SOS! Spring Stress Response Plans

April 2024

Have you ever noticed that you repeat patterns in your life? For example, when you become overwhelmed and stressed, do you have some ‘go-to’ coping mechanisms (that may or may not be helpful) and certain ways that your thinking becomes distorted? We all have repeating patterns and ways that we respond to stress.

Spring is a time of dichotomy in public education. While we’re collectively leaning into that downhill coast toward summer break, there remains much to be done this year and we’re already planning for the forthcoming year. The tension between the ease that we should feel this spring and the reality that we’re not quite at the finish line can feel uncomfortable.

This month we’re going to create a spring stress response plan to create an opportunity to shift away from some of the repeating patterns that may not help us and toward some more helpful activities. Grab a pen and paper to write your plan…

Step 1: Stress Signals

We all have certain things that stress us out. We might also have responses that emerge (repeating patterns) that can signal that we’re not managing our stress well.

a)     What is your primary stressor?
Identify the primary person, place or situation that causes you stress. Write it down. Be as objective and observational as possible. Think who, what, where, when and avoid embellishing with added assumptions and thoughts.

b)     What is your response?
Identify what you feel…what thoughts, sensations, behaviours, and urges arise when you encounter your stressor? Write them down.

c)     What are your auxiliary stress signals?
These are the ‘little things’ or ‘pet peeves’ that might become more prominent when you’re stressed. They are things that normally wouldn’t bother you that much, but REALLY bother you when you’re stressed. They’re not about the primary stressor but can be helpful flags that we’re not coping well with our stress. Write these down.

Step 2: Opportunities

Often, we get stuck in Step 1 and sort of cycle around in rumination and frustration. Step 2 is about identifying opportunities to intervene or make a change to break that cycle. The intervention will depend on what you need and what your preferences are. There are a multitude of opportunities for intervention. Some examples are:

Explore solutions for changing the circumstance. Are there options or processes available to change the stressor in any way? Consider these options and weigh the benefits and risks of pursuing these.

Consider your relationship to the stressor. If you can’t change the stressor, can you change the way you relate to it? Are there places you can accept and let go in the situation? Are there boundaries you can set?

Focus on your needs. Consider opportunities to care for yourself in the situation. It might look like spending some time on your wellness activities that you know will help you feel better regardless. Maybe this is time with a friend or eating nourishing food or finding some time for some fresh air and movement.

Step 3: Solutions

Once you’ve identified your stressor and the opportunities to intervene, we next want to plan and implement a healthy and realistic way to manage your stress. Consider the intervention opportunities you’ve identified in Step 2 and make a concrete plan to implement them. This should be specific, actionable, realistic. Consider:

  Speak to a trusted resource to inform yourself about your options. Example: Phone one of the Member Support Services directors at BCPVPA to discuss a work-related stressor and determine what your rights and
responsibilities are.

  Create a plan to adjust thought distortions. Maybe you complete a thought tracker to create more balanced thoughts about the situation (Google ‘CBT thought tracker’ for resources).

  Commit to a self-care activity that is focused entirely on addressing your own needs.

As you lean into the spring rhythm, if you could use some support creating your SOS plan, please reach out to the BCPVPA EIP Program.  We are here for you!

With respect and admiration,

Darby Barnes

Rehabilitation Consultant
Humanworks Consulting Group Inc.

Darby is a registered clinical counsellor who describes her work calling as “caring for people who care for people” and has worked supporting leaders and workers in complex human serving systems (health care and education) for over a decade.  She specifically supports educators and education leaders and finds deep joy and honour in her work.

The humanworks EIP column appears in BCPVPA’s eNews the first Friday of each month.

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