Stress is a physical response that affects your mental capabilities and processes. When under stress, the body thinks it is under attack or senses danger and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion. In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes! The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations E.g. the classroom, school or office. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health. The results of having increased cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido. The diagram below shows the main affects of continued stress or anxiety on the body and mind.
Of course we all suffer stress of one form or another. It is a part of everyday life for most people. Teaching in the 21st century is a demanding job and we are all under pressure to perform and measured by our effectiveness inside the classroom and beyond it. Severe stress if where the problem lies. Stress that teachers suffer is reaching unprecedented levels, brought on by a range of factors including overloading of work and marking; target setting; performance management targets; fear of repercussions with parents; disruptive children and examination results. Stress is the top reason given by teachers for taking leave of absence from schools. Teachers are placed under enormous amounts of stress, which if not dealt with effectively will inevitably lead to mental, physical, emotional and behavioural problems .
Here is a note worth remembering, your employers are responsible for your health and safety. If they fail to adequately support you or provide preventative measures to combat stress it could mean that they are negligent in their duty of care towards you. I know from running my Blog over the past 12 months that many teachers are told ‘all teachers suffer from stress’ or that ‘everyone else is under pressure here too you know’. These are not adequate responses and show a lack of care or support for your wellbeing.
“The problem with stress is that we don’t always realise at first that we are actually suffering from stress although some of its symptoms could present themselves to others, such as being short-tempered. Once we do recognise that there might be a problem some people are more likely to talk about it than others. Some people may feel scared to talk about stress because other people may view them as weak or unable to cope,”www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk