According to new research from Workwear Giant, the most stressful jobs are in teaching and education.
The company analysed how many people were likely to report workplace stress per 100,000 people in that professional occupation, and combined that with earnings and unpaid overtime in those sectors.
Teaching is a stressful profession, even under the best of circumstances. You must be “on” (i.e., engaging and affable in front of a group of learners) nearly all the time. Your workday frequently stretches well past official working hours, and the responsibilities (and worries) can often spill over into your personal life. You’re assessed on measures (such as student test scores) over which you have little control. And, all too often, you’re working without the resources or support you need to really do your job well.
Teachers are experiencing a lot of stress. In Ireland, the UK and USA, 40% of teachers are on medication for anxiety. It can be so easy to get bogged down in the curricula, meeting targets, and enforcing discipline and behavioural standards, that teachers can lose sight of why they became educators in the first place.
On top of that, over 10% of students have experienced trauma. These are the kids who will be disruptive for seemingly no reason and can be difficult to manage. These circumstances make teaching even more challenging.
I don’t work with school kids; I work with adults and university students. But I have experienced a lot of stress and even burnout. I’m convinced that living in a state of permanent stress weakened my immune system so much that I got a serious, life-threatening illness.
This experience, combined with the experience of my team of educators, is our motivation to help others, whether they are teachers, trainers, project managers or any professional experiencing anxiety, to find healthy ways to reduce stress and learn techniques that will improve quality of life.
In this blog, I investigate the negative effects of stress on our emotions, body, and health. I describe what happens in our hormone system and why living in a permanent stress can lead to so called the “Chicago seven” psychosomatic diseases, such as asthma and heart diseases.
If you would like to learn how to prevent anxiety and reduce stress in your life, join us on one of our courses:
Psychosomatic means mind (psyche) and body (soma). A psychosomatic disorder is a disease which involves both mind and body. Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to being made worse by psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. Your mental state can affect how bad a physical disease is at any given time.
It is well known that the mind can cause physical symptoms. For example, when we are afraid or anxious, we may develop physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart, sweaty palms, or dizziness.
Classical psychosomatic diseases include those diseases caused by psychological trauma, chronic stress, chronic fatigue, lack of proper rest and other psychogenic effects. Initially, classic psychosomatic diseases meant seven pathologies (the “Chicago seven” or “the holy seven”):
- Essential arterial hypertension
- Duodenal ulcer
- Nonspecific ulcerative colitis
- Bronchial asthma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Later, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even coronary heart disease were added to psychosomatic diseases.
You can read more about it on Britannica.
How does stress affect our mind and body?
Imagine you are teaching a class in which you have quite a few disruptive kids. You try to quiet them down, but none of your techniques work.
Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order to release stress hormones from your adrenal glands, including adrenaline, noradrenalin, and cortisol. These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s “fight, flight or freeze” response. This response is actually extremely helpful when an immediate response is necessary for preservation of life, as would have been the case with our early ancestors fleeing predators!
Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
When the perceived threat is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the central nervous system fails to return to normal, or if the stressor does not go away, the response will continue.
- If you’re constantly under stress, your muscles may not get the chance to relax. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches.
- Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. If you’re under chronic stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge.
- The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can also upset your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux thanks to an increase in stomach acid.
- Over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold, as well as other infections.
There are many techniques which you can use to healthily manage and release stress, such as physical activity and healthy diet, good quality sleep, restoration of mental energy, mindfulness and meditation, or relaxation techniques.
We teach all of them at two of our courses:
Life balance for educators and students in Tenerife
Stress management in schools in Ireland
If you struggle with stress responses, you can learn a lot during these courses. The Erasmus+ programme can cover all your travel, accommodation, and course fees. To find out more get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.