A little while ago, I was working under THE most stressful conditions I’ve ever experienced. So stressful in fact, that I went into self-preservation mode and quit my job. I felt that it was my only option if I wanted to regain my life and my mental health. As time has moved on, I’ve thought about the different strategies I used to get me through it and thought that it might be an idea to share them. So here goes!
- Talk. Talk to anyone about the situation you’re in. I was one of those people who moaned in the staff room. This helped me to see that I wasn’t completely alone, even if some of my experiences were unique to my situation. I talked to my line manager and everyone who was above them. If I had kept on suffering in silence, I would’ve crumbled. If the line manager is the problem, go to your union. I would have if I’d felt unsupported. It’s what you pay your fees for so you might as well use them. I spoke to my family and friends, and while none could truly understand what I was feeling inside, they offered good insights, and at they very least, gave great hugs.
- Plan nice things. Friday nights weren’t good for me. I would get home, sit, eat & sleep. But, even though I would work most Sundays, my OH would plan something nice to do on the Saturday. I wasn’t very good at sitting doing nothing so we went out. For coffee and cake. For brunch. Exploring museums. Fancy garden centres. Nice trips that weren’t strenuous and I didn’t have to think too much. This really helped. I was away from work and I couldn’t work.
- Plan relaxation. My shoulders became really sore because it’s where I held all my tension so every half term, I would get a back massage. The therapist was always surprised by quite how tense I was, and in the end, the tension aggravated an injury I had and it caused me loads of pain. It still surprises me how much my body showed how stressed I was. Don’t take this tip too lightly. I can remember one back massage I had just over a year ago, before I made my decision to quit. I started crying mid way through and practically sobbed when it was over. This was when I knew I had to get out. Nothing is worth that. But it was a relief. Crying is such a good way of letting the stress go.
- Vist your GP. I am very lucky in that when I went to my GP to ask for help, they sent me to a counsellor. I didn’t want drugs, but I wanted strategies so that I could alter my behaviour and my thought processes. It was very helpful. I didn’t feel judged and got lots of advice. It was good for me to talk to a professional. She wasn’t surprised to hear that I was a teacher. She told me that she mainly works with them! I was my own worst enemy at times. I wanted everything to be perfect and I took on too much responsibility. Talking things through with my counsellor enabled me to be more realistic.
- Let the worst thing happen. Often friends would say, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’, as I struggled to get everything done. I knew what the answer would be so one day, I just let it happen. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would and helped bring things to a head.
- Live better. My sleep pattern became dreadful. Exercising would’ve helped me so much, as would limiting how late I worked. My diet at home also didn’t help. I wanted nice things, treats, to get me through. While I felt good at the time, now as I look back, it would’ve been better if I’d eaten more healthily, as I do now. Also, be wary of alcohol. It very quickly became something to help me relax. I’ve never been a big drinker, but the bottles of wine soon started to mount up, especially on a Sunday evening!
- Get a cleaner. I don’t care if people judge me, but we got a cleaner. It was money well spent. I didn’t want to be doing house chores on my day off. So we got one! At the time, we could afford it and it freed up time for us to spend it together doing nice things. So if there are horrible chores that bring you down if you do them and if you don’t, get help to do them. Be it cleaning, laundry, gardening, whatever. Life is too short for that.
I hope that this might help someone. Everyone handles stress differently and while a little stress is good for you, a lot is not. Feel free to comment on stress management tips that you’ve tried. Tell me what works and what doesn’t.