Teaching is an unquestionably rewarding profession; there is no comparison for seeing that light-bulb moment when a student gets a question right. But for teachers to enjoy these eureka moments it is imperative that they have the tools they need to maintain good mental health.
So, to coincide with World Mental Health Day (10 October), here are some tips to stay calm in the classroom and throughout the school day.
- Rest, sleep, repeat
Fatigue can impact both our physical and mental health, and therefore making sure you have time to unwind in the evening and get a good night’s sleep can be vital for preparing yourself for whatever the day ahead has in store and helping you to cope with those stressful situations when they arise.
To sleep soundly you could try having a warm bath before bed, or reading a book or listening to the radio. As a general rule, even if work creeps home with you, give yourself a “switch off” time so you allow your mind time to relax.
- Use break times
Break-time is that sacred part of the day students wait in anticipation for; a time to relax and recharge.There really is something to it – prioritising and enjoying some downtime can help reduce stress and tension we may have picked up during the day.
You may need part of break-time to tidy up from your last lesson or prepare for the next, but try to grab 10 minutes for yourself. Do a crossword or Sudoku, listen to some music or practise mindfulness − anything that focuses your mind on a different task can help you unwind, and regain your composure before the next class.
- Start with your body
It’s so important to remember that our physical and mental health are two sides of the same coin – so how we care for our bodies can affect our minds and vice versa. For example, having a balanced diet can boost feelings of wellbeing. As well as getting enough fruit and veg – consider your caffeine intake, as this can increase feelings of stress and anxiety.
Exercise is also a great way to distract your mind from work and can improve your mood and general wellbeing. If time is limited, why not try walking part of the way to work, or make use of online workouts and get active at home.
- Tea and chat
Getting things off your chest can be extremely cathartic. Whether you’re stressed about workload or feeling anxious due to difficult behaviour in the classroom, finding a colleague or friend to talk through any problems can be the first step towards a solution.
Chloe Grass-Orkin is media officer at Rethink Mental Illness.
For further information and advice, visit www.rethink.org. 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).