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Combating Work Place Blues

Updated on April 25, 2016
IvoryTusk profile image

IvoryTusk has been a public high school teacher since 2004 and a professional chaplain since 2013.

When the Stress Piles, What Can We Do?

I work in a lot of high stress places. My main job is in an inner city public high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As any schoolteacher can attest, so much time is taken to ensure that within this kind of construct of diversity, we carefully plan, implement, and put together lessons that will engage and encourage every young mind. We record data assessment weekly; we attend staff meetings, collaborative meetings, proctor controversial high-stakes tests, organize and chaperone field trips. We manage time and ensure rigor for when classes are 55 minutes, 95 minutes, and 120 minutes long, and we do so for classes that embody 45 students--each with their own challenges and struggles that also have to be addressed--and outdated materials.

And as each week passes, I can feel it all piling on my shoulders, leaving me exhausted, and wondering if I really am making a difference. I am not alone. This is the story of the 200 colleagues with whom I share the responsibility of educating the 1500 students on our campus. And I know that our experiences are played out in similar situations all over the nation. What can we do to get through the week successfully? If the teachers are not motivated, how can we motivate our students?

This is not just an educational problem; this is a workplace problem. At the end of the day, many of us are drained and wondering how to even begin to tackle the next day's tasks. This is even more the case with those who work in repetitive situations, facing mountains of paperwork and data that are directly tied to human lives. If the workers are not motivated, how can they feel that their work makes any difference at all in anything?

It turns out, it doesn't take much. I generated a solution about five years ago when I was facing major burnout in my work. It not only helped me maintain my own perspective, but also generated a way for my colleagues to feel more centered and motivated in their work. It was so simple, and yet brilliant.

Connection and Stress

I know we can all feel isolated and separate from those around us, especially when we work in office areas that are nothing but endless fields of cubicles and fluorescent lights, mountains of papers, and the cold clicks of computer keyboards. But the best way to break through the workplace blues is to generate a sense of connection with the human beings with whom you share the space.

When we feel disconnected, it can add to the pressure of stress that we feel. So in the midst of a time of absolute burnout, I decided enough was enough. I needed to find other ways to connect with my coworkers.

About five years ago, I started a practice that not only helped me but I later learned really helped my colleagues as well. It started on a Friday with a simple message:

I have never been more impressed with colleagues or with students as I have been these past two weeks. I just wanted to say THANK YOU! With everything that's going on, I wanted to share a quote with you that has brought some light into some rather dim days. I hope that it will help you to have a wonderful, restful, and happy weekend!

"Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks"
Johann Gottfried Von Herder

Much joy and many blessings,

What Started as Something Small...

That small message, sent out on a Friday, grew!

I received so many emails back from my colleagues, saying, "You have no idea how badly I needed to hear something like this; thank you!"

It occurred to me that we were missing a huge component of success in the workplace, and especially in a school environment: our outlook greatly impacts others. We were missing connection to our colleagues when also struggling to maintain connections with our students.

So every Friday, I started sending out messages of thanks, of gratitude, of inspiration, of joy, to all of my colleagues in the school. In so doing, I would find myself smiling a little more as I walked out of my classroom. I had given to others what I so needed for myself--and found a great deal of healing that occurred. Colleagues started stopping by my classroom on Wednesday, asking what would come on Friday. And one day I said, "What would you like to send school-wide?" And then others started contributing, too!

What Can You Do?

It doesn't take much to change the environment in which you work. We went from a group of colleagues starved for inspiration, to colleagues sharing what inspires us, and our gratitude toward one another. We started smiling more, and we started being more connected with each other and with our students.

Does it take all the stress away? Absolutely not! But it makes getting through the most challenging days worth it, and it lets us know that no matter what, we are not in this entirely on our own.

So, what can you do?

Find your favorite inspirational quote from a book, movie, or song and share throughout your building.

Share some of your favorite YouTube videos.

Engage your colleagues in positive conversation instead of focusing on the challenges you are facing.

I wouldn't have guessed that such a small gesture could change so much in an environment. It's a way to make your corner of the world shine just a little brighter!

Some Inspiration for You to Share

The following links are to some of my favorite YouTube videos I have shared over the years. May they continue to go further, as you choose to share them with your colleagues and teammates in your work environment!

In the Comments Section, please feel free to offer other inspirational videos, quotes, books, etc. I would love to be able to add to my inventory of beauty for my colleagues, and I know we can all inspire each other!

Tell me what you think!

Cast your vote for Combating Workplace Blues

© 2016 IvoryTusk


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    • IvoryTusk profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Simple Truths is a brilliant book that I revisit from time to time, along with Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Thank you for reminding me of its beauty. Teaching is a challenge, but it's a great challenge! Most days, my students are more inspirational than I will ever be to them.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Teaching is a hard job. I am glad you found something you can do to motivate and inspire yourself and your colleagues. I look forward to doing something similar. Have you read Simple Truths by Kent Nerburn?

    • IvoryTusk profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Another Friday, another message! This time, I shared something from Britain's Got Talent: Hope you enjoy!

    • IvoryTusk profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Yes! Every single interaction we have in the classroom matters so much--we literally impact the future leaders of our nation and of our world. So, of course we need to act in ways that benefit everyone!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      You did a fine thing.

      I have a lot of time for Teachers. You don't know how any word you say to a child can impact that child's life! For better or worse. Make sure you keep looking after yourself, okay?

    • IvoryTusk profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Thank you for the contribution! I will definitely keep that on my list for my colleagues! :)

    • manatita44 profile image


      2 years ago from london

      Well-written;motivational and essential. It started well, in the usual way, and even I could not immediately think of a solution, until you came up with one. Brilliant idea!

      About the videos, I like Coveys, The Eight Qualities of Successful People. This followed the first seven, I believe. Listen to Covey, not his son. I feel that he is more soothing, but the son is great too. Much Love.


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