November 06, 2019

Stressed? NYSUT Social Services is here to help

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Ani Shahinian
Caption: NYSUT Social Services representative Ani Shahinian (right) chats with a member of the Port Jefferson Teachers Association after a recent workshop. Photo by Liza Frenette.

Stress is a part of every day. How we think about it is the most important element of controlling it, notes NYSUT Social Services representative Ani Shahinian. She speaks with individual members by phone and travels the state talking with groups of local union members, sharing ways members can avert or alleviate stress.

Being bombarded by health problems, job concerns, worry about money, parental or child care issues, moving, loss of a relationship, or trauma can all create a vortex of stress. Moving the focus to taking care of oneself can restore balance and provide a sense of control over some aspects of life.

In order to make changes necessary to reduce stressors, Shahinian said the elephant and the rider – the heart and the mind — must be in agreement.

“The elephant has all the power — but the rider can direct,” she said. “In order to motivate the elephant you have to have the energy to be positive. The rider has to convince the elephant that it’s worth making the change.”

Most people want immediate relief from stress. It can generate anger, irritability or anxiety.

“Anger is the bodyguard of fear,” Shahinian said. “Ask yourself ‘What are you afraid of?’’

SEEDS to diminish stress

Socialization, Exercise, Education, Diet and Sleep are specific SEEDS that Shahinian encourages people to look at when they are searching for ways to move through and beyond the stress.

  • Social support decreases loneliness and generates feelings of safety, belonging and enjoyment, and Shahinian recommends choosing activities that fit your time and money budgets.
  • Physical activity burns calories and reduces stress hormones, and helps elevate mood with production of endorphins.
  • Education increases working memory and opens the door to new interests.
  • Diet is important because what we eat affects stress hormone levels.
  • Sleep supports memory, cognition and stress management.

One change in habits can dislodge others. Eating healthier can motivate a person to move more — the same is true in reverse. Making sleep more of a priority can take the edge off.

Because making many changes can be daunting, Shahinian advised to “shrink the size of the change … and plan for setbacks.”

As part of a plan to bring more ease into life, Shahinian encourages people to consider taking up a relaxing hobby. “Choose something with ‘flow,’” she said, mentioning cooking, knitting, or writing.

Other tips:

  • Make a family dinner a part of the week.
  • Seek out humor in a funny book or a comedy.
  • Reduce the amount of time spent on screens — phones, television, computer and tablet.
  • Make your bed each day and keep the bedroom a welcoming, calm space.
  • Honor a day of rest.

“We feel like we should be moving and doing,” she said, noting the value of being still.

  • Source: Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

How New Teachers Can Manage Stress

Stress and burnout in the teaching profession are real, and new teachers are especially susceptible to feeling overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve compiled a wide range of advice from classroom veterans to navigate through the storms the teaching profession might bring. Learn more at