • Reduced work performance
  • Cynicism
  • Callousness
  • Hopelessness
  • Reduced joy and feelings of happiness

We all feel stress from time to time but there is hope in managing it. The coping strategies list can help you to avoid burnout by counteracting the effects of stress. The acknowledgment of your current stress levels is a good indicator of how your brain is responding to your environment. By creating a habit of positive coping skills, the less distress you may feel each day.
One way to acknowledge your stress is to take inventory of things you can and cannot control. The best way to do this is by creating lists (yes, our brains love lists) of all the things you can control and all the things that are out of your control. This list can look a lot like this:

By outlining and organizing your thoughts and realities, you are able to clearly see what is out of your control—which means you do not have to stress about what you cannot control. Freeing, right? I think this exercise is very beneficial in handling and identifying stressors in our lives. The past couple of years in the education world has produced stressors that have been unheard of until now. By practicing a little exercise like this, you can begin to train your brain to see things differently. Try it out! Although this is one way to combating stress, there are many others that I will cover in a different post.
What other little ‘self care’ tools do you practice? Let me know in the comments!

Hannah Smith, M.S, LPC-A

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