Wellness Tips to Help Teachers Take Care of Their Mental Health

We’re now in the third school year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and teachers everywhere are dealing with ongoing challenges. While it’s a joy to be reunited with students after months of virtual school, teaching in a pandemic involves countless obstacles. It doesn’t matter how much a teacher loves their students and their job—times have been tough, and the impact cannot be ignored.

There are continually evolving health and safety measures to follow, limitations on classroom interactions and teaching methods, and significant learning loss to address. Teachers must learn to connect with students through layers of PPE and in some cases, figure out where to safely eat their lunch each day. They’re helping students cope with pandemic-related anxiety and other mental health challenges while navigating their own stress. And finally, some educators are still teaching virtual classes and face tech issues as well as other online school difficulties.

If you’re a teacher who is feeling tired, stressed or completely burnt out, you’re not alone. Many educators are feeling the weight of working in the current academic environment, and it’s taken a toll on their mental health and emotional well-being.

“Teachers are dealing with the pressure to keep a safe and normalized hub for the students while managing their own stressors, fears and concerns about safety and security,” explains Ontario-based psychotherapist Kelly Bos. “There has also been a lot of change with how schools operate, the open-and-shut nature of the year and the frustrations of parents, which teachers sometimes bear the brunt of. Teachers are also reporting having to wear many hats, which is stressful.”

While mental health stressors aren’t new to teachers, they’ve been exacerbated during the pandemic. Bos asserts that the high demands and expectations placed on education workers can be taxing on their mental health—especially when they aren’t given the tools they need.

“In some ways, teachers are being asked to be mental health leaders for their students but aren’t always given the resources, time or education to do so,” Bos explains. “Teachers and educators are often being relied upon to make systemic reforms in the life of a child while educating another 20+ students.”

The bottom line? Struggling as a teacher right now doesn’t mean you’re failing—it means you’re human.

Wellness tips and strategies for educators

It’s important that teachers nurture their mental health and take care of their well-being, both during a pandemic and in normal times. Staples is a partner to teachers and we empathize with all the challenges the last 20 months has brought. We recommend connecting with your school board for more personalized resources and support.

Here are some tips to help guide educators and keep them mentally strong.

  • Listen to your body: When you start to feel run down, pause and address the problems behind that exhaustion instead of simply pushing through. “It is important to listen to our bodies and those telltale signs of stress that appear physically,” Bos says. “We need to check in with our thinking and perceptions and make sure we are caring for ourselves in this capacity by working against negative or distorted thinking or unrealistic expectations of ourselves.”

  • Slow down: Teaching requires a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy—but if you’re working at an overwhelming pace, it can take a toll. “We need to prioritize our health needs by slowing down, reflecting, and respecting our own limits and boundaries,” Bos advises.

  • Seek support: It’s okay to ask for help, Bos says. “It might be by reaching out for therapy or even scheduling time for their own wellness initiatives.”

  • Take a break: Bos would like to remind teachers that it’s okay to check out mentally to relax and give yourself a break. “Take the time to do nothing, have lighthearted conversations, get lost in a good movie and leave the job behind.”

Teachers spend so much time caring for others that they often put themselves at the bottom of the list—something Bos would like to see change. “Teachers are helpers, but sometimes neglect getting help for themselves.”

Now more than ever, it’s important for educators to remember that they’re deserving of the same rest, care and support as their students. Remember: if you can treat yourself with the same level of care you’d offer your students, you’ll be in good hands.

For more ways to combat stress and practice self-care, see 5 Ways To Boost Your Happiness While Working from Anywhere by happiness researcher and Staples Work from Anywhere Council member Dr. Gillian Mandich.

By Staples Canada

November 01, 2021