For middle-class foreigners living in Thailand, life is not always as rosy as their Instagram feed may or may not make out.
Isolation due to language barriers, disproportionate pay compared to peers back home, culture shock, turbulent inter-cultural relationships and the Student Loans Company calling you up; all just some of the things you won’t see printed on that gap year brochure.
Factor in a high-pressure, low paying job like teaching English as a Second Language and things can get a bit ugly. We’re talking exhaustion, stress and acute anxiety – all things that can lead to a downward spiral of depression. In many cases, this is simply ignored or treated subconsciously (or deliberately) through self-medicating with alcohol or other substances – legal and illegal.
But how bad is it? BKKme asked some foreign teachers in Thailand how they cope with occupational stress. Here are some of the ‘solutions’ that emerged…
Recreational drug and alcohol use
Now, on paper, a Valium, alcohol and weed combo after a day from hell may sound like a good idea; two ‘depressant’ substances (known for their anti-anxiety properties) plus one ‘psychedelic’ substance must equal a very pleasant Tuesday evening in front of the TV, right? Wrong. Mix all three together and you are putting yourself at risk to blackouts, respiratory difficulties, nausea and one hell of a hangover that will probably kick in half-way through your Wednesday 09.30 class.
One of the top responses we had to the question ‘how do you deal with occupational stress?’, perhaps inevitably, focused on the devil’s water – alcohol.
Teachers all around the world drink to excess for a number of reasons; to reduce job pressure, alleviate anxiety and numb the effects of depression while frequent after-work social events play their part too. Along with surgeons, sailors and farmers, alcohol dependence affects teachers significantly more than in most other professions.
Get a dog!
A lot of love here for our four-legged friends. And there’s a legitimate reason why stroking a dog can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Countless studies have shown that petting an animal helps to increase levels of the stress-fighting hormone oxytocin while decreasing the production of cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone.
Classroom management that tackles the root cause of stress
A lot of our responses focused on the root cause of the problem (ie. naughty kids) rather than just how to get through it all, which makes sense in our book. ‘The problem [of stress] is not the problem‘, but rather how you manage it.
Rules! Lots and lots of lovely rules! According to this commenter, a strict teacher is a happy teacher. Again, sound advice we reckon. If childhood movies have taught us anything, then it’s that the soft substitute teacher like Arnie in Kindergarten Cop is always the one on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Time to lay down the law.
Intimidate your students
Modern classrooms nowadays are tripped out with a whole supply of multimedia devices and technology. Take advantage of this with some passive aggressive YouTube videos like this crazy Russian trying out his home-made AUTOMATIC SHOTGUN! Not so sure about the ‘pointing the phone at each student‘ part, though.
Here is that 5-minute video in all its glory:
Just quit/move country
Oh yes, and beer! Always always beer.
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