Infectious Stress: How to Switch Stress and Tension Off Quickly

I have learned that humans often bring their stresses with them everywhere they go. Even when they are in safe and happy environment like a children's birthday party or spending time with friends. We all need to work harder at releasing our stresses and tensions before it spreads to others.

So, how do you transition away from stress quickly? This was a lesson I learned very well my first year of full-time teaching middle school age kids. One time I had a very tough 8th grade class period. Right after that class period I had a 6th grade group. My 6th graders were so fun and happy, but this particular day, I had a hard time switching my mood.

The 8th graders were really infectious which resulted in me harboring a bad mood. I carried on that mood for about half way through the 6th grade class period, but luckily, they were such a joyous group that their awesome personalities helped me shape up quickly.

I happened to be observed that day, as it was my first year of full-time teaching (a common practice for most first year teachers). After my 6th grade group left my room, the resource teacher observing me commended me for how I was able to successfully transition from the 8th grade to the 6th grade. She said she wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it (the 8th graders were really tough), but she said she was truly happy with how fast I was able to switch my mood.

In thinking about how I did that, I came to this conclusion: The 6th graders had nothing to do with the 8th graders, and it wasn't fair for me to take out any stress on them. I was able to switch off the stressful feelings induced the 8th graders by breathing a bit and recognizing the transition. The 6th grade happy personalities were also a huge help too. Their good mood was so infectious, that it spread to me.

This was a very valuable lesson to learn so early in my teaching career because I went on to teach elementary level kids. I constantly had to switch from teaching 10 and 11 year olds to teaching 5 year olds. Now THAT was challenging. Talking to an 11 year old IS different than talking to a 5 year old. If you don't believe me, try it sometime. It's an interesting experience indeed.

Because I learned how to shut off stress so quickly, I never carried stress into other classrooms throughout my teaching career. Not only did I not carry over stress from one class to another, I also never carried over stress I felt from my personal life to work either. I left whatever bothered me at home. If I felt like I couldn't leave my personal life stress at home, because some days are just hard, I took a personal day. I made an effort to do that on a regular basis to help clear my mind and it worked for me.

You can take what I learned from teaching and easily use in in your everyday life too. I know so many humans have a bad day at work sometimes, have a hard commute home (stuck in traffic?) and have other numerous stressors, but it is never cool to take out your stressful attitude onto others. Recognize the stress happened, but don't spread it to others.

Some tricks to switch out the stressful feelings with happy feelings:

  • Breathe--Try my Marshmallow Dreams Method
  • Talk to Yourself-- Remind yourself that the stress is not anyone's fault (it's just how you feel), therefore it shouldn't be taken out on others
  • Spend Time with Joyous People--Find your happy-no-matter-what friends and allow their happiness to spread to you (like my fun 6th grade group!)
  • Write--Journal your feelings to get them OUT of your mind (it works!)
  • Talk to Others--Tell your loved ones or talk to a professional. Keeping it bottled up will only make it worse
  • Exercise--Whatever you like to do for exercise, do it
  • Take a Day Off--Enough can't be said about how much a day off of work can help stress levels
  • Go on a Vacation--Try a trip that involves nature. Nature is a BIG time healer!

Whatever you do to cool off and release your stress, remember what I learned: how you feel is legitimate. Recognize your feelings and deal with them in healthy ways. Feel the stress for as long as you need to, but don't take it out on others.

We need more light and love spreaders in the world. Not infectious stress spreaders. Heed my advice and try it today!

 Art by Carolyn J. Braden

Art by Carolyn J. Braden