The combination of administrative, classroom and co-curricular responsibilities in a teacher’s day-to-day life can really add up. By the end of the week, we are often left feeling emotionally and physically spent. It’s no secret that the emotional atmosphere of the classroom affects our students’ learning! Teacher wellbeing should be at the forefront of our minds, and for a good reason.
A few years ago I began to experience frequent panic attacks in the classroom. I would be standing in front of my Year Four class and have a racing heart, be short of breath and feel the urge to tell my (completely undeserving) students to leave me alone and figure things out for themselves. I needed to take stock of my behaviour and consider the causes behind my stress. I developed a strategy to more competently manage my mental health.
Recognising and taking care of your own mental health is the perfect way to lay a solid foundation for an emotionally balanced classroom.
Our free Teacher Wellbeing Checklist is a great place to start before you begin to feel the impact of mental strain. Slotting it into your diary for a monthly or even weekly self-check in makes for an easy-to-use way to monitor your emotional wellbeing.
Combine it with our free 5 Tips For Teacher Wellbeing Poster to encourage positive discussion in your staff room and get on the right track for a mentally healthy workplace!
World Mental Health Day
Thursday October 10 2019 is World Mental Health Day. It is a day to educate and raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health, and to advocate for a better understanding of mental health around the world. Starting in 1992, World Mental Health Day helps to remove the stigma related to mental health issues and gives people an opportunity to turn inwards and assess their own mental wellbeing.
As teachers, we are often focused on the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the children in our care. We are nurturers by nature, and teacher wellbeing often falls off the radar. But just like oxygen masks in an airplane, it is only when we first take care of ourselves that we are fully fit to support those in our classroom.
5 Tips For Teacher Wellbeing
We’ve all been there. It’s 2.30pm on a Friday afternoon, and you and your class have pushed yourselves all week. They’re tired, you’re tired, and you’re both counting down the minutes until bell time, and the weekend! The problem is – you have two bags full of marking and planning to take home with you to complete before Monday.
How can you make sure you achieve all you need without draining every last drop in your mental engine?
Taking some time to take care of yourself during the week can be really beneficial to your long-term productivity and overall mood. Make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and read ahead for some easy ways to take care of yourself.
Take Time to De-Stress
Everyone has their own de-stressors, the things that make them instantly relax and feel rejuvenated.
Some ideas for an immediate stress reliever:
- Go for a 10-minute walk.
- Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths.
- Visualise a pleasing scene, like a calm beach or an event that you are looking forward to.
- Take a break from your computer screen or phone.
- Put on some soothing music.
- Do some colouring in. Repetitive motions, like those used when colouring, cross-stitching or making jewellery have been proven to reduce anxiety. Here are some great ideas and resources for taking mindfulness colouring to the whole classroom!
Have a Chat
Talking over issues you are having at work with a colleague or mentor is a great way to resolve a problem. Sometimes just talking over something out loud can help you untangle a tricky issue, and your conversation partner might help you see something from a different point of view! If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone at work, see if your school has an Employee Assistance Program that can give you an objective ear to talk to.
Have a Good Work/Life Balance
Switch Off Your Email
Being available online 24/7 can open you up to communications that can leave you excited or stressed about work, which can shift the mood of your whole weekend. It’s important to set yourself a ‘switch-off’ time. Make sure that students and their families know that you will not be available, but that you’ll get back to them as soon as your work week begins again.
Set Realistic Expectations – It’s OK to Say ‘No’
While teachers are amazing multi-taskers, we are also mere humans. People will understand if you do not have time to take on another after-school activity, implement another classroom initiative, or mentor another student teacher. Instead of taking on an overload of work, suggest a colleague who might be keen to improve their experience or impress their supervisor.
Choose One Activity For Yourself A Week
Choosing an activity just for you one day a week can help you disconnect from the stresses of work. Taking up yoga, meeting a friend for coffee, or going to a movie are simple ways to decompress from your busy week.
Take Care of your Physical Wellbeing
Studies have shown a close link between your physical and mental health. There are a plethora of articles on the internet providing tips and advice on how to nourish your physical wellbeing. Some of the major things to take care of include:
- Getting enough sleep. Adults in the 18 – 65 age bracket need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night. A good night’s sleep can boost productivity during the daylight hours so that you’ll be working smarter, not harder.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating a balanced diet provides your body (including your brain) with the nutrients it needs to function properly. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
- Be active. Exercise produces endorphins which send a boost of positivity to your brain. Research suggests that 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity most days of the week can lead to an increase in mental functioning, including an increase in memory and learning ability. If you’re short on time or motivation, break your 30 minutes into 10 or 15 minute intervals. Better yet, join a social sporting team to make new friends at the same time!
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of mindfulness, it involves actively and intentionally focusing on the present moment. Being aware of the things around you and the physical and emotional sensations that your body is experiencing.
Mindfulness is as simple as observing your class and each child without judgement. Your class doesn’t have to be perfectly still and quiet for you to do this! Mindfulness is not about being in a completely serene and peaceful environment. It is about finding the calm amongst the chaos. The benefits of teaching mindfulness to your class include increased focus, reduced stress, and in improvement in academic performance.
Our Mindfulness Teaching Resource Pack provides some wonderful resources to practice the art of mindfulness in your classroom. At the end of the year, you can even complete our free End of Year Mindful Self Reflection resource to take stock of the past twelve months and prepare for the next year, more mindfully!
R U ‘Still’ OK?
Days like R U OK Day and World Mental Health Day are a fantastic way to shed light on issues surrounding mental health. More can still be done, however, to further reduce the stigma surrounding mental wellbeing.
It’s important to realise that EVERY day can be an opportunity to take stock of the mental health of yourself and those around you!
Check in with your students, colleagues and family members to see how they are going regularly. Use our R U OK Day resources all year around and open up discussions about your own mental health to ensure you’re taking care of your own teacher wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you.
For a great insight into how to support your own and other’s mental health this World Mental Health Day, listen to The Teach Starter podcast ‘For the Love of Teaching’. Bron has put together a very special episode, ‘World Mental Health Day | Mitch Wallis, Heart on My Sleeve’.
Let’s banish the stigma of mental health and get on the path to a happier, healthier classroom! What steps have you taken to improve your mental health? Comment below to share your experiences!