mental health tips for teachers

Ten Tips to Keep You From Falling Apart This School Year

mental health tips for teachers

“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

As the school year continues, Covid-19 still looms large, and teachers and students sometimes feel overcome with all the uncertainty they face. Educators are dealing with a multitude of changes, new protocols, and fears. This added stress and confusion creates anxiety that leads to a sense of feeling swamped, defeated, depressed, and worried about how to get it all done.

How then do we show up and do the job required of us without falling apart? E-Therapy’s resident life coach, Cathy Hartenstein, shares ten mental health tips for teachers and therapists that will help you keep your head on straight and your sanity intact.

 

1. Breathe

When we get stressed and feel overwhelmed one of the best tools we have is to just simply breathe. That moment of taking a deep breath and letting out a slow exhale allows us to refocus, remain calm, and reconnect to ourselves. Take deep breaths to sync up your heart rate and your breath, release endorphins, and bring yourself into a serene and relaxed state. Deep breaths bring more oxygen to your brain which combats that foggy, unfocused, on-edge feeling.

How does it help?
 Deep breathing allows us to slow down, catch our breath, and find a clarity that improves both our energy and mental focus.

2. Break Things Down

Oftentimes overwhelm creeps in because we are focused on the multitude of tasks in front of us. We look at our long list of things to do and think we will never get it all done. The best way to combat this is to break your responsibilities down into small tasks. The best way to break down projects is to start by defining your milestones (when do things need to be completed by), figure out what tasks are needed to reach the milestones, and finally put the tasks in the right order. This helps to clarify your goals and understand what your timeframe and daily workload will look like.

How does it help?
By breaking down big projects into doable steps it helps combat the sense of doom that the long list of responsibilities triggers.

3. Make a List

The next step is to make a To Do List. List making is very powerful in that it gives you concrete focus about how to actually accomplish your work. The trick to successful list making is to keep it short. Once your list explodes and has too many items, you burn out quickly and find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed. Once you have completed a task be sure to cross it off.

How does it help?
List making helps to combat overwhelm as you begin to see all that you have completed and that you can get your work done.

4. Prioritize

In order to keep that list short, you need to prioritize. There are many strategies for prioritizing your work, but things to keep in mind when doing so include:

  • separating urgent tasks from important tasks
  • scheduling things that don’t need to get done right away
  • delegating whenever possible
  • and most importantly, figuring out what you can cut

Once you have gone through this process, assess which tasks have the most value to doing your job and how much effort it takes to get the task done. Now you can figure out the top 3-5 tasks you must complete and put them on your list.

How does it help?
Prioritizing means figuring out which tasks need to be done first to keep your workload from getting away from you.

5. One Step at a Time

There is a famous Chinese proverb that says “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This is good to remember when we see that long list of things that need to be done in a short period of time. Sometimes we take one look at that long list and start to freak out – “How am I ever going to get all that done?!”

But if we just start with the first step and build on that incrementally, we slowly but surely find that our list gets shorter and shorter. If you start small you see that your workload starts to diminish rapidly. It is much easier to do something incrementally than all at once.

How does it help?
The benefit of doing something incrementally is that the strategy sets you up for success instead of failure and gives you many small accomplishments along the way to feel good about, which only encourages you to continue.

6. Simplify

This is to remind you to not get too caught up in the nitty gritty. This means returning to the basics, finding the easiest way to get something done, and doing less whenever possible. Trust your instincts and don’t reinvent the wheel. When in doubt throw the task out – eliminate whatever is not essential to your work. Learn to say no!

How does it help?
When we feel overwhelmed it is best to do just what needs to get done.

7. Focus on What’s Right in Front of You

We often find during our work day there are many moving pieces and lots of demand for our time and attention. We are constantly being pulled in many directions at once. When this happens, it is best to just focus on what’s right in front of you. Deal with the task at hand and then move onto the next one. If you do get interrupted, address it and then quickly shift your attention back to what you were doing.

How does it help?
Focusing on what’s in front of you keeps you from getting ahead of yourself and thinking about the multitude of tasks ahead of you.

8. Take a Break

It is important to remember to take a break and treat yourself to down time. Great ways to take a break include indulging in fun distractions, stepping outside and experiencing nature, letting yourself daydream, eating a tasty healthy snack, or exercising.

How does it help?
Taking a break gives you a chance to refresh, refocus, and realign your energy and makes it possible to take good care of yourself in the midst of all your daily stress.

9. Let Go of Perfectionism

So often when we feel out of control or overwhelmed, we tend to focus on what we do have power over. We set very high expectations for ourselves and try to micromanage every detail. We want everything to be perfect to the point where we actually create more stress for ourselves. The best way to let go of perfectionism is to let go of unrealistic expectations, stay present, and focus on what is working. Remember, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

How does it help?
Letting go of the need to be perfect frees us from unrealistic expectations that cause extra work and stress. You are good at what you do, and 99.9% of the time, your work is more than good enough. Trust yourself!

10. Remember to Have Fun

When we are having fun it automatically helps to dissipate stress and overwhelm. So often when our responsibilities loom large, we forget that we love what we do.

  • When you are feeling stressed, take a moment and refocus your energy on a key aspect about your work that you really enjoy.
  • Practice gratitude and let yourself be creative in accomplishing your tasks.
  • Make a positive, inspiring work space with reminders of self-care and joyful messages.
  • If you are collaborating, see if you can engage in fun brainstorming activities or have happiness boosting breaks throughout the day which can include sharing fun, uplifting emails, texts, or videos with each other.

How does it help?
When you are feeling stressed, taking a moment to have some fun will help you remember that you love what you are doing!

Overall, remember that while you may feel overwhelmed by all the current shifts and changes happening each day, you are great at your job and even in the middle of everything, what you contribute is truly remarkable.

Sound off in the comments below about how you combat overwhelm in your daily work.

Learn more:
5 Tips For Practicing Presence
Reflecting on the Positive: Signs That You Love Teletherapy
The Power of Setting Good Intentions
Practicing Gratitude Goes A Long Way In Beating Stress

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *