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Self-Care

11 Practical Steps to Reduce Stress

Robin CEO and Co-Founder Sonny Thadani sat down for a very informative and insightful discussion with Dr. Barbara McKeon, Senior Programs Director at the Cahn Fellows Program and doctorate of Educational Leadership, Management and Policy. The two discussed strategies for practical steps educators can take to reduce stress.

According to the poll taken by the 400+ attendees of the Webinar:

70% feel overwhelmed at work
74% don’t feel they have enough time to do a quality job
58% find it hard to detach from work
Dr. McKeon, do you find these statistics surprising?

These statistics are not far removed from how leaders across the country are feeling right now.

Not being able to detach from work is what causes us the level of stress that is so pervasive right now. It’s affecting our health, our lifestyles, our work, our relationships, our families.

If you live with stress chronically, your body reacts as if it’s always in fight or flight mode. The long term activation of the stress response system disrupts almost all of your body’s processes and puts you at risk for so many health problems.

Has covid magnified the problem?

Definitely. What we have lost in covid is predictability.

So any time that leaders can demonstrate what predictability looks like for their team, that’s going to reduce the stress.

Lack of predictability takes away security and lack of security increases fear. What we are seeing all across the country is how that fear is manifesting itself into anger and rage and violence.

What are small, practical steps that everyone can take right now to reduce stress?
  1. Start by filling out a planning sheet. Think: what is my focus for the day? Focus on the top 3 things you need to do; that way it’s not as overwhelming. Then write your “don’t forget”s. These are followed by your “I really should”s. Finally, write down your “If I have time”s. If you parse out your day in a way that is manageable in smaller chunks, you will be more efficient and less stressed. If the top 3 things and the don’t forget box are about other people, you need to start over. They need to be about you. It’s about managing your priorities.
  2. Instead of calling something a problem, name the situation. A situation you can break down into steps, while a problem is this large thing that has to be solved. And not all problems can be solved easily. So focus on the situation. Name it, own it and change it.
  3. Observe your attitude. Are you cynical? Are you overwhelmed? Do you bring predetermined attitudes to the task you’re attending to? How are you going to rediscover the enjoyment of your work? And what do you need to do to recognize you? Make time to celebrate your accomplishments. So often we beat ourselves up and celebrate others but don’t celebrate our own contributions.
  4. Take short breaks throughout the day. Every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, either look 20 feet away or walk 20 feet away from what you’re doing and then come back. You will have a different mindset when you do.
  5. Spend time away from work doing things you enjoy. So identify the one or two things that you enjoy and do that instead of work.
  6. Seek support. You have to depend on other people. Recognize that you are human, you can be vulnerable, and reach out to coworkers, friends, loved ones to talk through and ask for support for your feelings of job stress and burnout. You do not have to do this alone.
  7. Make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health. Use a mantra. Mine is “let go”; as I’m breathing in and out, those words are what put me to sleep.
  8. Get some exercise. You have time to do 5 minutes of yoga in your chair at work. Regular physical activity helps you handle stress better.  And it can also get your mind off work and focused on something else.
  9. Play music at 60 bpm. A slower tempo of music in the background quiets your mind, relaxes your muscles, and releases the stress of the day.
  10. Keep a plant in your office. Being around plants decreases your level of anxiety, increases attentiveness, memory, and productivity and boosts your mood.
  11. Keep old family photos on your desk. Nostalgia takes us out of a stressful situation. Looking at an old family photo, something that brings you joy, that’s going to reduce the stress that you are feeling in the immediacy.

Know that you can handle everything if you prioritize, seek help, focus on what you can control and respond instead of react. You can handle everything; you just may not be able to handle it all right now.

Anything else you’d like to tell school leaders?

Sadly, 45% of leaders right now are considering leaving the profession as a result of the pandemic. What that says is you have to do something for yourself – whether that be professional development, something that inspires you, or connecting with your network of support.

If anybody listening today can find themselves a coach, somebody that is nonjudgemental and supportive, I would highly recommend that.

If you enjoyed learning about ways to improve your school culture, learn more about how Robin can support your school educator community.

To receive a profesional development credit / CE certificate, view the webinar on edWeb.

About The Cahn Fellows Programs

The Cahn Fellows Programs are year long, no-cost fellowships, for principals with 5+ years of experience. The Cahn Fellows Programs provide recognition, wellness and advanced professional development. It is currently in 10 cities but will be expanding in the future.