Managing Stress From Teaching

EP 26 Jane Green: Managing Stress From Teaching


In this episode, I talk to Jane Green, a certified holistic health coach and creator of Health Space. She specializes in overcoming stress through mind, movement, and nutrition. By working with Jane, clients are able to identify the root causes of their stress and implement self-care strategies to feel more balanced, energized, grounded, and fulfilled. I know that this an episode that many teachers will enjoy! Check out Jane’s Course on Balanced Nutrition here.

Recap and BIG Ideas:

  • Building healthier habits begins with identifying the root causes of imbalance in our lives, like major stressors and anxieties. 
  • Stress management is essential to long-term results in our health and well-being. 
  • Stress manifests in our bodies in many ways, so it’s important to listen to your body and let it help guide your well-ness journey. 
  • Simple breathing techniques are a great tool to help you regain focus and control
  • When it comes to holistic health, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to build a plan that supports your unique goals and needs. 
  • You have to get down to the roots of your health-related desires if you want lasting change. Understanding your “why” will help you prioritize your health and nutrition. 
  • If you’re struggling to achieve the health-related results you want, don’t give up. You might just be following strategies and plans that aren’t suited for you
  • You must first work through limiting mindsets before you can achieve your wellness goals. 

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

It turns out getting healthier is far more than the food we put into our bodies.

Daphne: Hey, Jane! How are you doing today?

Jane: I’m so excited to be here. How are you doing?

Daphne: I’m good. I’m so happy to have you on because I know that you have so much experience when it comes to helping people alleviate stress and implement stress-management strategies that work. So many teachers can benefit from what you have to say. 

Let’s start off with a brief introduction to who you are and what you do. 

Managing Stress From Teaching

Jane: Awesome. So, I’m a certified Holistic Health Coach and the creator of Health Space, where I specialize in helping women overcome stress through mind, movement, and nutrition. I help my clients identify the root causes of their stress and implement some self-care strategies that allow them to feel more balanced, energized, grounded, and fulfilled. Overall, my goal is for my clients to feel really content with the life that they’re living.

Daphne: In full transparency, I want to say that I’ve been working with you through one-on-one coaching. I wanted to lose a significant amount of weight before my wedding at the end of this year and we’ve been making some really great progress. 

Could you explain a bit about what that process has been like since we started working together in January? What did you notice when I first came to you versus where we are today? 

Jane: Absolutely. You’re a perfect example of one of my favorite types of clients I get. I love when people come in and tell me, “I want to lose 10 or 15 pounds,” which we can totally do. However, I love to dig a little deeper because it’s not just about the weight or the food you’re consuming. 

When we first started working together, you had a goal weight in mind. I remember asking you why that specific weight and that’s when you started really digging into it. At the end of that conversation, you started to realize it wasn’t about the actual number on the scale, but more so about how you felt when you were last at that weight. You weren’t as stressed and you had a little bit more freedom and balance in your life. You were making time for yourself and self-care. You were treating your body well, eating more nutritious foods, and just doing so many things that were contributing to your overall happiness and well-being. 

I think once you came to that realization, we were able to start making some really great changes to your mindset. We also found out pretty early on that you were an emotional eater, right? 

Daphne: Absolutely, yes. Over the past few years, I found myself binge eating when I was stressed out or trying to avoid something. I would turn to food as a way to avoid starting a big project or something that I didn’t want to actually do.

Jane: Yes. Exactly. And you’re very type A, which is why you’re a very successful human being. In the beginning, you wanted me to give you a meal plan and tell you what you could and couldn’t eat. The thing is, I knew a meal plan wasn’t going to fix the real problem. So, we got to really figuring out why you choose to eat the food that you’re eating. 

Overall, you actually eat pretty well. It’s just when you’re feeling overly stressed or a little down, you start gravitating towards unhealthier foods or eating too much. But there’s been great progress and I’m so proud of you where you’re at right now.

Stress management is essential to long-term results in our health and well-being. 

