Top tips for building resilience to help in overcoming pressure and stress

Jo Higgins-Cezza

Jo is the lead trainer at Beaumont Training & Consultancy, where she trains people to become better decision makers by giving them strategies for dealing with pressure and coping with stress.

More tips on building resilience are available in a free booklet on her website.

Follow @Starpertraining

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Have you ever wondered why some teachers seem to get less stressed than others?

Maybe they have better behaved students or they just work in a 'nicer' school. Both answers are plausible. However, a much more likely explanation is that your stress-free colleagues are more resilient than you.

Resilience is what makes the difference between success and failure, and also between stress and serenity. It’s crucial for your wellbeing and performance.

By growing your own level of resilience you will find you have more energy and enthusiasm to help your students achieve more too! Here are a few simple strategies:

1. The silver lining approach

We all have bad days. Maybe Ofsted is knocking at the door or parents’ evening is looming and you’re feeling drained, anxious or simply frustrated. But if you look hard enough you can always find a silver lining to any situation.

The trick is to take a step back and try and find something good in a bad situation. At least once it’s over, Ofsted may not come back for some time. And maybe you have some great colleagues you can rely on to cheer you up. If negative feelings are running so high that it’s difficult for you to find a silver lining, imagine that it’s your friend’s problem. What would you say to help him or her?

2. Celebrate your successes

Resilient people have high self-esteem and draw on their strengths and past accomplishments to deal with unexpected difficulties and weather the storm. Write down everything that you achieve and are proud of in a Success Journal. Go back to your childhood, teens and early adulthood to identify your past successes. If that seems like too much work, then get into the habit of writing down one thing you’ve achieved that day before you go to bed.

A recent piece of research found that students who had spent a small amount of time researching their family history did better in tests than a control group. What’s the link between genealogy and performance? Simply that we are here today because of the successes of our ancestors and the fact that they managed to survive when many others didn’t.

Put plainly, we perform better when we read about our past successes. So once you’ve created your Success Journal, re-reading it will raise your spirits and give you a real lift when you’re going through a rough patch.

3. Be good to yourself

It’s much harder to be resilient and deal with rowdy classrooms and complaining parents when you’re not feeling completely content. When you’re under stress you’re much more likely to lose sleep, drink more alcohol than usual and avoid the gym. All of these only exacerbate the situation.

Instead, make a commitment to creating some 'me time'. Think of one or more activities that you really enjoy doing, alone or in company, and set a goal to actually do them. It’s too easy to say we haven’t got time to do what we want, but if you start by setting some 'me time' aside, you’ll soon get into the habit of looking after your own needs a bit more, and this in turn will boost your level of resilience.

4. Define your sense of purpose

A young teacher was recently in the news because he and his wife tragically lost a young child. Although their son couldn’t be saved, the parents drew great comfort from consenting to several organ donations which saved the lives of four children. The teacher has now set up a charity in his son’s name, and spearheads a campaign to increase organ donation.

Not only is this brave story a poignant example of how it really is possible to find the silver lining in the most painful circumstances, but it also illustrates the importance of defining or redefining your sense of purpose in life and giving something back, no matter what life throws at you.

Resilient people are those who gain strength, determination and a sense of purpose by helping others. For one course participant, this was a light-bulb moment when she suddenly realised she needed to refocus herself on the enthusiasm and passion with which she had entered the teaching profession, rather than letting herself get bogged down by paperwork, school morale, etc.

Your sense of purpose defines who you are, so it is different for everyone. It could be your family, your favourite charity, your faith, your politics or your hobby. If you want to find out where your purpose lies, ask yourself what you would do if you won hundreds of millions on the lottery, after buying a house, car, yacht, etc.

You might not have the millions now, but if you want to be more resilient, try at least identifying some small steps to take in order to align yourself more with your sense of purpose.

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