Use these 7 mental health tips to keep your mind and body healthy during the upcoming school year. You owe it to yourself!
Mental health is such a tough topic to address. There is definitely a stigma around it that we can’t seem to break through.
When I first became a teacher, I was definitely young and naive. I was happy simply because I was ignorant of the challenges the other teachers, parents, and students were experiencing. I came into my classroom every day and did what I could and then left in peace (for the most part).
Then, around year three my mindset began to shift. I found myself worrying more about my curriculum, worrying more about getting everything done, and worrying about my students. I truly started to recognize some of the challenges they were experiencing day-in and day-out and was determined to help. I wanted to help. I NEEDED to help.
But, as you probably already know, so much of the educational experience is out of our control.
I couldn’t control the random events that occurred day to day that would interfere with my curriculum like fire drills, assemblies, students leaving for different activities, etc.
I couldn’t control the attitudes of my students’ parents. No matter how much I believed in my teaching style, there was always one parent who wouldn’t agree and would add stress to my life.
I couldn’t control my students’ work ethic. I am not talking about all of them, but you know the ones I am talking about. I would find myself caring about their success more than they did, which was a problem in and of itself. So, I would spend hours trying to figure out new ways to motivate them…which wasn’t always successful either. Let that revolving door continue.
I couldn’t control the votes at the next school board meeting.
I couldn’t control the amount of training we had for scary situations like tornados and school shootings. These used to be simple drills, but nowadays, these drills are more pertinent than ever and we teachers are feeling the weight of it. Will we have the right training? Will we make the right decisions in a crisis? Will we be able to protect our students as well as we hope to…as well as society expects us to?
It’s a lot.
And if you have been losing sleep over any of the items mentioned above, you are NOT ALONE!
I feel it too!
In understanding my lack of control in a lot of situations, I work harder to control the things I can. Isn’t that what they keep asking us to do?
- Let’s try a different method with Danny because we can’t control his parents and maybe we will get through to him trying the next best thing.
- Let’s try tracking this new data in order to understand why we have so many bubble kids these days.
- Let’s add an extra meeting once a month to go over any extra drill questions or concerns that we may have.
It makes sense… do more to feel like we are in more control, but at the end of the day, sometimes this “more” just leads to burnout.
In the Omaha Public School system in Omaha, Nebraska, the district revealed that 97 teachers retired and 497 teachers resigned at the end of the 2021/2022 school year.
497 TEACHERS! IN ONE DISTRICT!
Now, I am not going to go into detail about my thoughts on why this is happening. Rather, I would like to use it to assure you that burnout is REAL and mental health is IMPORTANT!
So, let’s do what we typically do, shall we?
Why don’t we try to control what we can control?
We need to have a plan of attack heading into the next school year to keep ourselves healthy…to keep our minds healthy. Let’s have a plan of attack so that we can resist burnout and keep ourselves healthy.
*I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. I am simply sharing some tips I have learned along the way.
7 Mental Health Tips for Teachers
Create a circle of supportive coworkers
Have a circle of people who check in with you once every week. Having friends in general always helps with mental health, but having coworkers who intentionally check in with you about your wellbeing (and vice versa) encourages you to consistently reflect on how things are going and make decisions that are better for your well-being.
Participate in team-building activities
I know that sometimes team-building activities don’t seem very important. I know that sometimes they seem pointless at the beginning of the year when you are busy trying to plan your curriculum, but they do add some camaraderie in the school building which will be so important as you work through the school year.
Avoid taking work home on weekends
I know this one especially can be a tough request, but you need to FORCE yourself to take a break your work from time to time. Those test scores can wait one or two more days. I promise. The kids will be just fine!
Partake in a hobby that does not relate to school.
Allow your mind to be able to shut school off and do something else. Maybe you could start playing in a sports league, or participate in a book club, etc. It’s good to have hobbies outside the school and it may even be best to have friends outside the school as well. I always find that when I am with teachers, we talk about teaching. So, I started to incorporate a bit more time with my non-teaching friends in order to give my mind a break from even talking about school.
Utilize any counseling opportunities your school may provide.
At my previous school, they offered three free counseling sessions for each teacher. Utilize these as much as possible because your emotional and mental well-being needs regular checkups just like your physical body does.
This one is important, so I am going to say it again. SET BOUNDARIES! Brainstorm with other fellow teachers on some of the boundary issues you are experiencing. Do you get stressed out about the emails that arrive in your inbox in the evenings? Well, try shutting off your notifications on your phone so you don’t even see them until the next day. Maybe, you could work with your principal to make clear policies about when teachers will respond to emails.
I always thought that all teacher emails should go into a “night mode”. Basically, an automated message would get sent out to any parent who emails after hours indicating that the teacher is out of the building for the night and won’t return the email until the following day. How awesome would that be!? Not only would it provide clear communication to parents but it would FORCE teachers to set their own boundaries as well!
Lastly, be kind to yourself and give yourself grace.
If you have to push back a lesson or two to slow down, do so. Use your sick days if you are feeling off; that is what they are there for! Allow yourself more time to take care of yourself. You deserve it!
All in all, you can do this!
I hope these tips help you as you move into the next school year. I truly know how you are feeling at this point and so do a lot of other teachers. We are in this together and even though there are a lot of details with regards to education that we can’t control, we can control our own happiness and we have a right to do so!
Be safe! Be happy! Chat soon!