What a year it has been for teachers—an occupation held primarily by women— in Pennsylvania and around the world. Teachers have been forced to be more flexible and creative than ever before, not to mention all the complications that come from teaching from home while also parenting. Teachers feel overwhelmed, worried about their student’s wellbeing, and helpless as they face a desire to teach while also wanting to be safe.
Stress levels have been at an all-time high, with a Los Angeles Times article reporting teachers experiencing symptoms of secondary trauma. Teacher burnout is becoming more common with anxiety and depression symptoms on the rise.
As this school year draws to a close what are some things we have learned about teacher mental health and how can teachers get back to feeling their best?
1.) Control What You Can Control
There is a lot out of our control these days. We don’t know when schools will return to normal or if they will ever truly be the same. We don’t know if we will be exposed to Covid, if we will get sick, or if others around us will be impacted physically. But, we can control our time and what we prioritize. We can choose to make evenings about self-care and family and unplug from devices. We can control our mindset and perspective. We can control the media we consume. If the news is stressing you out, then you can turn it off.
2.) Prioritize Self-Care
Self-care is the most important thing you can do for yourself right now. Teachers need time to unwind, release stress, get rest, refuel with healthy foods, and other things that make you feel good. You must put your oxygen mask on first.
3.) Move Your Body
It can be so easy to get stuck sitting in front of the computer or phone planning lessons and stressing about the days to come, but all that sitting isn’t good for you. Strive to get up and get moving, even if it’s just for a few minutes every hour. Research shows that moving your body can have immense positive impacts on stress levels and overall wellbeing.
4.) Have Self-Compassion
This past year has been different than anything we have ever experienced. You aren’t expected to be a rockstar at remote teaching. You aren’t expected to know how to navigate a classroom where you aren’t allowed to get close to your students. This is all new. Give yourself grace. Practice self-compassion and positive self-talk. Now is the time to be kind to yourself.
5.) Be Reasonable with Expectations
Just as you are navigating all of this for the first time, so are your students and your supervisors. Don’t expect amazing. It is ok for things to be different and not go as planned. It is ok to be struggling. Setting small, realistic goals and expectations will be setting yourself up to feel much more fulfilled in the long run.
6.) Communicate and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you are struggling with how to navigate a certain lesson or problem in this new environment, ask for help. Communicate with parents, students, and supervisors as you all tread these new waters. We are all in this together. You aren’t expected to do it all on your own.
7.) Have a Dedicated Work Space
This is a given when in school but it is not always easy when at home. Having a specific place in your home for work will allow you to separate yourself from work during non-working hours. If you jump around your house or set up shop in your bedroom, you are muddying the waters between work and home. It is hard to unwind when you feel like you are always at the office.
8.) Set Office Hours
All too often when we work from home we are on all the time. This is not healthy for anyone. Set hours for yourself and make them known to others. For example, you will check and answer emails from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day, after hours you will not be reachable. Parents may be emailing you at 9 p.m. to talk about an issue their student is having but that doesn’t mean you have to answer right then. Turn off the email notifications and respond in the morning. It can wait.
9.) Get Help
If you are struggling, get help. If you are overwhelmed, stressed, having trouble sleeping, feeling anxious, depressed, or just in need of talking to someone, counseling can be a great tool. The Covid-19 pandemic has been nothing short of hard. These times are unprecedented, scary, maddening, and incredibly stressful. A counselor can help you take care of yourself.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Our professionally-trained and licensed counselors have openings. Just call our office at 717-462-7003×1 and speak to our administrative assistant to get started to feeling better. You can get the tailored help you need right now. We are here for you.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.