Creating stress-free, happy schools - 5 things you should try

Company founder and CEO, Stephanie has developed Laughology into the nations most talked about training and development provider. She has worked on innovative projects and events in the private and public sector.  In the last three years she has built and shaped the National Happiness Awards into one of the brightest and boldest awards in the country. 

In small doses, stress has advantages and is actually biologically adaptive; it can motivate you to change negative circumstances in your life and can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. However, continually being in a state of stress stimulates the stress hormones and can have serious health implications.

Research released by MIND stated that over 55% of people found work more stressful than relationship problems, health, debt and financial problems. Furthermore, TES reported that mental health issues are on the rise in schools, and services in schools are so poor that staff resort to calling the emergency services. The report states that the main culprits are excessive workload, frustration with the lack of support and unrealistic targets.

Even though stress can sometimes make you feel powerless, you still have control over your lifestyle, thoughts and emotions. If you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action. Stress management can teach you healthier ways to cope with stress, reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from spiralling out of control in the future.

Below are simple tips to get started on creating a stress free life, school and workplace.

1. Let’s get physical

Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and increase endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good. Try getting off the bus a stop earlier, taking the stairs or starting a half an hour walking club in your lunch break. Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t do!

2. Get social

Communicating with someone who makes you feel safe and understands you has been shown to calm the nervous system and can help keep perspective. A hug from a loved one can work wonders. However, if you’re not a hugger, that’s okay, a simple chat will help reduce stress. Why not set up talking and listening champions in your school who are designated to listen and can help enormously?

3. Find a different way to look at things and FLIP it

Sometimes stress is unavoidable which is why we need to alter our thinking. One of Laughology’s unique techniques is the humour thinking toolkit FLIP. FLIP was developed from understanding how humour interrupts cognitive flow and allows you to manage your mood more effectively.

When broken down, FLIP can be used as a coaching technique as well as a cognitive and behavioural tool.

  • F is for focus: Focusing on other possibilities during a stressful situation is a powerful tool. Helping people understand where their focus needs to be can encourage them to think and behave in ways that is more productive. Ask yourself or someone questions like “How might someone else see the situation” or “what assumptions are you making about the situation or person and is there a different way to look at this based on the facts?”
  • L is for language: Language dictates how we process information and contextualise a situation. It can change the way we feel about things, for ourselves and others. Be aware of using language that catastrophises a situation.

    For example “I never get things right” or “that was a complete disaster” indicates there’s nowhere to go. Adjusting language slightly by saying “that was a difficult task, but I’ll do better next time” or  “that was a bit tough today, I need to work on…” creates more possibilities and optimism.
  • I is for imagination: Our imagination can change the way we think about a situation. Developing our imagination will allow the brain to be more open and creative. If you are really stuck on something, perhaps ask yourself “What would (insert famous person or cartoon character here) do?” This will get you thinking of alternative ideas. 
  • P is for pattern breaking: Recognising that we continually form habits as human beings, some good, some bad, can be used to help us better understand our behaviour and thinking patterns and subsequently alter them. 

4. Make time for fun, laughter and relaxation

Regularly making time for fun, laughter and relaxation will help put you in a better place to handle life’s stressors. I know this is easier said than done in busy times, however committing to even to just a couple of hours a week for you will help massively. 

5. Look at how you can improve your culture at school or work that is conducive to good health

Step outside during the day and make time to eat - it gives the brain time out which is essential for learning and a much needed break for teachers. Have meetings and classes in different places, a change of scenery is good and it will help you think differently too.

Focus on what you can do to promote positive behaviours, improve management skills and you'll be surprised at the difference this can make in your school or workplace.

Schools and the people in them that already do these things are celebrated each year at the National Happiness Awards.  We are look for the ‘Happiest School’, ‘Happiest School Person’ and ‘Happiest Pupils’. 

Find out more about how to enter and the positive impact it has on your school and people here. You can even win vouchers, training and books for your school!