As a teacher, you spend every day, from start to finish, putting the needs of students first. Each day brings something new; you are challenged, pulled in different directions and are expected to just get on with it, all whilst taking the brunt of misplaced anger from the student who is having a tough time at home.
You are a human being who has fears and worries of their own. You may also be a parent or a carer. But, regardless of who you really are, you are just ‘Miss’ or ‘Sir’, to your students.
I am convinced that no one should care for the wellbeing of others at the expense of their own. Having worked with teachers in secondary schools in my role with the charity Mind, I know how hard it is to find time for yourself amidst the planning, marking and other commitments. But, I’ve also seen how taking small steps to improve wellbeing can help teachers avoid that feeling of being completely weighed down by work.
This term, try some of these tips to make sure you start out on the right foot:
- Be active Physical activity is proven to reduce stress. To a lot of us, exercise may seem time-consuming - something you’d obviously want to avoid doing in term-time. But exercise doesn’t always mean spending hours on a treadmill after a busy day. Instead, you could do some gardening, or cycle to work. On a lot of days, this may be difficult to fit in, but if you can make time for a small amount of activity even once or twice a week, you’ll still feel the benefits.
- Be kind to yourself Allow yourself a little "me time" before bed to read a book or take a bath. It may seem like this won’t make a difference to the pressure you feel, but making sure you relax and wind down in the evening is proven to protect your heart, boost memory, help you make better decisions and lower the risk of depression. It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses and worries of work. So, if you’re struggling to switch off, mindfulness can be a useful tool. These techniques can help you to focus on the present, rather than taking the stresses of school home with you.
- Continue to connect To be able to function well, we need to feel close to and valued by others. Sometimes you might feel too busy to socialise, but it is important that you don’t neglect the relationships you nurtured during the school holidays. Now that you are back at work, make sure you still spend time with family or friends. This doesn’t have to mean ignoring your planning for a whole weekend – it could be as simple as watching a half-hour TV show with your family once a week, or meeting a friend for coffee one morning.
Implementing these changes may seem impossible on top of your mountains of marking. But once you’ve put them into practice, it will be easier to make regular time for them, and looking after yourself will begin to feel like the priority it is.
Claudia Denington is the Learn Well advisor at Hammersmith and Fulham branch of Mind. She delivers workshops about mental health and wellbeing to teachers, parents and students at secondary schools.
You can read more about how to support the mental health of students and school staff in the 16 September issue of TES, which is a wellbeing special issue. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. The magazine is available in all good newsagents.