Your wellbeing as a teacher is, and should be a key priority in what you do every day.
When considering wellbeing it encompasses both the physical and mental aspects of health. Physical health feels more tangible to define, it can identify more clearly when we are physically unwell, we can identify the source, and often the cause. Mental health however feels far more intangible. Some days I just don’t feel quite right! The World Health Organisation (WHO) (2023) defines Mental Health as ‘a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her
Put ‘Mental Health Continuum’ into your favourite search engine and it will bring a raft of models up. These all share the perspective that mental health ranges from feeling well to being ‘ill’ or ‘in crisis’. At some points in your life, you can feel well and positive. You have enough mental/emotional/physical resources to cope with what is expected of you. However, at times those demands outweigh the resources that you have available and then is when you find yourself
becoming increasingly overwhelmed and even into ‘crisis’ levels.
In this post, I will share some ways to keep your resource level high to help you cope with the demands of the job.
Do things that make you happy
So often teaching will take over our lives, with work seeping into any free time that we have. Protect time for doing things you enjoy. This could be a sporting activity, it could be socialising, it could be reading a trashy novel (no judgement here). Doing things you enjoy and protecting time to do this is not selfish. By being rested and restored it makes you a better teacher and more able to deal with the needs of the pupils you work with. If you are someone who finds it hard to commit, plan activities with others. Committing to others can be stronger than committing to an activity.
Be sociable with non-teachers
I have often thought that a collective noun for a group of teachers should be a ‘moan’. When teachers meet each other outside of school, the focus can often be on problems and negative experiences in teaching. Having non-teachers to socialise with can help give you a break and switch off from teaching for a time and help you step out of the teaching bubble we often find ourselves in.
Block your time
Teaching will take the time you give to it. By blocking and chunking your time you can help yourself manage this more effectively. Assign a specific amount of time that you are going to work each day. It may be a quantity of hours – 2 hours after school each night or a deadline – leaving the school at 5.30 pm and not taking anything home. In order to make the most of this time you need to prioritise! What things on the to-do list will have the biggest impact on pupils’ learning? Do those first. If you still have some time left, tackle the other things on the to-do list. Equally, once these are
done go home, with no guilt!
I am writing this post during Mental Health Awareness Week and it is at these times we remember that it is ok, to not be ok! There will be people around you that can support you at those times when you feel overwhelmed. It may be that things seem to be taking longer than you anticipate completing, or you may not be sure where to start with your to-do list. It may also be that you are feeling low and a bit isolated. Teaching is a job where you are never alone, (there are always so many children around) but it can get lonely without adult company. Reach out to your colleagues, develop a trusted group you can be honest with, without fear of judgment. Find your tribe! These will be the people that make you feel excited about teaching and challenge you to be better but in a supportive way. I have always been lucky to have colleagues that I can be open and honest with. But, building these relationships takes time, honesty and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. When you find these colleagues, it can re-energise you and give you a new perspective on things.
These are a few of the ways that we can support ourselves to take care of our wellbeing. The school may offer wellbeing incentives, but ultimately it is our individual responsibility to take care of our own wellbeing.
Hopefully, these ideas will allow you to thrive and enjoy teaching and support you in developing further strategies for protecting your wellbeing.
Remember you can do this, you have everything inside you that you need to be successful! #YouGotThis