Daphne: So, I want to go even deeper into that. When I came to you in January, I had way too many things on my plate work-wise. I was having little panic attacks. I was totally melting down when I came to you and wanted to lose 15 pounds in three months. My brain thought I could accomplish all these things simultaneously. What you helped me realize is that I needed to figure out how to manage the stress before I’d ever see any other long-term results. 

As far as my listeners go,  I’m sure a lot of them would love to work with a health coach, or maybe they just want to get back in shape and feel better or make better choices when it comes to what they’re putting inside their bodies. What they’re not really focusing on is how to start taking away some of the stress-inducing factors in their life.

That’s really why I wanted to bring you on here today because the last two months, our main focus has just been figuring out what stresses me out, and how we can remove or better manage those things from my life. So, thinking about it from a teacher’s perspective, I can probably list 10 different things that could be stressing them out. There are toxic work environments and really long work hours beyond contracted time. There’s all the uncertainty with COVID going on about if they’re going to be in-person or hybrid teaching. 

Can you explain a bit about the impact all this stress can have on a person’s body?

Jane: So to start off, I want to point out that not all stress is bad, right? Some stress is good. It can help us get us up in the morning and get us to our job. If we’re in danger, it can help us avoid something bad from happening, right? But the stress you’re talking about is slightly problematic. 

What happens in these situations is when someone starts to feel stressed, there’s a rise in their cortisol levels. The rise triggers a fight or flight response, during which the heart rate and breathing rate both increase. All of this blood starts to flow to the muscles, triggering an increase in appetite. The reason for that is to provide the body with more fuel that can then mitigate that fight or flight response. So, that’s when you really start seeing the increase in cravings for those more sweet and salty comfort foods.

Some short-term effects of stress include emotional exhaustion, insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, weakened immune system, anxiety, and depression. However, when the stress lingers and continues to build, that’s when it becomes really problematic. That’s when people start to become burned out, which is what we want to prevent, right? 

Now, the problem with burnout is that a lot of people don’t even realize they’re burned out until they’re already there for quite some time. What concerns me is that with ongoing stress comes inflammation in the body. Now, you can’t really see it, so most people don’t realize it’s there. Over time, that inflammation starts to manifest itself in different ways. One way that comes to mind right away is autoimmune diseases. It could also be obesity or infertility—I mean, the list goes on and on. 

All of these reasons are why it’s so important to learn coping mechanisms because you’re always going to experience stress in your life, right? Life is not all sunshine and rainbows. We need to know what coping looks like for us so that we can quickly and easily get back into a state of balance.

Stress can manifest itself in many ways. It’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. 

Daphne: One of the reasons why I ended up actually leaving teaching all together was the toxic environment I was working in. There was bullying and micromanaging that ultimately ended up impacting my body to the point where I was having both emotional and physical reactions. I mean, I would literally break down in tears on my drive to school. 

Since that stress was lingering in my body for so long, I was making frequent visits to my doctor for these stress-related illnesses. There were a lot of times where I wasn’t sure if something more severe was going on with my health. After going through a variety of different tests, my doctor basically told me the symptoms I was experiencing were due to prolonged periods of stress. 

I sort of just accepted that my job was really hard and this was par for the course. In reality, it’s not normal to feel that way on a daily basis. We shouldn’t wear that stress like a badge of honor or accept it as just being part of the job. It’s not normal or healthy to feel that way for months and years at a time.

Jane: Not at all. The body does not lie. So, if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s a sign that it’s time to figure it out. I think society has embraced all of this stress, making us feel like we constantly need to be going at full speed in order to be defined as successful. That’s simply not true. The hard work is really embracing the stillness because it’s actually much harder with today’s standards than doing all of the things and being extremely stressed out.  

I mean, when you’re looking back at 80 years old, would all the stress be worth it? I don’t know. 

Sometimes you just need to stop and breathe. There’s great power in being present and still. 

