The importance of managing stress
Do you ever wonder how to manage stress in childcare? As an early childhood professional, you are responsible for meeting the needs of children, assisting parents and answering their questions, and working efficiently with colleagues. Simultaneously, you must take care of your family, your own needs, and pursue your own personal and professional goals.
Altogether, this is a lot of responsibility!
As a result, when a stressful situation arises, it can feel overwhelming to manage it on top of your regular day-to-day responsibilities. By identifying the stress’s source and being strategic with solving the problem, you can become more efficient at managing stress and help avoid other stressful situations in the future.
There are several strategies to manage stress. By identifying the source of stress, you can determine the best strategy to mitigate it.
Stress-management strategies can be categorized as
- immediate and personal,
- long-term and personal,
- immediate and environmental,
- long-term and environmental.
Immediate Personal Stress-Management Strategies
The goal of immediate personal stress-management strategies is to help overcome stress and gain control over immediate physical and psychological well-being. Beneficial strategies are those that help overcome stress but do not cause additional problems.
Beneficial immediate personal stress-management strategies include
- correct breathing,
- deep muscle relaxation,
- physical exercise,
- use of imagination (such as envisioning a peaceful place or time),
- use of cognitive abilities (such as recognizing and redirecting negative thoughts).
Additionally, there are some strategies that may reduce stress in the moment, but because they cause additional problems they are not considered beneficial. Strategies that are not beneficial include eating, using alcohol and tobacco, and taking drugs.
Long-Term Personal Stress-Management Strategies
Long-term personal stress-management strategies can help develop personal resources. As a result, they can function as buffers against the negative effects of stress.
For example, effective long-term personal stress-management strategies include
- maintaining a healthy body through a sensible diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise;
- developing a high sense of awareness of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and values;
- developing a variety of interests, activities, and personal relationships;
- finding a balance between work, leisure, and personal relationships;
- developing a religious or philosophical outlook that gives perspective and purpose to the fundamental dimensions of your life;
- developing a sense of humor about life that can both allow you to laugh at yourself and with others.
Immediate Environmental Stress-Management Strategies
The goal of immediate environmental stress-management strategies is to remove the source of stress and quickly implement a solution. The first step is to identify the source of the environmental stress. As as result, many times this action alone will reduce the level of stress and allow you to solve the problem.
For example, if you are preoccupied with a task and not giving the children your undivided attention, the children are more likely to engage in inappropriate behavior. They are telling you with their behavior that their needs are not being met. By identifying the source of stress (your lack of attention) and solving the problem (redirecting your attention to the children), you can quickly restore a peaceful environment.
Long-Term Environmental Stress-Management Strategies
The goal of long-term environmental stress-management strategies is to prevent and manage stress with long-term solutions.
A long-term environmental stress management strategy identifies the source of stress and takes long-term steps to prevent and eliminate. Long-term steps include creating a new or modified environment that is free of the stressful elements.
For example, you can try managing your time more effectively, adjusting your room’s arrangement, and providing enough popular toys to avoid conflicts. You can also try changing your own attitudes or values.
Again, first identify the source of the environmental stress. Take a step back from the stressful situation and consider how you can change the environment to eliminate and/or manage the stress’s source.
Consider the example given above: you were preoccupied and the children’s behavior was inappropriate. While the short-term solution is to give them your attention, a long-term fix might be to schedule time for your task before the children arrive or during naptime.
Or, you can rearrange the room so that you can complete your task while still interacting with the children. Another solution might be to ask another caregiver to do the task. If appropriate, you could engage the children in the task with you or make up a silly song for them to sing whenever you must do the task.
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How to Manage Stress in Childcare