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People respond to stress in three different ways: emotionally, physiologically, and behaviorally (Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer, 2018). I completed the stress assessment (R. Roberts, personal communication, January 31, 2019) to determine how I handle stressful situations. Lower numbers, between 7 and 70, indicated a weaker response to stress. The assessment (R. Roberts, personal communication, January 31, 2019) indicated that I respond to stressful situations mentally more than physically or emotionally; I scored a 37 for the mental response, a 31 for the physical response, and a 30 for the emotional response.
I do agree that I respond to stress mentally. The stress assessment stated that one trait of individuals who deal with stress mentally is “if their mind wanders” (R. Roberts, personal communication, January 31, 2019). My mind wanders often. I think about many tasks at once instead of focusing on the task at hand. I do use coping skills when stress begins to prohibit me from finishing tasks. I finish one task before I allow my mind to move on to the next item on my agenda. Another trait on the response indicator that correlated with mental stress was, “After I make a decision, I question whether it was the right decision” (R. Roberts, personal communication, January 31, 2019). I can relate to this statement, too, because I spend a lot of time reflecting on my lessons in the classroom and how the lessons could have been more effective. I am hard on myself; I never think my lessons are perfect. I think this is a positive asset because successful leaders should want to improve each day. Effective leaders should evaluate their decisions and try to learn from their mistakes.
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Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer (2018) stated individuals who struggle with mental stress can cope with constructive coping tactics. There are three types of constructive coping strategies. Appraisal-focused strategies suggest individuals should “eliminate negative self-talk, use rational thinking, thinking positively, finding humor in the situation, and turning to religion” (Weiten et al., 2018, p. 103). I don’t talk negatively about myself. If I make mistakes, I admit them, learn from them, and move on. I do use rational thinking. People describe me as very logical. I think about many different outcomes before making important decisions. I didn’t realize that finding humor was a coping strategy, but I have always used this tactic. I have often said, “Sometimes you have to laugh, or you’ll cry.” I think that applies to coping with stress in the leadership field as well. I attend church services on Sunday mornings. I also didn’t realize this was a coping strategy, but I can see how it can be a stress reliever. Problem-focused strategies use tactics like, “active problem-solving, seeking social support, enhancing time management, improving self-control, and becoming more assertive” (Weiten et al., 2018, p. 103).
Emotion-focused strategies include ways to cope, such as “releasing pent-up emotions, distracting oneself, managing hostile feelings, forgiving others, exercising, meditating, using systematic relaxation procedures” (Weiten et al., 2018, p. 103). I don’t feel like I need to use these coping strategies as much. The reason is that I scored lowest for emotional stress.
I believe I manage my stress effectively as a fifth-year third-grade teacher. As a first-year principal, I may need to find some other coping strategies. Fields (n.d.) stated first-year principals were stressed the most by “uncontrollable demands on their time, the negative impact of time the job requires on personal lives, their prospective staffs, and the amount of conflict encountered” (Fields, n.d., para 1). The same principals used these coping strategies, “humor, venting, and exercise” (Fields n.d., para 1). I already use humor to help me cope with stress. I am thankful to have a strong support system at home. They can help me if I need to use venting to cope with my stress as a principal. I do exercise a few times per week. Hopefully, these tactics will help me cope with stress as a principal also.
Stare (2013) conducted a study to look at leadership styles and which coping strategies they used. The leadership styles were transformational, transactional, and passive-avoidant (Stare, 2013). I related most to the transformational leadership style. Transformational leadership means leaders work for what is best for the school as a whole, not just what is best for them as a leader. Leaders with this style also consider the repercussions of their choices. Transformational leaders look at the positive aspects of the future. They challenge themselves, and they help others challenge themselves. I am the third-grade Leadership Chair for the six third grades in my building. This position forced me to think for the good of the grade level, not just for what is easiest for me as a teacher. The school closings lately have gotten me thinking about the repercussions of a leader’s actions. If school is in session, and someone is injured or killed, that is a huge repercussion for the administrator who didn’t cancel school. It is a huge responsibility. I look into the future more this year than any other year in my career.
Stare (2013) also spoke about coping strategies that were most common in school leaders. The methods used most were: “seeking help, communicating feelings, taking rational action, drawing strength from adversity, using humor, and maintaining faith” (Stare, 2013, p. 416).
Again, I’m thankful for a strong support system to talk to about stress, a strong faith, using humor, and having a clear view of a positive school environment. My new building isn’t very organized, and the climate is less than happy. I am working hard to help my school environment. If teachers, students, and parents were happier in my building, I know there would be less stress for everyone.
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