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Dealing with Stress at School in an Age of Anxiety | Psychology Today
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How often does he initiate social interactions on the job? How does social support work in practice as a tool for employee happiness? We educated 11, employees, leaders, and physicians about the impact of social support on the patient experience, and asked them to modify their behavior. When employees walk within 10 feet of another person in the hospital, they must make eye contact and smile.
When they walk within 5 feet, they must say hello. Social support appears to lead to not only happier employees but also more-satisfied clients. Many companies offer training on how to mitigate stress, focusing on its negative health effects. The problem is, people then get stressed-out about being stressed-out. When I was working with Pfizer in February , I asked senior managers to list the five experiences that most shaped who they are today. Nearly all the experiences they wrote down involved great stress—after all, few people grow on vacation.
Your attitude toward stress can dramatically change how it affects you. In a study Alia Crum, Peter Salovey, and I conducted at UBS in the midst of the banking crisis and massive restructuring, we asked managers to watch one of two videos, the first depicting stress as debilitating to performance and the second detailing the ways in which stress enhances the human brain and body.
And those participants experienced a significant drop in health problems and a significant increase in happiness at work. Stress is an inevitable part of work. Choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it. In this way you can nudge your brain back to a positive—and productive—mind-set.
Developing new habits, nurturing your coworkers, and thinking positively about stress are good ways to start. His TED talk is one of the most popular, with over 11 million views. He has lectured or researched at over a third of the Fortune and in 50 countries, as well as for the NFL, Pentagon and White House.
It shows up in most students with a clinical mental health diagnosis, but many students even without a diagnosis exhibit behaviors — such as hair trigger anger , inability to self-regulate or calm themselves, sudden withdrawal from learning and social interaction — that affect not only themselves but everyone in their orbit. It acts as a silent disruptor in the classroom and in school life generally. New research findings also show that stress is contagious at a physiological level Palumbo et al.
More students are arriving at school with SDR and with difficulties in coping, making it hard to build a positive learning environment. The source of this dynamic is more obvious in schools that serve a high proportion of students from families facing major economic and social challenges, but it is also observed in schools that serve students from advantaged families with highly competitive expectations, as Denise Pope documented in Doing School. This cycle poses a difficult but often unrecognized challenge for teachers and educational leaders. A Culture of Resilience at School. In doing background research for my recent book Born Anxious , I had a conversation with the principal of an alternative secondary school for high-risk students, many of whom display this SDR pattern.
His approach struck a chord: building a culture of resilience throughout the school. Here are the key elements:.
- How to Reduce Student Stress and Excel in School.
- Positive Intelligence;
- School-Life Balance | Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program.
Social connections. The single most effective route to providing a more resilient developmental pathway for students with a history of adversity is through positive social connections. Schools can provide a crucially unique setting to support resilience, offering an opportunity for students to connect with teachers, coaches, and mentors who exhibit caring and concern for students, communicating to them that they do matter to important adults in their lives. The principal I spoke with described an exemplary scenario.
What Works: Success in Stressful Times
One particularly troubled student, with an extensive history of early and continuing adversity, seemingly could not be reached when he arrived. A teacher kept probing to find any point of connection, and would not give up. Eventually, finding an interest in popular music that was meaningful to the student, the teacher began making innovative links, both to the curriculum and to broader social issues. Neither of these — involved teachers and an engaged community — is automatic. Both depend predominantly on educational leadership within the organization to promote a culture of resilience.
And a key part of that culture is that it needs to include not only students but also the whole organization, which in turn requires a collegial, collaborative leadership model, such as the one described by Michael Fullan in The Six Secrets of Change. This emphasis on positive social connections also highlights the reality that effectively counteracting the ravages of excess stress is critical not only for students, but also for teachers, staff, and education leaders themselves.
Mindfulness in action. The practice of mindfulness has received increasing attention in educational practice recently, and for good reasons.
How to Reduce Student Stress and Excel in School
Social connections lead to resilience through social support and socio-emotional learning, but also biologically, as they counteract the stress hormone cortisol Keating, Mindfulness confers benefits similar to social connection, but using the uniquely powerful part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, propelling us toward a habitual focus on the present and the opportunities it offers, while minimizing rumination about the past or fear of the future.
For organizations, this implies thoughtfully learning the lessons from past experiences combined with openness to a well-considered, collaborative process of change. Attention to the physical. A third major approach to supporting resilience and counteracting toxic stress is to attend to the physical domain.
Although not always seen as central to the educational mission, there are crucial supports as well as risks that can be identified and implemented. A second major physical contributor to personal resilience is sufficient sleep. Sleep deficits are a major risk factor for a range of mental and physical health problems, as well as depleting the ability to cope with stress.
The challenges to learning arising from early start times, especially for teens, have been increasingly recognized, but their impact on mental health and the ability to cope with stress are equally important. Education that highlights and explains these risks can be effective, along with the provision of healthy nutrition options during the school day. The pathways to teacher burnout and student burnout travel the same route, and benefit from the same protective factors: social connection; mindfulness; and taking care of the physical dimension. A bonus to this approach is that they can benefit everyone, even those not at risk from toxic stress or mental health challenges.
Drawing on what we know about how supporting resilience, it is clear that a leadership style that integrates collaboration , social connection, and mindful attention to current challenges offers the best opportunity for moving toward and sustaining a culture of resilience. Articulating this approach as an explicit goal, and bringing all the stakeholders — including parents — on board creates the basis for sustainable progress toward building a culture of resilience.
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The impact of the stress epidemic and of increasing SDR among students is felt in all areas of the school experience. It clearly interferes with learning, not only for the students who struggle with staying in the game while feeling highly stressed, but for teachers and the rest of class who need to cope with the resulting disruptions.
The need for a comprehensive approach is acute, pulling together a shift toward a culture of resilience but also providing a range of prevention and intervention services.