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November is typically a time for high stress due to the approaching holiday season.  The stress of getting ready for family gatherings and purchasing gifts can sometimes be a load. Being a teacher may add to this stress with report cards and Parent/teacher conferences.  Then, add COVID-19 to that mix and you have the perfect storm…unless you prepare.

Erin McClintock discusses some things that will help us come out on top of it all.  In her article “10 Mental Health Tips for Teachers During the COVID-19 Pandemic” she suggests some important steps for teachers to take care of themselves.

 

  1. Control the Controllable – while you CAN’T control the pandemic and what happens because of it, you can control “how you spend some of your time, what you choose to prioritize, what types of media you consume (and how frequently) and your mindset.”
  2. Carve Out Time For Self-Care To Maintain Your Mental Health- The previous blog addresses this issue. Remember to wash your hands, read, meditate and take time to refresh yourself.
  3. Get your Body Moving- We are spending more time on the computer and in a chair. Make a mental note to move around.  Stand up and take a break.  Get those steps in!
  4. Model Self-compassion- “We teach students this all of the time– the basics of self-compassion, kind self-talk, and growth mindset. Now is the time to also turn it inwards.”
  5. Set Reasonable Expectations (for yourself and others)- This is not a business as usual time! There are so many unknowns and although we need to move forward and grow, we need to set small realistic goals.
  6. Communication is Vital for Maintaining Mental Health for Teachers- Simply, let people know what is going on – parents, colleagues, and administration. Being in the dark only adds to the anxiety in ourselves and others.
  7. Be unapologetic- We live in an “I’m sorry” world.  “Be unapologetic about taking time for yourself, setting realistic goals, setting boundaries, and being clear and transparent about what you are capable of (and what you need).”
  8. A Dedicated Work Space Can Improve Mental Wellness-. “By creating a dedicated workspace: even if it is just one corner of your home that you designate as “work only,” you can do two things: you can send an outward message to those in your life that when you are in that space you are working, and also an internal message to your own brain that signals when it is work mode and when it is time to disconnect.”
  9. Set Office Hours While Remote Teaching-put aside time when students and colleagues can get a hold of you. This will help you separate your work life and personal like.
  10. Reach Out­-If you are feeling overwhelmed, having a tough time, or need help, reach out to others. Reach out to a counselor. Talk with others and find out what they may be doing to overcome some of these feelings.  Don’t isolate yourself!

 

Read the entire article at https://everfi.com/blog/k-12/10-ways-educators-can-support-their-mental-health/

 

Embedded in the article are podcasts, webinars, and other resources that will be helpful.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for teachers to practice self-care as an important part of their daily teaching routine.  We must get over the idea that self-care is unnecessary, self-indulgent, or a selfish use of our time.  In fact, self-care promotes long-term health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Illness, there are 6 elements to self-care:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Social
  • Professional

Ideally, we should be setting time each day to include a small activity from each one of these elements. Some ideas are listed:

  1. Make sure to plan at least 10-20 minutes a day to decompress by yourself.  This could simply mean closing your door and listening to soothing music at the end of the day.
  2. Find ways to work on and improve your self-image. You need to improve your sense of compassion for yourself.
  3. Keep a journal and write in it to work through difficult teaching days when you feel overwhelmed.
  4. Social support is important. Find ways to connect with loved ones at least once a day.  This could be having dinner with your family, calling a friend, or relaxing with your significant other.

For more information on self-care, read the entire article published by Waterford.org, April 10, 2020.

Why Teacher Self-Care Matters and How to Practice Self-Care in Your School