'Overthinking is a growing problem for teachers'

Try these tips for stepping off the neverending 'merry-go-round' that teaching can become

Isabelle Boyd

'Overthinking is a growing problem for teachers'

I often advise education professionals – from class teachers to senior leaders – to take care of themselves, given the evidence that workload and the stress it can cause is increasing.

Many working in education cite clear examples of the job affecting their health. Statistics and surveys show an increase in absence as a result of stress and anxiety-related conditions.

One manifestation of this that I see regularly is overthinking: people either beating themselves up for a "mistake" made last week, or fretting about how on earth to succeed tomorrow.

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While some factors are outwith our control, we can take steps to improve our own health and wellbeing – like not overthinking everything. It's easy to dwell on how bad you feel and concentrate on all things you have no control over; we all need to learn to prioritise and to let other things go, to stop second-guessing everything or analysing it to death.

If work is keeping you awake at night; if you are taking work-related matters personally; if you always expect the worse to happen – then you are probably overthinking and doing damage to your health and wellbeing.

So, you've got to find ways to switch off. The best ways of doing this? That’s down to personal circumstances and context, but here are my ways of keeping mentally healthy.

Each day I try to: get one hour of exercise; drink two litres of water; limit my coffee intake to three cups; sing my head off to my four favourite songs; eat my five a day; be outdoors, regardless of the weather, for at least six minutes; find at least seven minutes to chat and laugh with others; get eight hours of sleep; read at least nine pages of a book; and, finally, list 10 things in my life for which I am truly blessed.

These are the ways I distract myself to happiness, but there are countless others, including meditation, dancing, exercise, learning a musical instrument, knitting, drawing, painting – even golf, I hear.

So, what will you choose to stop yourself from overthinking?

Isabelle Boyd is a former secondary headteacher in Scotland, who recently retired as assistant chief executive at North Lanarkshire Council

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