Dealing with Stress & Trauma in Education Settings

 Created in partnership with Education Support

Introduction

This set of tips from our international panel of healthcare and education experts adapted for education staff are intended to help:

  • All staff to better manage stress and distress
  • Support wellbeing, and build psychosocial resilience
  • Reduce risk of burn-out
  • Support staff who may have experienced trauma

There are two main sections: ‘things to do’ and ‘things to know’.  Use this resource as works for you. The headline tips give rapid access advice and the drop-downs beneath each tip provide more detail.

Pressure and daily hassles are a normal part of life. For some of us, repeated or accumulated stress can affect the way we live our lives and our ability to carry out our role in an education setting. For others, it may be that stress can bring back feelings related to trauma earlier in our lives, and this can be difficult to manage by ourselves.

There will be times when we witness a traumatic event at work, which can impact on our mental health. Unfortunately, some of us will experience trauma directly during our working life as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new and different challenges, and many education staff have felt increased stress. Some have experienced trauma as a result of this.

Education staff often show tremendous resilience to stress. Making a record of what you do when you cope well with stress can be really helpful. You can look back at that record in times when stress is making you feel low.

Remember, simple things can make a huge difference.

Sleep, eat, turn off (including online), seek social support and keep daily rhythms.

Remember your own needs. The following graphic provides a summary of a virtuous cycle of recovery and wellbeing from exhaustion, and by implication shows the downward spiral that can occur leading to exhaustion and burnout. This will be illustrated later on in this tip sheet.

 

Things to do

Do

Don't

Make plans for ‘you-time’ – do something you enjoy doing, it helps relieve pressure and calms arousal

Support yourself with helpful self-talk

If you start feeling in crisis, make sure to pause, however briefly

It's ok not to be ok - you may feel overwhelmed, shocked and numb, at times

Do not leave yourself alone with uncomfortable feelings

Kindness and good humour are age-old antidotes to stress for you and the team

Plan and make use of regular communication in the team

After an immediate crisis, take time to 'decompress' in a team - like a diver after a deep dive

As a team, avoid one-off psychological debriefing sessions. They have been found to be unhelpful

Things to know

What is trauma

Trauma and stress can appear to be contagious at times. Model resilience and share strategies that promote calm and coping. This can prevent one person’s trauma from becoming everyone’s crisis

Some warning signs that a person may need extra help, or even urgent help

Some warning signs you may be burning out, or overstressed yourself

The “burnout” diagram illustrates the importance of intervening early

After a while

If a colleague wants to tell you about a trauma

Resources 

Education focused external resources

Acknowledgements

The content for these tips was written and edited by Dr Raphael Kelvin and Dr Julie Greer. They draw upon the suite of tips on the MindEd Hub and input from our reference groups of healthcare and education setting experts, to whom we are most grateful.

Education Reference Group: John Dexter, John Ivens, Margaret Mulholland, Steve Rippin, Jason Turner

Wider Stakeholder Group: Sinéad Mc Brearty, Faye McGuinness, Joanna Holmes, Lisa Shostack, Mina Fazel, Andy Bell, Ray McMorrow, Sarah Hannifan, James Brown, DFE (Emma Woodshaw), Sarah Lyons, Steve Cooper

© 2022 Education Support Limited, MindEd / Royal College of Psychiatrists and Health Education

Further support is available from NHS England.

Disclaimer

This document provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this document, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read in this document or in any linked materials. If you think you may have an emergency, call an appropriate source of help and support such as your doctor or emergency services immediately.

MindEd is created by a group of organisations and is funded by Health Education England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education.

elfh is a Health Education England Programme in partnership with the NHS and Professional Bodies.

© 2021 MindEd / Royal College of Psychiatrists and Health Education England 

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