Teachers Self-Care and Wellness during COVID
There are a wide range of issues affecting the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and education staff right now. We have developed these tips to help you look after yourself in these extraordinary times.
- Keep things in perspective
These are extraordinary times and everyone is dealing with a lot of different issues at the moment, and just getting safely through the day will be an accomplishment sometimes:
- I am still an educator, even if I am not working directly with my students/pupils right now. I have an important role to play in keeping a sense of connection between my pupils and the school community.
- I cannot fix the international economic and social issues that will arise from this crisis, so I will choose to not dwell on these issues.
- I can’t fix the home circumstances of the students for whom I worry, so I will not focus on those concerns today.
- I will attend to things that really matter: what I can meaningfully do for work, staying well myself, and staying connected to the people I love and care about.
- If you do find yourself catastrophising or caught in worry loops then write down the worries to give yourself some space. You might also try analysing evidence for and against the worry and seeing if you can problem solve them.
- Establish a routine
Routines and structure help us to orientate ourselves as we adjust to this new way of life:
- Get up and get dressed in the morning and eat at regular times.
- Mark the beginning and end of work time.
- Have regular catch up times with managers, colleagues and those whom you line manage.
- At the beginning of your workday, be clear about what you want to achieve today.
- Develop a regular exercise routine, even if that is not usual for you.
- If you have children, talk to them about how the day will work, and let them know when they can expect to see you. When you are due to be with them, put your phone/computer away and try to be present to them and their needs. Children thrive on structure and routine.
- Maintain social connections
It is disorienting to be so removed from those we love. It is also strange to be away from colleagues, even those whom we don’t love!:
- Think about who energises you and reach out to them for a conversation. Limit time with those who don’t.
- Think about who you can support and get in touch with them as well.
- Make a point of speaking to your friends and family, even if you don’t especially feel like it. Maintaining social connections will strengthen your own resilience as you go through the weeks yet to come.
- Define your news exposure. Too many notifications may add to your stress and anxiety. Target the sites that bring comfort and joy.
- Practice self-care
- Find some moment in the day when you do something that is just for yourself, something restorative.
- It is not selfish to look after yourself at this time: by caring for yourself, you are investing in your own ability to stay strong over the coming weeks.
- Make time to do something that will allow your brain to calm: meditation, visualisation, mindfulness, prayer, yoga, tai chi, gardening…
- Be kind to yourself: there is ample evidence that higher levels of self-compassion – kindness, common humanity, mindfulness – have been found to be strongly related to fewer mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Establish good mental health habits
Many of us are getting tired of being told how we ought to behave. Although this guidance may feel patronising, there is strong evidence that good mental health hygiene will help us to be resilient over the long run. Good habits include:
- Eat nutritious food
- Moderate alcohol and sugar intake
- Adopt good sleep habits
- Moderate social media consumption, check sources
- Practice gratitude – focusing on the positive can help
- Be creative; music, art, building something, write, rearrange a room, cook a new dish, make/do/mend, grow plants on your windowsill etc.
- Talk about your feelings. Expressing how you feel will mean you have a choice about what to do with that feeling: suppressing it will mean that the feeling can overwhelm or hijack you.
- Accept uncertainty as reducing the need for certainty will reduce the drive to worry. We are living through uncertain times so all we can do is focus on those things we can control. A world pandemic is not one of them.
- Normalise distress. The emotions you are feeling right now (anger, sadness, fear) are normal responses to an abnormal situation
How we can help
Teachers and education staff who are feeling stressed or anxious during these uncertain times can get confidential emotional support from your school counsellor email: [email protected]