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Self-Care Plans Could Be Key for Educators' Stressful Lives

Health experts want educators and school staff to consider self-care practices to reduce stress from their demanding work. (Kaiser Permanente)
Health experts want educators and school staff to consider self-care practices to reduce stress from their demanding work. (Kaiser Permanente)
September 23, 2019

SEATTLE – Students are back in school and, while much of the education focus is on children, staff members also are back at work – and they're feeling the stress of the job.

According to a Gallup poll, 46% of teachers feel high daily stress, which ties them with nurses for the most in any occupation.

Jill Patnode, manager of Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools program, says the stress comes from demanding work and schools' limited resources.

She notes there are added burdens for educators working with students who have experienced trauma.

"Even when they haven't had to endure that trauma themselves, they are such caring and compassionate people that they actually can start feeling some of the same symptoms, and this is called vicarious trauma or secondary trauma," she points out.

Patnode says this, combined with the challenging work and limited resources, can lead to burnout and high turnover for staff and make educators less productive in the classroom.

Health experts say self-care plans are useful for combating stress.

Patnode's Thriving Schools program provides "way to well-being" workshops and identifies ways to reduce staff members' anxieties.

She notes self-care in schools can be as simple as a staff room makeover – creating a cheerier atmosphere, providing mindfulness activities or simply making the space more inviting for people to sit and chat.

Patnode says self-care rarely is part of the conversation when her team speaks with school staff.

"What we hear most is just this appreciation from our staff of giving them time to think about creating their own self-care plan because often you know what you need to do but you rarely set a goal to do that," she explains.

Patnode says parents can help by expressing gratitude to staff and preparing their children for school, including making sure they get enough sleep.

The sleep suggestion goes for educators as well.

And lastly, Patnode says communities can help by reducing the stigma around self-care.

Disclosure: Kaiser Health Plan of Washington Project contributes to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA