What a great group we had today at the GAEL Summer Conference. Over 60 people crammed into a breakout session room to talk about … stress.
The interest in stress management (particularly at the least-stressful spot on the calendar) speaks volumes, but so do the results of our audience poll.
As you see above, 88% of the group reported having chronic stress as a school leader. The participants, assistant principals, principals, district office leaders and more, answered the question, “How often is work stressful?”
Eighteen percent reported always. That alone calls for attention to the well-being of our leaders. Another 70% reported that work was often stressful. Not even one said that work was ‘hardly ever’ or ‘never’ stressful.
So, what do we do about it? In our session today (the ppt of which you can access at this link: http://tinyurl.com/GAELSC18 ) we discussed what to do to reduce workplace stress and how to make those efforts work.
The short version is this: you already know what you ought to do to reduce stress: be healthy; don’t stay in the middle of stress non-stop; focus on intellectual activities; and introspection. Again, this isn’t groundbreaking; we all know to do these things.
So why don’t we? That’s the second set of things to consider. How do we become more healthy, focus on the right things, and develop meditative practices to reset? Here are four ways that might work: 1) Acceptance (recognize that stress is real and you should have a committed strategy for its management; 2) Consistency (developing and maintaining healthy habits regularly are better than all of the good intentions we might stack up); 3) Accountability: perhaps this is the key. It’s hard to do right without some level of accountability and that’s one of the reasons leaders are so suspect in being stressed. There’s always safety in numbers. Having a partner (or 2) to hold you accountable might keep you on the right side of the stress line; and, 4) Reflection; journaling about your experience will have a positive impact on your progress. If you know what you’re supposed to do (and you do) and you have to write about your experience weekly, what might that do to your choices?
We need great leaders to have great schools, but we need our leaders to be healthy. Chronic stress leads to short-term and long-term health issues, as well as a lessening of your effectiveness as a leader.
- Stress is real;
- Stress is bad;
- You CAN do something about it (but it’s not going to take care of itself: you’ll need strategy, commitment, and most likely someone to hold you accountable.