Over the past year and a half educators have truly gone above and beyond and risen to the challenges the pandemic brought. Teaching is considered one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. In fact, the job duties of an educator often extend well beyond the school day hours. Their role goes far beyond teaching. With a new school year starting it’s a good time for educators to set a plan for preparing themselves to maintain their mental health throughout the school year.
If you are a teacher, you know it can be easy to overlook your own needs when you are prioritizing the well-being of your classroom. A recent study from the UCL Institute of Education reports that one in every 20 teachers suffered a mental illness which lasted more than a year. A survey conducted in 2017 involving 30,000 educators found that 34% of teachers cited a decline in their mental health (including increased stress, depression, and emotional changes). So, what can be done to help educators and school staff maintain their mental health?
Set boundaries and stick to them. It’s important to set boundaries early on. If you find yourself talking to parents or responding to other requests a lot outside of the classroom, set office hours. Even if it’s 1-2 hours this gives you back your time to focus on other needs after those designated hours.
Show self-compassion. Students are taught to be kind to themselves, practice kind self-talk, and have a positive mindset. Remember to keep this in mind when speaking about yourself.
Control what you can. We always tell people to practice self-care or take time for themselves, although this is a major piece of the puzzle, another major factor in the wellness of educators is how they are treated by students, staff, and administrators. Take time to figure out what you have control over and make choices and put energy around what is in your control.
Find support through social connections. Lean on your social network for support. Reach out to friends, family, or other colleagues who understand the stress you may be feeling from teaching.
Keep up with self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthily, moving your body, as well as journaling or meditating.
Emphasize your purpose. Remember your why on days you may be struggling. If you are unable to establish your why then brainstorm things that bring you joy and see how you can implement those into your career path.
As you set yourself up for the school year you can also incorporate ways to support and help other teachers. These include:
Checking in with each other. Genuinely asking them how their day is going can help someone feel more connected to those around them. If you feel comfortable let others know they have your support if they ever need to talk.
Create a wellness group. This group can help keep everyone accountable in making sure they are maintaining their mental health and practicing self-care.
Teachers and school staff work every day to help students learn and be emotionally strong and healthy. If you need support reach out to fellow coworkers, family, or friends. If you are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety, schedule an appointment with a mental health professional. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
Jill Haupts, Outreach Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Jill Haupts is the Outreach Coordinator at The Kim Foundation. She received her bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services from Iowa State University in 2016. Jill joined the Kim Foundation in January of 2020, coming from Des Moines, Iowa. Her previous experience includes volunteer recruitment and fundraising, as well as experience coordinating services and providing resources to adults who have a mental health diagnosis. Jill’s role in the foundation is coordinating event logistics, presenting and attending community fairs, as well as volunteer coordination and recruitment. She enjoys working in the nonprofit field and has a passion for advocacy and helping others.