Creating stress-free schools, and taking control - 5 things you should try

We’ve all been stressed at different points in our life, some more than others and some of us can deal with stress better than others.

It can depend on how you’re brought up, what’s happening in your life presently and resilience skills amongst others things. Research released this month by MIND stated that over 55% of people interviewed stated that they found work more stressful than relationship problems, health, debt and financial problems.

Furthermore the TES reported that mental health is on the rise in schools and services in schools are so poor that staff resort to calling the emergency services.  So what causes stress and what is causing so much stress in our schools and at work?  The report states the main culprits are excessive workload, frustration with the lack of support and unrealistic targets.

Stress can cause all kinds of issues to health.  Understanding the impact and more importantly how to prevent it and create healthy work places, healthier minds and helps with learning, overall engagement and well-being.

It is important we understand stress and its purpose, in small doses stress has advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory. However continually being in a state of stress means that the body chemicals associated with stress such as Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine are constantly being stimulated which can create symptoms of ill health. 

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We all respond to stress differently so, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to managing stress. But if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action.  Stress management can teach you healthier ways to cope with stress, help you reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from spiralling out of control again in the future.

No matter how powerless you may feel in the face of stress, you still have control over your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. Below are simple tips to get started on creating a stress free life and school and workplace.

1. Let’s get physical

You don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to get the benefits of exercise. Just about any form of physical activity (use your imaginations – yes especially that!) can help relieve stress and produce happy hormones endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good.  It can also help distract thinking so you can have a break from your daily worries or concerns and even boosts creative thinking.   Simply getting off the bus a stop earlier, walking up the stairs, starting a half hour walking club in your lunch break and much more simple quick exercises help huge amounts.  Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t do.  

2. Get social

Getting together with friends, colleagues and family is the quickest and most efficient way to help you feel better.  It can also help you avoid overreacting to events that you perceive as upsetting or threatening. Communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understands you has been shown to calm the nervous system. This experience of safety—as perceived by your nervous system—results from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.  And if you’re that type of person a hug will work wonders by releasing oxytocin, calming you further.  However if you’re not a hugger and that’s okay, a simple chat will help blow away the stressors. Set up talking and listening champions in your school or organisation.  Just people who are designated to listen will help enormous amounts.

3. Finding a different way to look at things and FLIP it

Sometimes we can’t avoid stress in which case try to alter the way you see it. Often, this involves changing the way you think, talk and behave in these situation.  Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground. 

Using Laughology’s toolkit FLIP is a great way to think, communication and behave differently. 

One of our unique techniques is our humour thinking toolkit FLIP.  When we talk about humour, we're not talking about telling jokes or being the clown. It's a way to process information.  FLIP, designed and developed from understanding how humour interrupts cognitive flow and based in psychology, FLIP allows you to manage your mood and helps you understand how to manage the mood others, helping provide a clearer view of events unencumbered by negativity. FLIP when broken down can be used as a coaching technique as well as a cognitive and behavioural tool.

F is for focus: When a situation happens we tend to focus on how it feels, rather than how it could feel or even what can be done.  Reframing through focusing on the possibilities is a powerful tool for any individual, team and leader
We can talk to people and coach them on how you focus on things positively and what to focus on.  We know that simply by helping people understand where their focus needs to be can encourage them to think and behave in ways that is more productive.

L is for language: Language decides how we take in information and contextualise a situation. It can change the way we feel about things, for ourselves and others. At Laughology we talk about loaded and emotional language.  Comedians are brilliant linguists and can change the context of a situation simply by changing one word.  Using language in a wise way will determine how you and the people around you react to situations. 

I is for imagination: Our imagination can change the way we think about a situation and how it can cause us to be creative problem-solving or negative problem-focusing.  Our ability to be able to imagine and generate ideas in work and life is essential for success and happiness.   The way an environment works and the managers or leaders ability to create the right circumstances for imagination and creative thinking is a massive driver of performance and engagement.  Developing imagination will improve innovation and solution focused thinking, creating teams and individuals who are flexible and positive about challenges. 

P is for pattern breaking: Recognising what you are doing continuously to sustain a behaviour, whether it be positive or negative, and how to break patterns through focus, language or imagination.  Recognising that we continually form habits as human beings, some good, some not so good and how can we use this to help us understand behaviour and thinking?

4. Make time for fun, laughter and relaxation

Regularly making time for fun, laughter and relaxation will help you be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.  Don’t underestimate the power of time-out and giving yourself time for just you.  I know this is easier said than done in busy times, with busy lives, clubs to attends and family commitments on top.  However committing to even to just a couple of hours a week for you will help your body and mind feel, think and be better.

5. Look at how you create a culture at school or work that is conducive to good health

Creating an environment where people can relax and have time out when they need it can improve productivity. Focus on what you can do and promote positive behaviours, improve management skills and you'll be surprised at the difference this can make.  You can also buy the Laughology book Improve your life with the science of Laughter and Laughology offers a range of skills and techniques to help you and your workplace, work better. 

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Just in case this blog past hasn't left you feeling totally de-stressed why not have a look at this baby laughing at a dog eating popcorn - guaranteed to put a smile on anyones face - even a headteachers!