Vol. 13, Issue 1, October 2012

Editor’s Note: Talk to any teacher about what his or her teaching day is like and it quickly becomes evident that it is a stressful job. In his article, Daniel Gerken offers practical tips for ways teachers, administrators, and teachers in training can manage stress when all seems unmanageable.

Hitting “Reset”: A Simple Method for Taking Stock of Stress
Daniel M. Gerken

Let me ask you something. Do you ever feel burdened by a general sense of worry and uncertainty? Have you let various small (or large) stresses creep up on you to the point that you no longer have a clear focus?

This happens to me a lot, but a few months ago I discovered a method to deal with this kind of stress and general anxiety. Now, when I’m feeling a little panicky, I sit down and make a list of the specific sources of my stress. I literally ask myself, “What is one thing that is unresolved and causing me stress right now? What is another?”

I usually end up with three or four main causes. Then, I look at each item individually, and determine if it is within my control to resolve. If it is not, I pause for a moment, and accept that the situation is beyond my control, and let go of it mentally. If it is within my control, I write down what step or steps I need to take to resolve the source of stress. To help facilitate the process, I may also place the action items in my Toodledo account.

By the end of this exercise, besides feeling more empowered, I have converted bad stress into positive motivation. Now, I know what I must do, and I have confidence to proceed. The technique may seem obvious, but it only really hit home for me recently, and so I wanted to share it with others who may be in the same boat.

Goal setting is the companion behavior to this kind of technique. That is, formulate and write down clear goals, and then document and follow the steps needed to achieve them. Again, a Toodledo account or other task-management system can help here. This kind of habit is essentially a proactive deterrent to the above kind of stress. But, if you ever find yourself needing to hit “reset,” I hope the above technique proves helpful.

Daniel Gerken taught English for over five years in Daejeon, South Korea, and is currently a TESOL-MALL/TESL graduate student at Woosong and Saint Cloud State Universities. His research interests include sociolinguistics, cognitive psychology, and economic theories. He will be presenting on teaching EFL in South Korea at the upcoming NYS TESOL Annual Conference in Albany, and cheerfully accepts emails at dgerken11@gmail.com.