Resilience is the ability to withstand stress and catastrophe. Humans have an amazing capacity to adapt and overcome adversities and even after devastating tragedies, individuals and communities find ways to move forward and rebuild their lives. Linda Lantieri founded the Inner Resilience Program (IRP) in 2002 in response to the effects of the events of September 11, 2001 on New York City schools. In a recent article, Lantieri shares “New York teachers were there for their students in ways far beyond what was required of them. They were at risk of burnout. They were not taking care of themselves at all”. The program is focused on equipping teachers, parents and students with the necessary skills to develop inner strength and resilience through contemplative practices. To date, more than 6,000 staff, 3,000 parents and 40,000 students have gone through the program with great results.
In an earlier post, I discussed that teaching is an emotional practice. Teachers face high levels of stress, which cause burnout and a high percentage of educators leaving the profession within the first 5 years. The skills of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can help teachers develop effective strategies to deal with stres
sful situations and build resilience. Teachers need to do this for themselves, before they can offer this support to their students. Today, I want to encourage you to reflect on the current stressors in your life and choose (at least) one strategy that will help you deal with them.
1. Notice: where do you feel your stress? Stress has both physical and emotional effects: headaches, irritability, lack of sleep, negative self-talk, and inability to focus. How is stress currently affecting you?
2. Reflect: what are the situations, circumstances or people that are causing you stress? Write them down and assign an E for Eliminate, R for Reduce or C for Cope:
- E – Eliminate. These are items that you can probably let go. For example, if you are drowning with the never ending list of “to do’s”, find volunteers at school (students or parents) to help you with tasks that others can do for you. They might not get done the way you would do them, but you will be able to check them off your list.
- R – Reduce. Reducing the strength of the stress is sometimes a more viable solution than eliminating them entirely. For example, changing your morning or evening routine to make a better use of your time.
- C – Cope. In some cases, coping might be the only option and you’ll have to tap into your problem solving skills. What are some choices given the situation? Can you look at this stressor from an alternative perspective? Who can help you?
3. Decide: what can you do to reduce and/or manage your stress and the stressors in your life? Is there at least one thing on this list that you could try today?
- Focus on relationships – Find someone in your network that can help you.
- Use humor – Laugh!
- Exercise – Find an activity that will get you moving. Choose something you can realistically incorporate in your schedule.
- Check-in time – We often facilitate check-in time for our students, amongst staff… but what about for ourselves? Did you notice how you are doing today?
- Create independence – Distance yourself from unhealthy people and situations.
- Connect with your long-term goals – Why do you do what you do? What keeps you going?
Being able to deal with stressful situations inside and outside of the classroom is a first step to develop resilience and avoid burnout. Use your self-awareness skills to notice your stress and reflect on the current stressors in your life. Apply your self-management skills to recognize your options and decide how you can better manage your stress today. What do you notice? If you have other strategies to manage your stress, please share in the comments below!