Teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers. Between 2020 and 2022 there was a net loss of 600,000 teachers. On top of that, 55% are considering a career change due to the stress from teaching. A disproportionate number of those on the fence are black and Latino educators. For many, the downsides have surpassed the rewards of empowering the next generation. Here are a few ways teachers can minimize their stress.
Why teaching is so stressful?
Is a teacher’s job stressful? Yes! It’s a frustrating question that teachers are asked. Many friends and family assume that teaching is an easy breezy job. You get to “play” with kids all day, right? Or the fact that you are helping to shape the next generation should be enough. However, stress is on the rise in K-12 teachers in both public and private schools in every area of the country.
While the stressors vary from one teacher and region to the next, there is a lot of overlap. Budget cuts leave classes larger than ever before. The hours spent tutoring, grading papers, and responding to parent emails infringe upon work-life balance.
What is the most stressful part of being a teacher?
If stress is not alleviated, educators can burn out. By identifying the cause of stress in teachers, a proactive and reactive plan can be created. Below are some of the top culprits:
Budget cuts—the student-teacher ratio is high. Music, physical education, and other in-school and after-school budgets are cut. This leaves teachers leading extracurricular classes, which minimizes their in-school administrative hours.
Lack of autonomy—stress from teaching includes how and what teachers can teach. Newer curriculum and standardized testing models disempower teachers to personalize learning to their individual style. This also limits personalizing learning for individual students.
Financial stress—K-12 teachers have never been particularly well-paid, and budget cuts leave wages at a record low. The same budget cuts minimize classroom spending budgets, leaving many to pay out of pocket for classroom supplies.
Student stress—in addition to classrooms being larger than before, there are fewer tools and resources to help students. Many schools no longer have a school counselor, or they only have a part-time counselor.
Parent stress—the increased volume of parent emails, helping parents home school, a lack of respectful communication, and increased demands from parents add to the stress.
Politics—what is being taught in school is highly politicized. From sex-ed to reading materials, history, and the inclusion of marginalized communities including communities of color, immigrants, and LGBTQIA.
Can teaching cause anxiety?
Absolutely! When a teacher is stressed long-term it can lead to anxiety. Chronic anxiety increases the risk of both burnout and depression. A survey of 5,000 teachers during Covid found that teachers were:
Anxiety was at the top of the list, and it has not decreased much since children returned to school.
Can you get PTSD from teaching?
Yes. However, PTSD is more than stress, it is a trauma response. Many teachers are dedicated to being the change they want to see in the world. When they get into the classroom, they learn that their students are dealing with trauma. From food insecurity to poverty, and every type of abuse possible. Caring teachers often take on some of this pain, which can be traumatic.
Learning to practice compassion versus empathy may help. Compassion helps you to maintain a healthy emotional distance. Empathizing too much with students can lead to emotional burnout. Again, this is much easier said than done.
Some of the most common causes of teacher trauma include:
Physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive students.
Verbally or emotionally abusive parents or colleagues.
Heartache for abused or underserved students.
Why do teachers experience burnout?
Teacher stress and burnout are bad for both students and teachers. Like any profession, some educators burnout because they are no longer fulfilled. However, most of the burnout stems from the stressors and trauma above.
How can teachers stay mentally healthy?
Many of the stressors above aren’t going to go away. So, educators must take an active approach to manage the stress from teaching. A few options to consider include:
Practice mindfulness—check in throughout the day to acknowledge and feel your feelings. While you can’t get stuck in it, honor your feelings by naming them. Also, consider mindfulness practices.
Physical activity—stress can manifest in our bodies. One way to alleviate stress is with exercise. Better yet if you can find a fun and fulfilling activity such as dance or group sports. Or a dual-purpose activity such as yoga that can double as mindfulness.
Connect—having a safe space to vent and share is important. This includes teachers in your school or district and teacher support groups. Also, ensure you have healthy social outlets that are unrelated to education.
Limit negativity—while you must vent and be a safe space to vent, you must not allow negativity to consume you. Maybe set a timer and give yourself or others 5 to 10 minutes to vent. Otherwise, you can emotionally burn out.
Set boundaries—it’s easier said than done, but you must set boundaries with yourself, parents, and your colleagues. For example, no answering emails after 5 pm or on the weekends.
Recharge—make the most of your time off by unplugging, resting physically, and scheduling self-care. Try your best during this time not to think of work. Or again, limit it to 5 to 10 minutes.
Stress from teaching may have you considering CBD for sleep or to take the edge off. As an educator, it is unlikely that CBD is allowed on campus. Also, check to see if you are prohibited from using hemp-derived products.
Many educators select CBD that is processed to ensure 0.0% THC. This ensures that you won’t get high but can help to soothe your mind and body.
If you are searching for a brand you can trust, we hope you will consider Holmes Organics. Our products are USDA Certified-Organic, 3rd party lab tested, and have zero toxins or fillers.