The stress teachers experience at every stage of education has become a real discomfort that has negative effects on their health, both physiologically and psychologically. If we try to determine the “stress-inducing” factors that have an impact on the appearance of a high level of stress that interferes with proper performance and leads to job dissatisfaction, low motivation and a poor quality of life in general, we can see contributions to the psychological state of the person, the styles used to face stress inductors, demographic factors or the type of profession. Along these lines, “social service” groups, such as healthcare or education professionals or the ones with the highest index of psychological and emotional wear, due to the exhaustion inherent to working intensely in favor of the interests of others and in detriment to one’s own needs.
From a teaching perspective, an accumulation of duties will lead to the onset of physical and psychological exhaustion, which will also cause the individual to feel mixed emotions. On the one hand, professors feel responsible for their students and for their future. On the other hand, they feel they are judged by society and that they are held responsible for the problems that arise in the academic environment and that, nonetheless, go beyond the attributions of the study plan, such as a lack of social or educational values, the use of verbal and/or physical violence or addictions, among others.
In recent years, this profession has also undergone a change of perception in society. In general, the prestige of education professionals as decreased and has been subject to constant pressure by the media, favoring the presence of cynical attitudes, indifference or lack of involvement with the students, absenteeism and lack of professional commitment.
As regards the psychophysiological symptoms deriving from high levels of chronic stress identified among these professionals, they can be divided into different domains:
·Behavioral: absenteeism, substance abuse, such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or different drugs, lack of motivation, disorders associated with the digestive system, etc.
·Psychosomatic: Chronic fatigue, tension headaches, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, tachycardia, high or low blood pressure, etc.
·Emotional: Apathy, boredom, cynicism, irritability, affectionate distancing from the students as a protective measure, feelings of sadness and desperation, low self-esteem, feelings of professional and personal failure, reduced tolerance for frustration, impotence, etc.
Currently, teaching professionals are one of the groups affected most by Burnout syndrome, as well as the associated stress disorders, with a prevalence of up to 40% according to studies done with university professors in the first decade of the 21st century. This is harmful both to the teacher and to the students, as well as to the center itself. Already known as “the teaching disease”, the gradual physical and psychological exhaustion resulting from direct and continuous contact with stimuli that cause frustration leads to education professionals with a poor quality of life and problems that have a significant impact on their health and on the health of the education system in general.
That is why it is necessary to look at this problem from different approaches, so that the constant pressures they are subjected to do not have a negative effect on how they carry out their duties, their performance and their health.
Society as a whole must be willing to dignify and empower the role of the teacher at all stages of education, recognizing and tacking the difficulties that they must face. Understanding the inherent commitment and dedication expected of the teacher, as well as a constant renewal of their professional and academic profile, requires periods of adaptation and a constant predisposition of time and resources outside of working hours.
Meanwhile, job satisfaction must be improved by the institutions, providing the resources needed for professors to find a suitably adapted professional space in their schools, with sufficient job stability reflected in contracts appropriate to the commitment expected of the individual and job flexibility, in a context in which working days do not end in the classroom, rather they continue in the teacher’s home, either preparing content or grading activities or exams.
It would also be beneficial to provide education professionals with appropriate strategies for facing stressful situations in the classroom, as this mechanism is essential in facing Burnout syndrome. When these strategies are not applied adaptively, individuals feel incapable, as they perceive the demands as exceeding the resources they have. Although certain personality factors determine in large part the coping mechanisms used, it is possible to train people to identify exposure to certain adverse stimuli as an opportunity to progress professionally and personally and, as a result, to apply active strategies such as seeking social support or expressing emotions openly, and avoidant, such as conforming, behavioral and/or emotional avoidance, aggressive reactions, etc.
Vicente Javier Clemente is professor of Physical activity in the Programa de Doctorado de Actividad Física y Deporte and in the Máster en Actividad Física y Salud