Daphne: I want to dive into a specific moment from one of our coaching calls that was really impactful for me. You were asking me how my day was going and when I started listing all of these negative things off, you noticed something physical about my body. Can you describe that experience a little bit and how you helped me through that?

Jane: Are you talking about when I made you just stop talking and switch gears breathing and guided meditation? 

Daphne: Yes! And even though it helped me so much, it’s not a natural thing I would have thought to do if I was feeling all stressed out like that. So, I’d love it if you could share a bit more about that. 

Jane: Yes. So for more context, we meet over zoom every week and you’re usually in pretty high spirits. I can read you really well. However, in this instance, I could tell something was off from the moment you got on the call. Your eyes were bugging, your shoulders were up to your ears, you were pretty red in the chest, and you were just talking a million miles an hour. 

Honestly, I was really overwhelmed by everything you were sharing. I literally stopped you in the middle of talking and said, “Alright, we are going to do some breathing. Let’s do a guided meditation. Pretend you’re on a field.” And I just took you through this whole experience for a good 10 minutes.  

When it was time to open your eyes, I could see the immediate relief. Yes, there were a million things to do, but you could reason that they didn’t all have to get done that day. Thinking they did was only contributing to the stress you were feeling. I know not everyone loves meditation, but just taking a moment to focus on breathing can really help you destress and refocus. 

Daphne: I love that because thinking about a teacher in a classroom who is dealing with classroom management of 30 or so students, it can quickly feel like you don’t have control. Things can escalate really quickly in that setting. So, one practice a lot of teachers have been implementing is social-emotional learning with guided meditation and breathing exercises for their students. 

So tying it all together here, if you ever feel yourself or the class getting out of control, you can have the entire class pause and just take a few deep breaths to refocus and be present. It can really help to reset the vibe and allow you to regain control, rather than your body succumbing to the overwhelm. 

Jane: I honestly think it’s the best thing and I’m so happy to hear that it’s being implemented in the classroom. I don’t think we do a good enough job and as a society to teach and promote coping skills. So, the fact that these teachers are doing these guided meditations and breathing techniques is really inspiring. It helps me feel a little more hopeful for our future. 

Personally, I love the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It only takes four breaths. What you do is you breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath at the top for seven seconds, and then exhale through the mouth for eight seconds. During this exercise, you want one hand on the belly, one hand on the heart, and your eyes closed. I mean, when I do four or five of these cycles, I instantly feel better.

Health is holistic and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Daphne: Now, to transition a bit here, we don’t just talk about stress on our calls. There’s actually a couple of different ways you support me through your holistic health coaching. Do you want to talk about how your practice runs or your philosophy on health?

Jane: Yes, so I will preface it by saying that the health and fitness industry as a whole makes us feel like in order to be healthy we have to eat a certain way, follow a certain meal plan, exercise for a certain amount of time, and do certain exercises full-force. That is just not the case. 

So, there are a few facets to my philosophy. One is bio-individuality, meaning that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you because our bodies are completely different. That’s one of the reasons why meal plans don’t work. I mean, they’re not always sustainable and they can leave out entire food groups. The fact of the matter is our bodies digest and react to food differently, which is why I don’t necessarily advocate for meal plans. 

When it comes to exercise, that should also be highly individualized. For example, I know you’re big into running, which is great for you. However, it just doesn’t work for me. I feel like my body is going to break. So, my whole thing is that we each have to treat our bodies in a unique way and really learn how to tune in and figure out what our body needs for that specific day. 

Since I had an eating disorder, the other thing that I believe in when it comes to nutrition is the importance of not restricting foods because that just sends people into a tailspin. Instead, I like to focus on the idea of crowding out in which the goal is to eat as many whole foods as possible. This includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. What happens is, the more of those things that we eat, we naturally start crowding out the unhealthy food. 

The other thing is to look at your primary and secondary foods. When I say primary foods, that just means everything else that feeds you in your life, whether that be your relationships, your career, your finances, your physical activity, your spirituality, whatever it may be. When there is an imbalance in your primary food, there’s always an imbalance in your secondary food, which refers to the actual food that goes into your body. 

