Changes in budgets, staffing, legislation, caseloads, leadership . . . all of these things can lead to stress. While work stress is not uncommon for SLPs in the schools, in times of significant change, stress can become even greater. Take a moment to look at the list below, and hopefully you will find some things that you can do to decrease the stress in your professional life.
Be open to change, innovation and new opportunities
- Change your environment. If you are constantly around negative people, try to find a way to “get away.” Consider teaming with a therapist on another campus to share the load.
- Keep yourself motivated. Seeking out new experiences can be one way to maintain professional interest and prevent stagnation. Try a different service delivery model, a new therapy approach, or creative new materials.
- Seek out personal learning experiences. Professional and personal growth requires that we keep learning.
Be positive about yourself and your profession
- Allow a ‘moment of glory’ to accept and acknowledge positive feedback.
- Look for the ‘silver lining.’ Sometimes, that can help you see other positives in an otherwise bad situation.
- Become directly involved. In many cases, working directly to deal with the issues that cause problems can be both therapeutic and productive.
- Remember the children you serve. Remember why you have chosen to be a speech language pathologist. Focus on the personal, professional, and philosophical reasons that give meaning to your working hours.
Organize your time and activities
- Set realistic and flexible professional goals and objectives. Don’t set expectations that will be impossible to meet.
- Plan out your calendar for all of your “indirect” job requirements as well as your therapy. Put things like ARD paperwork, SHARS, and assessment report writing on your calendar for the next day before you leave each day. Establish priorities to deal with needs in the order of importance.
- Leave your work at school. Bringing work home after school can cause problems in that it often interferes with personal and family life. One way to break that cycle is to avoid bringing work home.
- Pace yourself. Approaches to help avoid wasting time and prevent procrastination include setting realistic time lines, getting high priority work done early in the day and including time for yourself in each day. Do not try to do everything at once.
- Organize your workspace. Improved workspace organization can save time and increase professional productivity.
Allow time for physical activity
- Get up and get moving. Physical activity is the only research-based strategy for alleviating stress and anxiety. Create time to walk around or get away from your desk, particularly if you’re spending a lot of time working on paperwork or reports.
- Incorporate movement into therapy. This is true for children, too, and they have fewer and fewer opportunities for movement during the day.
Talk with your peers
- Create time to talk to and commiserate with your colleagues on the campus or other speech-language pathologists in the district. Chances are, they are dealing with the same stressors that you are.
- You don’t have to find solutions, but just having the opportunity to talk to another person in your same situation can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter can reduce stress levels, so take some time to laugh with your colleagues.
Ask for help
- If you feel completely overwhelmed, let your supervisor know. Ask for support with assessments or ARD notices – specifically those things that someone could do on a contract basis.
- Ask your colleagues for help. Maybe another therapist in the district has some available time to help you will assessments, or to see that group of “make up therapy” for you. You can always reciprocate in the future.
Adapted from: Shaw, S. F., Bensky, J.M. and Dixon, B. (1981). Stress and Burnout-A Primer for Special Education and Special Services Personnel A CEC/ERIC Publication, The Council for Exceptional Children, Reston, VA. (ERIC Digest No.E467)