I suppose I should start off by saying that I love my job. It’s rewarding, fun, and, generally, awesome. However, some days, my job is also very frustrating. When my projector isn’t working, or when students are just not listening, I find myself feeling stressed out. In this, I know I am not alone.
My natural way of dealing with stress is to either bottle it up or to rant about it. Usually, I just bottle it up until I can’t take it anymore, and then I rant about it. I feel better, but it has taken me awhile to get there. Generally, my rants are also very negative. When I became a teacher, this did not change. There has to be a better way to deal with the stress! Here is what I learned.
Ranting is defined as “to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave.” Using this definition, yeah, I do rant a little bit. Like I said earlier, this is usually what happens when I ignore stress for too long, or when someone asks me why I dislike Romeo and Juliet. For the later, I have a controlled rant, one that does not involve yelling or violence.
A 2016 article by Jose Toussaint titled, “Is Ranting/Venting Healthy?” asked this question and found that, yes, sometimes it is healthy to rant. If a person tends to bottle up their emotions or works in an environment where they may not be able to yell like they want to, this can be a way to release a ton of pent-up emotion. As a teacher, I can mumble Come on, stupid computer, but I can’t scream at it. That would be unprofessional, and it might scare the children. Toussaint makes it clear that a rant should be done in a private place, with people that you trust. She also believes that it can be healthy to rant at times. She suggests following the Five W’s of ranting, Wait, Why, Who, Write, Witness. These help a person keep their ranting under control.
There are others who agree with her, but other studies have shown that ranting or venting can make people feel better in the moment. However, these studies show that ranting can lead to feeling awful again later, sometimes even increasing the aggression a person feels. Some articles point out that processing emotions and stress by yelling and ranting about them are less than ideal. Others point out the rise in ranting anonymously online and the harm it can cause to both parties. This is because ranting allows you to dwell on your anger for a longer period.
Okay, so the research is well mixed here, but I suppose it comes down to intention and tone. I like the points that Toussaint mentioned, particularly the Five W’s. I also agree that yelling about your problems can cause problems, especially when you are a teacher.
TEACHER MENTAL HEALTH
Last year, a national survey shared on Newsfeed highlighted the ways that teachers are feeling. According to the survey, sixty-one percent of teachers are always or often stressed out at work. The reasons for this are varied. Some teachers mention bullying, sleep deprivation, the focus on standardized testing, and feeling like they are not supported when disciplining their classroom.
This chronic stress that is felt by so many teachers can lead to teacher burnout. Burnout tends to occur in what are called the “helping professions.” These include lawyers, doctors, teachers, social workers, and other similar careers. Many of these careers can be extremely stressful, though in different ways. The stress that a doctor feels in the operating room is different than the stress I feel in my classroom. But both are still equally stressful and valid.
That same national survey points out that, for many educators, teacher burnout and chronic stress leads to leaving the profession. Other experts point out that having a supportive administration and a positive work environment can minimize this. Basically, teachers support each other.
As a newer teacher, I have a mentor teacher. If I have been having a particularly frustrating day, I know I can go to her and talk about it. She will listen to me, give me tissues if I cry, and offer me advice. If it’s a technical issue, she’ll just nod in sympathy. This is the culture of my school, and I am grateful for it. But it still doesn’t mean that I’m not stressed out sometimes.
Stress is not always bad. It’s a physical response to situations that are demanding or threatening. Basically, it’s our automatic response to danger; it’s fight or flight. Stress can help me stay focused and alert, it releases a combination of chemicals into my body to help me cope with the situation. So, stress itself is not a negative thing. Excellent.
Where stress becomes a problem, however, is when we are constantly feeling stressed. According to “Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes,” our bodies can’t really tell the difference between physical threats and emotional ones. In the case of the helping professions, this can lead to the body feeling stressed all the time. Which is not a comfortable thing. It can lead to depression, anxiety, eczema, insomnia, and other health issues. Some of these make us stressed out, and the cycle continues.
So, what are some ways that we can destress? There are actually large lists of ways that teachers can destress. One list that I found on HuffPost lists out twenty great ways to reduce stress. These range from taking a walk and breathing exercises, to having a small snack and buying a houseplant.
Other bits of advice include exercise, meditation, eating well, getting enough sleep, and trying to live in the moment. Ignoring emails, social media, and technology in general for a few minutes can reduce stress, as can taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. Some of this is lifestyle related, but that makes me wonder, is this the ticket to a stress-free life? I don’t believe that life exists.
It is important to deal with stress in healthy ways, especially for people in the helping professions like teachers. If it is done responsibly, there is a time and a place for ranting. Even for teachers. Taking deep breaths, going for a walk, and having a good support system can work wonders in supporting teacher health.
I’m going to be honest, it is way easier to say all this than to do it. As someone who is not able to stop my class to deal with how stressed my students are making me, I have to bottle that frustration up. I am all for responsible ranting, either to a trusted friend, my family, or in a journal. I also love taking deep breaths to destress or going for a peaceful walk. Maybe a combination of both is really what is best for my mental health, as a human and as a teacher.
What about you? How do you feel about ranting, destressing, and teacher mental health? Do you think that there can be pros to ranting?
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