How to deal with NQT stress

Your first year of teaching is likely to be stressful at times – one mental health expert gives her tips on how to cope with the pressure

Tes Editorial

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As a newly qualified teacher (NQT), there will be many thoughts racing through your mind as the first term stretches out before you: how will I remember my students’ names?  Will I be able to keep on top of the marking? And what about the lesson plans?

Your teacher-training will have prepared you well for your first job, but starting out as a NQT can be incredibly challenging. 

For months, the issue of teachers’ workload and the pressures they face have been headline news, and concerns about the impact of this are not unfounded. A survey by NASUWT teaching union revealed that 67 per cent of teachers said that their job has adversely impacted their mental or physical health.

Being aware from the very start of your career how the potential stresses and pressures of the classroom can impact on your wellbeing, and what you can do maintain good mental health can make all the difference in managing the demands of teaching. 

Here are some tips to see you through your first year:

  1. Build connections
    Relationships are extremely beneficial for our mental wellbeing and these friendships can provide a vital network of support if you find you are struggling. Visit the staffroom, and get to know your colleagues. Their experience can make them a great sounding board for any concerns.

  2. Take a break
    Teachers are a dedicated, passionate bunch, but to bring this level of commitment and enthusiasm on a daily basis requires dedicated down time. Whatever your profession, it’s so important to have boundaries between your job and life outside of work.

    Even if the pile of marking appears to resemble the leaning tower of Pisa, make sure you make some time both during the day and after work to engage in activities that help you to relax and switch off. Whether that’s a short walk, reading a chapter of your book or listening to a podcast - these breaks can make the world of difference in managing stress levels.
  3. Get moving
    Research has shown that physical activity can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. For time-stretched teachers, fitting in a gym session can seem like a tall order, but it is easier than you think to schedule some sort of exercise into your day, and it’s a great way to unwind and clear the mind. There’s no need to think big. You could try getting off one stop earlier from the tube or bus, and integrate walking to work into your commute.
  4. Talk about it
    A recent survey by the Education Support Partnership revealed that only 25 per cent of teachers who had experienced problems with their mental health discussed it with their line manager. However, opening up about any difficulties you may be experiencing with your mental health, can be the crucial first step to getting help and support.

    If you find it hard talking to your line manager in school, you could go to a cafe away from the school site, and an environment you may be finding stressful. Additionally, you could try talking it through with someone you feel comfortable with – a friend or relative, and practise what you might say to your employer.


Chloe Grass-Orkin is media officer at Rethink Mental Illness

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You can also call the Rethink Mental Illness advice service on 0300 5000 927 (lines open Monday to Friday 09:30-4:00pm and calls charged at local rate).