Teacher wellbeing stories: Ashley Green

Ashley shares how she has looked after her mental health and wellbeing as well as that of others while teaching in the Middle East – and how seeking help has helped her to overcome depression.

Ashley Green

Ashley Green Wellbeing story image

It’s fair to say I’m a fan of all things wellbeing. Originally from Scotland, I’ve spent 12 years teaching in the Middle East - five of which were spent in a wellbeing lead role. In that time, I’ve also completed yoga teacher training in India and achieved a master's degree in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. But that hasn’t meant I’ve been immune to dips and struggles with my mental health and wellbeing. 

I’ve always been aware of the need to care for my mental health, particularly when moving away from home to the Middle East when I was 25. I started meditating and shortly after, stumbled into the world of mindfulness and so the learning began! I had a total lightbulb moment back then and wondered, ‘Why aren’t we teaching more of these mental wellbeing strategies in schools?’. The benefits for me had been incredible and helped me reduce my anxiety.

My efforts in school were recognised by the children – who started calling me Mindful Miss Green! This is a role I relished and as my knowledge grew, I was able to share more ideas with other teachers and parents through my website and many regional conferences.  

However…Covid happened. Education was turned on its head. As I live alone, I felt deeply isolated during the lockdowns and intense restrictions. Although I was teaching online and could video call family, I noticed a deterioration of my mental health.

In September 2020, my school went back into classes with lots of restrictions in place. I found the following few months so difficult. I was either at work, physically distanced from everyone around me while trying to ensure the children were learning and making the most of their time at school, or I was at home alone. My grandmother died in the November, and I caught Covid myself in January 2021. Eventually restrictions lifted a little and I met friends outside of work at times, but I knew something just wasn’t right.  

I decided that I needed help and contacted a local wellbeing centre. After a couple of therapy sessions, my documents confirmed what I had suspected, depression. At first, I really struggled with this, after all – aren’t I the wellbeing person? Am I not the one with advice and positive psychology interventions to help others? Then came the relief and acceptance. I felt so grateful to the therapist for listening to everything that I had inside and for helping me navigate through the thick fog in my mind. 

We had many sessions together over the following year and little by little the fog lifted. I am beyond grateful for the help I received, and I am proud of myself that I asked for help when I needed it most. Unpacking and talking through what was inside just gave me room to breathe and to accept that I really was going through a hard time.  

More recently, I have felt a new lease of life and feel excited about my projects again. I am hugely passionate about improving wellbeing provision in education, for staff and students and I can feel my drive for this getting stronger each day. I have visited my family in Scotland and they have also been out to Dubai to spend time with me.

I don’t feel that deep, isolating loneliness anymore and I can recognise the signs when I feel myself taking a dip mentally. If this happens then I do a little yoga, go for a walk, write down my stressors, connect with others or I do one of the positive psychology interventions myself. Most importantly, I make sure I am kind to myself; I treat myself like I would treat a friend or family member who is facing difficulties.  

Everyone experiences mental health difficulties or depression differently. It can also be such a complex thing to understand. I am a wholehearted advocate for seeking out a professional to talk to if you are struggling; it really is, good to talk. 

Ashley is originally from Scotland but has spent the past 12 years teaching in the Middle East. You can find Ashley on Twitter by searching @mindfulmissg.  

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