5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
We are now two months into the school year and you may be feeling stressed out, burned out, and/or questioning your decision to be a teacher. Aka you are experiencing the “October Blues.” We get it. Teaching is hard work and sometimes you may feel that you are not given the support or recognition you need. Sometimes the stress of the work, and the expectations of administrators, parents and the general public is a lot to manage. But, don’t worry, you are not alone. It doesn’t have to be this way!
The keys to managing your workload, reducing the stress, anxiety and possible isolation of your job and maintaining a positive work-life balance are actually within your grasp. You have invested a lot into the process of becoming a teacher and it would be a shame to throw that all a way to begin another career without first trying to fix the problems that are in front of you. Remember, first and foremost, you became a teacher because you wanted to make an impact in your student’s lives. You want to see their brilliant smiles, how they overcome challenges, and become beautiful successful adults. Every job has some stress but it is true that educators feel more stressed than just about any other profession right now. If you are looking to improve your mental health, here are five proven ways to take action.
Focus on You
Make your mental health a priority. Don’t wait, don’t push it off, don’t make excuses….if you aren’t feeling great, acknowledge that things are not going as you would like and decide to work on a solution. Don’t hesitate to talk to a professional. Your mental health is too important to ignore and the time that you take to improve your mental health will return to you tenfold.
Know that you are not alone. Your colleagues are in the same boat and share many of the same issues so talk to them, ask for their advice, share your concerns and brainstorm solutions. By sharing your feelings with your trusted colleagues and leaders, it will not only help you but it can also help those around you. Practice active listening, be there to help others and listen to their concerns as well. You never know what someone is going through and by breaking down walls and sharing your thoughts and emotions - you can be there for each other. If you don’t feel comfortable having open and honest conversations with your colleagues - share that feedback with your administrator. If you are unable to connect with your colleagues, this may be the cause of your stress.
Take time and identify the issue that is at the root of your feelings. Then dissect it and consider solutions that will make things better such as:
- If the amount of prep work is bringing you down, talk to other members of your grade level or team and see if you can collaborate together and share resources, lesson plans, and strategies to cut down the amount of prep work that you personally have to do.
- If the amount of correcting is a stress point, do more informal formative assessments instead (that don’t require grading!).
- Try having your students self-report grades, which can be a very effective strategy for learning (See Visible Learning MetaX for details on the aggregate research on how this practice can accelerate growth).
- If you feel like you are working too hard and not seeing the results that you deserve, make the shift from a teacher-led classroom to a student-led classroom.
Finding a work/life balance can sometimes feel like an out of touch scenario when in fact it can be achieved when you set firm boundaries between your work life and your home life. If you find that work is dominating your day, then make a new schedule - and break it down by days of the week. You want to avoid saving things to do over the weekend. Instead schedule in time in the mornings or after school on specific days then leave the weekends to decompress and have some fun! If you feel that your personal obligations are too much to handle, talk with your neighbors, friends or family to work out a shared “taxi” schedule that will reduce the burden on all of your lives. And remember you can always say no to things. Just be sure to learn the power of the word no and find a way to use it that works for you.
Get Serious About Having Fun!
Laughter is the best medicine. This is not just a saying, it has been proven that taking time to have fun has many positive outcomes. In Catherine Price’s TED Talk “Why Having Fun Is the Secret to a Healthier Life”, she shares how having fun can boost our resilience and our spirits in a way that makes it easier for us to cope with whatever life may throw our way. I’m not saying that you should not take your work seriously but just taking a lighter approach to everything and looking for the humor in every situation is an impactful way to brighten your mood and reduce stress. Take steps to have fun - in your classroom, with your colleagues, in your home, wherever - just make it happen.
Explore the resources below for additional ways to improve your mental health.
- Teachers: Protecting Your Mental Health
- Mental Health Tips For Teachers
- Teacher Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Informing Policies to Support Teacher Well-being and Effective Teaching Practices
Create an environment that fosters social, emotional, behavioral, and academic growth using both UDL and SEL in your learning environment.