Nurture Your Mental Health

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Self-Care
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Self-Care
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There is no doubt that teaching is a mentally stressful occupation.

There are a lot of expectations on teachers to manage – from students to parents, senior staff and even the government. In order to help provide the best teaching you can, it is incredibly important that teachers’ mental health is looked after.

So, where to start when it comes to looking after our mental health…

01 | Nurture your physical body

  • Regular exercise – Having a healthy body gives your mind the best chance to be adaptive and resilient when you need it. Maintaining some regular exercise gives your body m a boost but also allows your mind to rest and recuperate as you engage your body.
  • Healthy food – As well as exercise it’s important to make sure you are eating enough healthy foods. The food you eat is the fuel your mind runs on so a varied and healthy diet helps maintain a healthy mind.
  • Healthy sleep routine – Finally and probably most overlooked is maintaining a healthy sleep routine. When you haven’t slept properly you definitely can’t exercise properly and your mind will be worse off too. Make sure you’re practicing good ‘sleep hygiene’ by keeping your bedroom a place for rest and allowing your mind time to wind down before you go to bed by turning off computer games and stopping phone scrolling.

02 | Organise your thoughts by writing them down

Take up the practice of journaling if you’re finding it difficult to maintain your balance. Try and focus part of your journaling on thinking of the things you are grateful at that moment. By practicing this it can make it easier throughout your day to revert to gratefulness instead of other more negative emotions.

Not only is journaling a great mindfulness practice you could also use it in your professional life. Spending a short amount of time at the end of a teaching day could help build self-awareness and improve your methods as well as provide a short record of your day if you ever need to refer back to it.

03 | Remain open to learning

Much as it’s easier to teach a student who recognises they have things to learn, so we should remind ourselves in our adult life that we are always growing and learning.

By taking on this attitude it allows ourselves to maintain a positive self-concept. A person who is still learning is allowed to make mistakes and always has room to grow. It also reminds us to compare our efforts to our own past and not to others. We are each on our own journey and it is important to be kind to yourself. We don’t expect our students to learn much from threats and nor should we allow it in our self-talk.

To help in this it’s great to have a debrief process so you’re ready when a particularly tough day comes with something familiar to get your mind around it. This could be a personal process or you could build a mentor relationship with someone you know who is wise and/or has more teaching experience. Having a third party view is always helpful in situations where your emotions may take over.

04 | Set boundaries with work

With teaching, it can be easy to take work home with you. Often it’s required if you have marking to do. When you do this it’s important to make sure you set up boundaries so you can have time away from the stressors of work.

In setting up the boundaries you can help improve your teaching by maintaining strong social connections outside of work and by building hobbies and past-times that bring you happiness that can refill your cup when you don’t have to be switched on professionally.

Above all, whether it’s work or personal life, remember it’s ok to say no to some things to ensure you have enough time to yourself if that’s what helps you recharge.

05 | Be flexible

Last but not least, plan for flexibility. We have been forced to learn in recent times that a lot has changed and many plans were overtaken by events. By having small but planned responses that might come up in your teaching day you can take some of the stress away.

Make sure the plans aren’t so rigid they can’t fit to circumstances, however. Leave room for a few missteps along the way and be kind to yourself because we can’t control everything around us. You could also add in some new skills in your free time that recent events have made you realise need sharpening like working with technology.

 

Just like any well-made structure, having a strong foundation is important. Taking time to look after your mental and physical health provides a firm foundation to allow you to build your professional experience as well as your happiness.

Stay well!

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Part 3: Retaining Staff

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