With exams and assessment coming up for many students across the College, it seems an appropriate time to talk about the concept of stress. Often given a bad rap, stress is not necessarily a bad thing. The more we can befriend the idea of stress being a normal and even a helpful part of our everyday lives, the more we can build resilience and develop the ability to thrive during stress.
Stress can impact us in a number of ways. When we are in our comfort zone we are very laid back and have little interest in activities. There is nothing to stimulate us and little or no stressors impacting us. In contrast, when we are in our panic zone, we feel overwhelmed and exhausted because too much is stimulating us and causing us to feel stressed. But in the middle of these two extremes is where healthy stress is found. The stretch zone, is where stress is present, but we can rise to the occasion of working through that stress positively and actually achieve peak performance.
Times like exam periods, nudge us into the stretch zone. They can be a great time for peak performance, especially with some strategies to enable us to take the most advantage of the opportunity.
It is possible to build a growth mindset and a positive attitude to most stressors by choosing how much attention and what type of attention we choose to pay the a stressor. A mindset that leads us to believe we are equipped to and can overcome hurdles, means we are more likely to be able to do just that.
Low to medium intensity and regular movement helps us to handle, heal, and recover from stress. Fitting in the regular movement even in times of stress actually helps us to minimise that stress.
We cannot underestimate the power of sleep and down time in allowing our body to be calm and relaxed in order to rejuvenate.
The food we eat can boost our energy and response or drain it. Eating nutritious food that strengthens the body and mind is important. This included proper hydration.
It seems only natural, but the way we breath can have an impact on the way we feel stress or calm. Short and shallow breaths simulate a physiological “fight or flight” response for the body, whereas long deep breaths promote calmness and healing.
Everyone is different and this includes how we react to stressors in our lives. What creates a lot of stress for one person can spark action and excitement in another. Knowing yourself, what it looks like when you are performing well with stress or what it looks like when you are moving towards being overly stressed is imortant. Learn and practice de-escalation techniques to help you stay within the stretch zone.
As a final reflection, it is worth considering the idea that the way we view stress has a big impact on the way we experience stress. Research has found that people who have a positive attitude to stress and see it as a normal part of life can build stamina and resilience during times of stress and this in turn helps them to handle stress better the next time. Alternately, people who view stress negatively are often impacted more negatively when they experience stress. The impact on our own wellbeing then, has not so much to do with the actual event but our attitude towards it and our belief that we can learn and grow through it.
Inspired by our patron Saint, the St Francis Xavier College community seeks to “be great in the little things”. We view everyday encounters with each other as opportunities to create transformational relationships which support the development of the whole person.
As unique individuals who are each made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), we bring rich and varied gifts and talents to our community. In this community setting, we aspire to love each other as Jesus showed us (John 13:34). A love that is expressed when we bring to life the Gospel values of respect, service, hope, joy, peace and justice.
The above extract is from the College’s expressed approach to Positive Learning Partnerships, and our commitment to these partnerships is further cultivated this week during the student free day where staff dedicate a day to furthering their professional learning about practices which promote positive relationships within the school community.
The Berry Street Education Model Training explores the topic of Relationships and raises the importance of building strong relationships through micro-moments. Staff will further explore and workshop the meaning and practice of unconditional positive regard, empathy, constructive and supportive responses, and building connectedness in community. This commitment to building our school community through everyday relationships is one that continues to inform our learning and our practice.