So, it’s important to see where an imbalance is occurring in your life, because that’s probably why your food isn’t balanced either.

Daphne: For me, it was stress and how much I was working. I was prioritizing my business and work over personal relationships, social relationships, and just my own personal well-being.

Jane: And that’s why there was an imbalance in your food, right? You weren’t feeding all of the areas of your life with balance. 

There are strategies you can use and shifts you can make to regain control over your health. 

Daphne: I find it really interesting because, in the past, I’ve felt “successful” handling these things on my own. It quickly becomes something we don’t really feel like we have control of. That’s really why I wanted to reach out and have an expert actually help me like a therapist would help me uncover underlying causes, right? You’ve helped me discover why I feel like I don’t have control over certain choices of what I’m putting into my body. 

Jane: And, and that’s the work, right? The work is to become self-aware so that in the moment, you can quickly identify why you’re having certain cravings. Do you actually want that slice of pizza? Are you just feeling bad for yourself or is this a moment of celebration? It’s about becoming so self-aware to the point where you can identify in that moment if you actually want to be eating that food or if there’s another reason for your craving. 

Daphne: Now, it sounds so simple that you would start using that strategy once you learn it, but I know that it takes practice to make it more of a habit. With that said, do you have any tips for people who have fallen into the same trap that I’ve been falling into when it comes to bad habits of emotional eating? Maybe they’re experiencing stress in the classroom or aren’t satisfied with their career anymore? 

Let’s just say these people are eating unhealthy lunches or having quick and unhealthy dinners simply because they don’t feel like they have the time. 

Jane: That’s a great question that I can answer in many ways. The short answer would be to start small. It’s never too late, so even if you feel you’re too far gone and there’s no hope for change, that’s absolutely not the case. You can always start this wellness journey and there’s no better time to start than now. 

My advice is to start with one small goal. Maybe that goal is to drink more water throughout that day, to have a salad with every meal, or to eat a piece of fruit each morning and a vegetable each day with lunch. Starting small is where you’re going to see the most progress because once you create those habits, then you can start implementing more and more healthy habits. 

I do want to mention that if you feel like you’re so far gone because of all of these outside factors, start doing some soul searching and figuring out what’s really going on. So I know I asked you a while back to describe what your ideal life would look like and you couldn’t really answer me because you’d been on autopilot. You were just trying to get all of these things done, leaving you little to no time to stop and actually think about what was important to you.

So, for all the teachers out there who want to make a shift in their health, my first question is, why? What’s the ultimate goal? Sure, the goal might be to lose 10 pounds. But what else? Is it to feel more confident in your own skin? Is it to relieve some stress so that you aren’t snapping at your husband or your kids anymore? You have to get down to the roots because once you have that answer, you will be more driven to put your health and nutrition first.

Daphne: I love that you brought that up because I didn’t even realize that’s where I was at. Honestly, when you asked me to start journaling what I wanted my ideal life to be like, I realized I’d just been thinking about all the projects I wanted to accomplish and all the things I wanted to do. I didn’t really have an end goal in mind. My to-do list was just going to keep building into a spiral of constant projects for the rest of my life. I had to get clear around my purpose and implement certain time-frames or start scaling back to make it more manageable. 

I needed to find clarity around what was going to make me happy, which for me involved making it a priority to spend more time with my fiance, spend less time on social media, and just add more physical activity into my day. Those were things that would bring me a lot of joy over a lot of stress.  

Our self-care toolkit, including ways of approaching exercise, is different from person to person. It’s important to find what feels right for you. 

So, for me, I enjoy physical activity. And I know that that’s not the case for every person, but I wanted to talk about that for a second. I know that you have some Could you talk a little bit about that? 

Jane: So, before I dive into that, I want to talk a little bit about your self-care toolkit, which is something I try to work on with my clients. One of your self-care tools is going out into nature and getting moving. That’s something that really brings you back into alignment, just being outside in the fresh air amongst some trees and some mountains. 

