Practising self-care and looking after your mental health for teachers

With news of the coronavirus pandemic dominating headlines and social media, even the most level-headed among us will be feeling worried and anxious. Even in the best of times, but especially as the current situation unfolds, maintaining teachers’ mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever.

Considering the unusual situation playing out across the globe right now, it’s completely ok not to feel ok, and to remind yourself these feelings are perfectly normal.

It’s crucial to remember that if we are not taking good care of ourselves, we cannot effectively take care of others. So, whether you’re still at school or teaching from home, here's some advice to help you remain calm and look after yourself as we navigate and adjust to the coming weeks or months.

1. Be kind to yourself
These are unprecedented times. You’ve never delivered HPE remotely before, and no one expects you to deliver classes the same or better than the face-to-face classes we’re all used to. Just as you wouldn’t be hard on a student in your class having difficulty learning a new skill or concept, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You will make mistakes, and that’s ok. This new frontier of teaching and learning will take some getting used to, and can be seen as an excellent opportunity for us all to learn new platforms and tools.

2. Circle of control
A good activity via is to find a piece of scrap paper and draw a circle within a circle. In the inner circle, write down the things within your control and, on the outer circle, the things which aren’t. You’ll find there are several things within our control (i.e. your words and tone, breath and body language, whether we wash our hands or not etc.) – but there are a lot of things out of our control at this time. Keep questioning whether your thoughts land on what you can control or what you can’t. If it’s the latter, try and shift your focus (and actions) towards what you can.

3. Keep your hands busy
It's more difficult to let your mind to drift towards darker thoughts when your hands are doing something tactile. Why not try and keep yourself busy by plugging in to your creativity. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Do a puzzle
  • Try your hand at embroidery
  • Bake bread or something else hand-intensive like a cake
  • Do a drawing, paint or make a collage
  • Ever wanted to learn guitar? Now’s a good time to start with plenty of tutorials on YouTube
  • Get out into the garden and do some weeding or plant vegies
  • Do some housework or take steps to beautify your home
  • Learn to juggle

4. Create boundaries and routines at home
Working from home certainly has its perks, however if you don’t put firm boundaries and routines in place you might find yourself completely burned out. Try the following:

  • At the beginning of each day, set yourself a cut-off time when the laptop gets put away and the phone goes on silent.
  • Try checking your emails at different intervals of the day (e.g. at 9am, 1pm and 4pm) rather than constantly refreshing your browser checking for new emails.
  • If you have the space, set up a dedicated work station somewhere in the home to help you differentiate your work time from down time.

5. Keep physical activity levels up
As hard as it may be at this time to avoid continuously scrolling through news and social media feeds, try and give yourself a mental and physical break. Find ways to move to get the blood flowing and endorphins pumping. Going for a walk, doing a 7-minute workout on your phone or a YouTube Zumba session are sure-fired ways to improve your mood and mindset.

6. Calm your mind
There’s never been a better time to download the Smiling Mind app with guided meditations and mindfulness exercises to help you truly disconnect and let your mind just “be” for a while.

7. Stay connected
Use social media, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype etc. to connect with your friends and family remotely. Check in on your neighbours and older people you know (especially those living alone). And if social media is overwhelming you, do yourself a favour and disconnect for a while.

Need more information?

Beyond Blue has lots of information to help people look after their mental health during the outbreak, including fact sheets about anxiety and other practical advice and resources on their website. They’ve also dedicated a page on its forums about coping during the coronavirus outbreak.

Additionally, the Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 22 4636.

We’re here for you in these unprecedented times. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with further questions or for advice.