08 December 2013

...Beating Stress

Photograph: Alamy
It's the nature of the job, isn't it? Inspections, ever-increasing expectations, and so many tasks to juggle, including planning, assessment, reporting and resourcing... The pressures on teachers, which seem relentless at times, amount to a genuine occupational hazard.

The pressures of the PGCE in particular are widely recognised. The learning curve is very steep for most trainees. The regular observations of your teaching practice, and the need for getting to grips with the necessary theory, subject knowledge, tasks and assignments make for a highly demanding 11 months. Current fee arrangements serve to add an unfortunate level of jeopardy for many.

It is with this in mind that Nane Steinhoff's blog in The Guardian caught my eye. Now, I know that dealing with stress is far from simple, and that a handy list of prompts is unlikely to be of any help for sufferers with acute symptoms. But, I shared the blog with a small group of trainees and it seemed to resonate. So, here it is - reblogged:


Students: 10 ways to beat stress

It's normal to feel stressed, but there are easy ways to make yourself happier. Young people should have everything to be happy about, but as the generation with the least responsibility we actually experience the most stress. A 2013 survey by the Nightline Association found that 65% of students feel stressed.

Students juggle part time jobs with university, worry about assignments and stress about the future and how to make the next step. Trying to manage all these things at once can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

As a student, every spare minute seems to be filled with worrying – you feel like you have to achieve something and make plans for your future. Instead of relaxing in the holidays, you're planning an internship to add to your CV, or working to earn some well-needed extra cash.

If you're not careful, working too hard and worrying too much can lead to "burnout" – when everything seems bleak and you have nothing left to give.

It might not seem like it when you're feeling down, but living a more stress free life is possible. There are some really easy ways to beat stress effectively. Here are some that I have encountered as a student:

1. A varied and healthy diet

Eating fresh ingredients and lots of fruit is really important. Juices filled with vitamin C, such as orange or grapefruit juice, are said to be good for your immune system so can help with stress.

When you're busy and tired it can be tempting just to grab another pizza or ready meal, but cooking from scratch can be therapeutic as well as being healthier.

2. Exercise

Doing sport at least once a week is the best way to reduce stress. It helps your body produce endorphins, which make you feel good. Even daily walks of 30 minutes can help reduce stress levels but it's even better to work out intensively. Even if you don't feel like it at the time you will feel the benefits afterwards.

Joining a sports club could also help with stress as the regular contact with other people should help improve your mood.

And why not try yoga? It's a great way to ease your mind and relax your muscles.

3. Meditation

It might sound simple, but sitting quietly for 10 minutes a day can really help with stress levels. If you've never tried meditation before, it's worth a go.

Good breathing techniques can put you in a more relaxed state as they send oxygen surging through your bloodstream, helping to calm you down and beat the stress.

4. Take breaks regularly

Short breaks between working can help you switch off. But longer breaks are important too.

How about taking the weekend off to relax? Make time for fun and for yourself even if this means that you have to schedule time away from your work. You'll hopefully come back to your work feeling fresh.

5. Get a pet

It is said that spending time with animals is good for your health. If you pat a dog for a couple of minutes, your body releases hormones that make you feel happy and can decrease the amount of stress in your system.

Most uni halls won't let you keep an animal though, so spending some time with friends or family who have pets is a good option: you get the love without the commitment.

6. Sleep (and sign off Facebook)

Sleep is always the best medicine and some people find that small 20-minute naps can help increase productivity.

As students we tend to spend too much time on social media sites and answering emails, texts and phone calls. Sociability is fun – but too much of it, and too much computer time, can lead to more stress.

Failing to switch off from work because of your electronic gadgets will only make you even more stressed.

7. Quit smoking

Some people say they smoke to relax, but researchers on the European Board for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco suggest that nicotine suppresses the hormone serotonin, which fights stress. Another good reason to quit.

8. Try to see the positive side

If you missed a deadline, try to appreciate what you learned from this mistake: now you know how to plan ahead. Things might seem bad, but if you try, there is usually something positive to be learned.

9. Listen to music

Listening to music can help calm you down and put you in a better frame of mind. If you're feeling stressed, putting on some calming music while you work could really help.

10. Laugh

They say that laughter is the best medicine, and it's really true. Laughing out loud increases oxygen and blood flow which automatically reduces stress.

Not taking life too seriously can help everyone live a better and easier life. Make time for yourself, log out of Twitter and take breaks. It's about time that we students accept that we can achieve just as much in life without all the stress.




How do you manage stress? Share your tips in the comments section below.

References & further reading

Steinhoff, N. (2013) Students: 10 ways to beat stress. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2013/nov/06/students-ten-ways-to-beat-stress (Accessed: 7 November 2013).

The Guardian (2013) Nane Steinhoff. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/nane-steinhoff (Accessed: 8 December 2013).

Youth Sight (2013) Depressed, anxious, lonely, and homesick: study reveals darker side to student life. Available at: http://www.youthsight.com/media-centre/press/depressed-anxious-lonely-and-homesick-study-reveals-darker-side-to-student-life (Accessed: 8 December 2013).

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Regards, DJA