So, in terms of physical activity, personalities, and body types, I tend to follow more Ayurvedic practices, which could be a podcast episode in itself, because I’m super passionate about Ayurvedic health. Basically, the goal in your life is to be balanced. Now, we’re constantly thrown off balance, so you have to learn how to get back into balance. With Ayurvedic health, if you are somebody who is super high-energy, type A, and motivated in their work, you might achieve balance with slower, intentional movements. Think yoga and pilates, right? 

I know you love to run as an outlet, but you are already so high-stressed because of your type A personality and work ethic that we need to bring you back into balance with something that’s a little calmer.

For people who are a bit more grounded, more cerebral, and naturally work at a slower pace, you’d want to start doing those like weightlifting and more cardio-driven exercises. So it’s very much YinYang. Whatever your personality is, you kind of want to do the opposite to bring you back into alignment.

Daphne: And this really ties into general self-care. If I like to jog, I can still jog. But it’s good to know what else I can do to help me get grounded if that jog actually amps me up more. Usually running is a good stress relief for me, but I do know that I need to do more centered activities. 

My point is, it’s personal preference and what might be enjoyable for me is not going to be enjoyable for everybody else. So, you really do have to pick something that you enjoy so you are more inclined to keep it up.  

Jane: Exactly. We’re all bio individuals, right? The exercise plans and meal plans are great if you want to get into shape for a month, but that’s not something that you’re going to be able to sustain for years at a time. And so again, it’s about being self-aware and figuring out what you need for that specific moment, that specific day. I do not love running, but there are days where I need a release and I might need to switch it up and do a different, more intense workout that day.

The other thing that I like to stress with my clients, and even in this group program that I’m launching, is really getting back to basics. Get back to what really brought you joy as a child. For me, it’s dancing. It makes me feel free and alive. Strive for those types of movements like make you feel young again. I think that’s really important when you’re thinking about what types of exercises you should be doing. Go back in time and try to find activities that bring you back to those feelings of freedom and joy. 

Daphne: And I’ve also had a conversation with a therapist who suggested that dancing, or any kind of rocking movement, is therapeutic for someone who’s experiencing trauma or stress. So, that’s something that is very helpful for people, especially in situations of high stress. Now, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to do it when you’re stressed out. It’s too easy to make every excuse to do it. 

Jane: Yeah, don’t do things that you don’t like. Honestly, that’s rule number one in life. You do you girl. Our time here is so short, and we shouldn’t be spending our time doing workouts that just don’t do it for us. There are so many options out there so find one that feels good to you. 

Just like when changing careers, you need to work through limiting mindsets before you can achieve your wellness goals. 

Daphne: The last thing I wanted to talk to you about is mindset. Now, I talk about limiting mindsets when it comes to a career transition or limiting mindsets when it comes to starting a side hustle. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, read a bunch of personal development books, and feel like I have this completely figured out in my head. When it came to applying those things to my health, it was almost as if I forgot everything. 

I had a really big limiting mindset about what I was able to accomplish because I was feeling stressed. However, you specialize in helping people understand their limiting mindsets when it comes to all areas of life, correct? 

Jane: Yes. So, that has definitely been weighing heavy on my heart as a health coach because when you hear my title, you immediately think diet and exercise. I started noticing all of my one-on-one clients desired to lose weight, exercise more, and eat better, but they had these limiting beliefs they needed to work through. 

I think what happens is, everyone goes through some sort of traumatic experience that results in some sort of pain. Then those experiences put these narratives in our heads regarding what we can and cannot do. For example, I had one client– who happens to be a teacher– tell me they wanted out of the teaching career. However, since they’d be in it for 10 years, they didn’t know if they could do it. My question to her was, why not?

I had another client who wanted to stop breastfeeding because it was taking a lot out of them, but they feared they would be a bad mother if they stopped. So, there are these narratives that we are constantly telling ourselves, and that are holding us back from really living an expansive life. In turn, they negatively impact our health and well-being. 

