Decrease Teacher Stress and Improve Mental Health with a 4-Day Intensive Mindfulness Program
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“when teachers practice mindfulness, students’ misbehavior and other stressors become like water off a duck’s back, allowing them to stay focused on what teachers really want to do: teach.” – Vickie Zakrzewski
Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This often produces burnout; fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and professional inefficacy. Teachers experience burnout at high rates. Roughly a half a million teachers out of a workforce of three million, leave the profession each year and the rate is almost double in poor schools compared to affluent schools. Indeed, nearly half of new teachers leave in their first five years.
Burnout frequently results from emotional exhaustion. This exhaustion not only affects the teachers personally, but also the students, as it produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion. Regardless of the reasons for burnout or its immediate presenting consequences, it is a threat to schools and their students. In fact, it is a threat to the entire educational systems as it contributes to the shortage of teachers. Hence, methods of reducing stress and improving teacher psychological health needs to be studied.
Mindfulness techniques are gaining increasing attention for the treatment of the symptoms of stress and burnout. They have been demonstrated to be helpful in reducing the psychological and physiological responses to stress and for treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments including schools. Teachers, though, have very busy schedules and it is often difficult to find the time for mindfulness training. So, abbreviated programs may be very useful but their efficacy needs to be established.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of a Four-Day Mindfulness Intervention on Teachers’ Stress and Affect: A Pilot Study in Eastern China.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01298/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1373328_69_Psycho_20200709_arts_A) Song and colleagues recruited school teachers online and randomly assigned them to a wait-list or to receive a 4-day mindfulness training. The mindfulness training was based upon the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) that consists of discussion, meditation, yoga and body scan practices. They met for 8 hours per day for 4 days. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, and positive and negative emotions.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list group, the teachers who received the mindfulness training had significantly higher levels of mindfulness and lower levels of perceived stress and negative emotions. Hence, a short-term, 4-day, mindfulness training is effective in reducing stress and negative emotions in school teachers.
The results demonstrate that a short-term intensive training can significantly increase mindfulness. Such a program is valuable in that it can be implemented before the start of a school year when the teachers have the available time to participate. In addition, it produces results that are similar to those observed in previous studies using trainings occurring over longer periods where mindfulness training decreases perceived stress and negative emotions. It will be important in future work to determine the long-term effectiveness of the training and whether it reduces burnout in teachers.
So, decrease teacher stress and improve mental health with a 4-day intensive mindfulness program.
“mindfulness training for teachers can help them cope better with stress on the job while also making the classroom environment more productive for learning.” – Jill Suttie
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Song X, Zheng M, Zhao H, Yang T, Ge X, Li H and Lou T (2020) Effects of a Four-Day Mindfulness Intervention on Teachers’ Stress and Affect: A Pilot Study in Eastern China. Front. Psychol. 11:1298. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01298
Stress is becoming increasingly prevalent among teacher groups, and this is problematic for education. Mindfulness training (MT) is a well-supported way to help various populations cope with and reduce stress. In this study, a 4-day intensive MT program that aimed to increase teachers’ emotional health was developed and implemented into the existing post-service education for teachers in eastern China. A total of 161 teachers voluntarily enrolled in the course and were assigned to either the mindfulness group or the waitlist group. Participants completed measures of mindfulness, positive affect, negative affect, and perceived stress before and after the program. The results showed that MT had statistically significant positive effects on mindfulness, negative affect, and stress. The present findings indicate that a 4-day intensive MT program is a promising way to decrease teachers’ stress and improve their emotional health. The practical meaning of the short-term intensive MT program for teachers is discussed. It is easier for teachers to enroll such a short-term training program, as it may have higher acceptance and feasibility than an 8-week training program in some areas.