5 Ways School Leaders Can Manage Stress and Anxiety

5 Ways School Leaders Can Manage Stress and Anxiety

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School Leaders Stress and Anxiety

Many school leaders are unaware of the demanding nature of their jobs. Stress and anxiety are common aspects of being a school owner, and many struggle with factors that contribute to these feelings, such as work overload, lack of control, inadequate rewards, a breakdown in the sense of community, clashes of values, and job dissatisfaction.

The education industry, particularly school leaders, experiences significant rates of stress and anxiety. This is likely due to the immense pressure to meet high expectations for student achievement, manage ongoing changes, upgrade infrastructure, and effectively collaborate with various stakeholders. Additionally, they are expected to maintain a positive school climate. However, when school leaders have a poor work-life balance and become overcommitted to their jobs, their ability to care and show compassion may be compromised. This state is known as depersonalization, where individuals no longer see others as people but rather as problems to be solved.

While efforts have primarily focused on supporting children’s mental health, little attention has been given to the well-being of school leaders. So, what can be done to better prepare upcoming school leaders for the inevitable challenges they will face and promote their well-being?

How to deal with stress and anxiety as a school leader?

1. Connect with fellow school owners

No one understands the joys and challenges of your role better than your colleagues. They are a valuable source of advice, suggestions, information, motivation, and even constructive criticism. Besides, you can also expand your network by connecting with school owners in neighboring districts, school associations and online communities. Interacting with diverse school leaders helps reduce stress by providing alternative perspectives and ideas for your school environment.

2. Improve staff members’ skills and allocate time

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Supporting your social and emotional well-being requires a combination of short-term professional development programs and long-term support for implementing what you learn. Building local networks to connect with other school owners facing similar demands and challenges, as well as finding reliable mentors, can be highly beneficial. The increasing complexity of your role as a school owner may lead to feelings of isolation, but seeking guidance and assistance from colleagues can help alleviate this. With the demands often exceeding the capacity of your staff members, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious, which can hinder your ability to focus on instructional leadership. Empowering your staff members to handle various responsibilities and challenges can help alleviate the burden, freeing up your time to concentrate on instruction.

3. Allocate time for classroom activities

If you prioritize instructional leadership, it is crucial to give due importance to teacher professional development and classroom observations. Consult with principals to determine the amount of time needed for these activities on a weekly basis. Additionally, consider delegating non-teaching tasks to capable staff members. Communicate these responsibilities to all staff members, ensuring everyone knows what to do in emergencies and how to preserve your time for instructional leadership.

Also Read: How can the Bridge Course help students transition to a new education system?

4. Revise laws and regulations to prioritize well-being

As a school owner, you play a crucial role in creating nurturing and supportive learning environments where students can excel academically, socially, and emotionally. Therefore, it is vital to prioritize your own well-being as well. Formalizing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) standards and allocating resources for SEL teams can be done at the state, district, and school levels. This ensures that well-being is incorporated into strategic plans, financial budgets, and curriculums.

5. Find joy in your work

The relentless pursuit of success can sometimes lead to neglecting personal relationships and extracurricular activities. Setting aside time to engage with friends, family, and personal interests is essential for rejuvenation and reconnection. Though it may be challenging, making regular monthly get-togethers with friends is crucial. When facing difficulties, remember that leaving is not the best solution. Instead, find moments of joy in your work to rediscover your purpose and gain inspiration and energy. Spending time with students during lunch, playtime, or in the classroom can be refreshing and fulfilling.

Also Read: Why don’t kids like going to school?

How to give yourself space to address and overcome concerns?

It’s common to experience occasional stress and anxiety at work, but when regular stressors start to make you feel terrified or panicked, it’s important to take action. 

  • Fear and anxiety can make it difficult to maintain objectivity. Take a break to allow your body to relax. Enjoy a cup of tea or go for a stroll. 
  • Take the time to articulate your concerns. Write them down explicitly, avoiding generalizations or grouping them together. 
  • Take a step back and consider the worst-case scenario without overreacting. It can be challenging to remain composed when you’re emotionally invested in something. 
  • The saying, “A problem shared is a problem halved,” holds true. Seek the objective opinion of a trusted supporter. You don’t have to face everything on your own. 
  • Despite the difficulty, it’s important to confront your worries. Avoiding them only increases anxiety. While some aspects of the situation may be unpredictable, remember that you have control over how you choose to react. 
  • Expectations often exceed reality. Keep this in mind as you navigate challenging situations. Take care of yourself. You don’t need to strive for perfection.

As a school owner, you will undoubtedly experience challenging days. However, remember that a bad day doesn’t have to translate into a bad week. Developing coping mechanisms for anxiety helps to diminish the fear it brings. Additionally, courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of it. Consider all the factors, and prioritize self-care.

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