So, I actually created a group program called Limitless Learning to help people identify those limiting beliefs, understand how they are impacting them, and then let them go. We draw connections between your past and present self to see how that plays a role in your health. Along with figuring out what your ideal life looks like, it’s really important to start rewriting your life narrative so that you are empowered to move from a place of exploration instead of fear. 

Daphne: I think one of the key factors to success is actually believing that the end result is achievable. If you don’t believe it’s possible, it’s so easy to give up when you run into any of those roadblocks. So, yes, it’s important to figure out what is stopping you from understanding those things are possible. 

It’s hard for people to recognize these things in themselves. You know, I’m constantly helping others change careers with The Teacher Career Coach Course and I’ve realized that people get so afraid of change. And we’re so afraid of failure. We’re so afraid of those two things that we’re afraid to continue to grow and become better people.

Jane: We’re doing ourselves a disservice by not taking that leap of faith. You’re like a lobster without its shell when you do take that leap of faith. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and scary, but you are moving from an empowered expansive place. That’s really the goal of life, right? You don’t want to look back with regret. 

So, it’s really important to start digging deep and becoming aware of these beliefs so you can start rewriting your life. It helps when you create your self-care toolkit because these thoughts are always going to come up. If you don’t have a good foundation for overcoming these thoughts, you’re always going to be paralyzed and keep playing it small. 

Want to work with Jane? She’s offering a special promo for the Teacher Career Coach community! 

Daphne: This has been such a great conversation. I wish that I could have you on for 10 more hours, so I’ll just have to ask you back on the show in the future. 

For the time being, where can listeners find you if they want to either join your Limitless Program or work with you one-on-one?

Jane: You can get a hold of me on my website or on Instagram. Now, if you want to join the limitless program, I’m actually offering a special for Teacher Career Coach listeners. They can DM me on Instagram and let me know that they heard me on here to access special pricing. 

Lastly, I’m just so excited to hear that you have this podcast because I think it’s really important to talk about these hard things to remind people that they’re not alone.

Daphne: I don’t even know how to respond to that. That’s so sweet. Thank you so much. 

Jane: A lot of people silently suffer and here you are telling them it’s okay. You provide them with all these solutions and create a sense of community around tackling these thighs together. And as women, that’s all we want, right? We want to know that we’re not alone. We want to be heard and seen. I think it’s just incredible that you’re giving people the space that they need to sort through this hard, yucky stuff.

Daphne: You took my breath away. I didn’t know what to say for the first time in forever. I appreciate you so much. I’m so happy that I got to have you so you could share your voice and expertise with this audience. I’m so grateful to get to work with you in the future. You’re great.

Jane: You’re a rockstar, keep killing it. 

Help for managing teacher stress & burnout

Too many teachers downplay their mental health struggles thinking it’s just “new teacher jitters” or part of the position. My final year of teaching at a toxic school environment completely broke me. After walking away from that experience and finding happiness, I was shocked at how conditioned/numb I had become to being consistently unwell.

You should not feel intense dread about your career on a daily basis, period. If you are miserable more often than happy, let’s try to find solutions to support you:

Recommended reading: The Teacher’s Guide to Self-Care by Sarah Forst. You can also listen to Podcast Episode 14, where Sarah shares actionable advice on how to implement self-care into your routine.

Blog Post: Stress Management for Teachers; 5 Strategies to Implement Today

The Teacher Career Coach Podcast Episode 31: Blake Blankenbecler, Therapy for Teachers

Finally, if you’re struggling day-to-day it may be worth it to look into a therapist. Get started today with TalkSpace, a private, online therapy with flexible plans to meet your needs.

And if managing stress brought on by teaching isn’t enough, it may be time to look into alternative careers. If you’re at a loss when it comes to figuring out your options, check out our free quiz below for customized suggestions teachers transitioning out of the classroom.

What career outside the classroom is right for YOU? Free Quiz
Step out of the classroom and into a new career, The Teacher Career Coach Course