I feel overwhelmed | Education Support Partnership

I feel overwhelmed

We all have an emotional and mental health as we have a physical health. We are often much better at knowing the signs that our bodies are suffering but fail to spot them when we feel overwhelmed or our resilience is low.

In teaching there are 4 main issues that can cause people to feel overwhelmed.

  • Lack of control over workload and/or unreasonable demands
  • Observations by others or negative feedback
  • Misbehaviour of the children in the classroom
  • Teaching a new topic (for example in a subject that is not your strength)
  • Not feeling part of the team where your views are listened to and valued

Certain times of year can also cause more stress:

  • New classes
  • New teams
  • New leadership
  • Report writing
  • Parents evenings
  • Assessments of teachers/TAs and the children

If we are aware of the signs at the early stages we can take preventative action.

So how do we know what to look out for in ourselves?

  • Tired
  • Not sleeping – feeling stressed at the start of term – back to school nightmares particularly after a long summer break.
  • IBS – not eating properly during school time because you believe there isn’t the time so eating unhealthy foods –leading to headaches, tiredness etc.
  • Low immune system
  • Headaches
  • Irritable
  • Impatient
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Stress
  • Worry
  • Anxiety
  • Poor eating habits  
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • All or nothing thinking (e.g. I can never do this)
  • Low mood
  • Tearful
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble concentrating

The signs are mostly located in our thoughts, behaviours or physically. When we suffer our bodies often hold the score in terms of our immune system being weaker or more susceptible to illness, in particular, headaches, IBS, eczema, psoriasis, asthma and many more.  

Research shows that emotional distress or stress often impacts on illnesses that are linked with our stomachs (e.g. IBS) or our auto immune system (e.g. psoriasis). Also, stress can increase or trigger many illnesses or at least exacerbate them. Often educators get ill at the start of the holidays, which is often a sign that their resilience is low.

Another indicator that we are overwhelmed is our behavioural responses - what we do to manage difficult emotional states, as Russell Brand says, “we all have our drug addictions”. Examples of this are divided into those that have a positive and a negative impact.

Negative Behavioural Responses

  • Drinking alcohol to regulate emotions (e.g. not to enjoy a lovely glass of wine but to destress)
  • Over, under or comfort eating
  • Drugs
  • Biting nails
  • Pulling hair
  • Self-harming
  • Excessive social media  

Positive Behavioural Responses

  • Running, cycling, swimming and other sports
  • Having a bath
  • Listening to great music
  • Talking to friends
  • Gardening
  • Laughing
  • Watching good television 

What can you do if you are feeling overwhelmed:

Ask yourself: