December can be a very emotional month for educators, as evidenced by many schools that look like scenes from a telenovela (Spanish soap opera). Levels of high stress and low tolerance can make us prone to getting into power struggles with students, parents, coworkers, and family members.

Keep in mind – When stressed, individuals often say inappropriate things. Just like little kids who tell their parents, “I’m going to run away!” or “You don’t love me!” The same principle applies for older children, teens and adults. Our rational “thinking brain” shuts down in times of perceived crisis, and our emotional amygdala’s take over. We shift into survival mode and react to situations more so than respond to them. Words convey our crisis feelings. So dont obsess on words individuals use when stressed. Focus instead on the feelings behind the words, as you will be less likely to argue and land in a power struggle.

Sometimes the best strategy is to just “step away” and let the stress levels subside a bit when confronted with drama. The problems won’t magically go away when we do this, but if nothing else, we have time to find the right way to address the problem in a way that is more likely to yield better results. When it comes to your real-life telenovela, just say “no.