Teacher Mental Health in the classroom
Beat the return to work blues and stay on top of your work/life balance with by making sure you look after your mental health. Teacher mental health is a topic that frustrates me. There is this dangerous idea perpetuated by lot’s of school leaders and fellow teachers that “we knew what we were getting in to” and consequently, an admission that you need support is a sign of weakness and unsuitability for the role. Bullshit! Teacher Mental Health needs to be at the forefront of your mind – supporting yourself and your colleagues. I intend to update this list regularly – if you have any teacher mental health tips, please leave a comment.
Generally speaking, there are a few things you can do that support your mental health – healthy diet and exercise really do make a difference. Limiting alcohol intake can be vital too. However, when I was stressed and looking for release (before I found my coping strategies) I compensated by drinking heavily most nights, furthermore, my diet was shambolic. As a teacher, I knew I was letting things slip, feeling blurry eyed and bloated; adding further anxiety as the weight piled on and shirts began to get tight. *Since leaving teaching I have lost over a stone in fat and reduced my alcohol intake massively (I barely drink at all know).
1) Mindfulness – I was skeptical
When I was first introduced to meditation and mindfulness it was a last-ditch attempt to solve anxiety that was stopping me from sleeping. I half read a book about different techniques and tried some out, with a healthy dose of cynicism. I felt silly going through the process and found it challenging, but I woke up the next morning feeling like I had fallen asleep quicker. I signed up for a free trial of Audible and downloaded a few books with a guided meditation. Within a week I went from being someone who struggled to drift off to a person who could sleep anywhere in a matter of minutes using a guided meditation. It genuinely changed my life. I now use a range of apps on my phone alongside the Audible books, namely Buddhify and Headspace. The useful thing about the Apps is you can very quickly choose a ‘reason’ for the session and create a very focused and timely intervention. This allows you to pick a session that meets the specific anxiety or issue head-on within the time you have available – 8-minute session on morning motivation; you got it!
2) Reading for teacher mental health and pleasure!
I used to read A LOT in my teens and early twenties but found that my headspace was limited and I could never really focus on the page; when my head was full of assessment, planning and the personal challenges that come with teaching. I also found it increasingly impractical to buy paper books but had never really enjoyed the process of reading e-books on my phone or tablet. I had read that the Kindle Paperwhite was a close approximation of the paper book reading experience and in my attempt to rediscover my love of reading I decided to buy one.
I purchased the cheapest model – under £100 – and spent a few minutes connecting my Amazon Account before picking up my first book. Wow! Firstly the screen on the Paperwhite is backlit and the resolution is super-crisp; this means words are clear and perfect for reading in bed without disturbing your partner. The technology in the Paperwhite also makes the screen easy to read in sunlight, if you have ever tried to read an e-book whilst sat by the pool you will know that this move is incredibly useful! £99 might seem expensive but the practicality it provides is absolutely worth it, and I went from someone who was unable to concentrate on reading, to someone with an entire library in my palm!
The selection of books available is broad. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a popular book that isn’t available on the Kindle Paperwhite; this ranges from non-fiction, through to reference books, cookery books, and kid’s stories. The immediacy of delivery means that you can head to bed, browse the Amazon store via the Paperwhite device and be reading your selection within a matter of seconds.
*Some great paper books to read on improving your mental health if you want to stay old-school!*
Get FREE Kindle Unlimited Subscription
Amazon now provides a service called Kindle Unlimited, this is a monthly subscription service that acts like Netflix for books. You pay a monthly fee of £7.99 and have unlimited access to over 1 million books and magazines with instant download to your Kindle Device. Pretty good eh? The even better thing is that you can currently sign-up for a FREE 30-Day Trial by clicking here. Let me know which books you are currently reading!
3) Improve teacher mental health Learning a New Skill!
When I felt I overwhelmed at work I found I was spending money trying to feel happy and never really got there. What did help me feel better was taking the time to learn a new skill. I had always loved photography and whilst I aspired for my photos to look better I hadn’t ever had formal training and wasn’t sure where to start. Youtube was a good start but the lack of structured lessons meant my attention drifted.
*Keep reading for a 2 month free trial to Skillshare!!*
Then I found Skillshare!
Skillshare is a teaching platform, like a NETFLIX for lifelong learners, it has over 27000 classes with topics ranging from setting up a small business, making pasta, taking better photographs and writing novels; with many others to choose from. I enrolled on classes in photography but have since gone on to learn accounting for my own businesses, perfected my pizza recipe, and continued my development in Leadership. OK, so I pay a monthly fee, but I only pay £7 a month which is less than a decent book on Amazon and provides unlimited access to all of the skillshare content.
£7 a month?
If it seems like a lot, consider the expertise you are tapping in to for the cost of a bottle of wine. 27000 lessons ready to access and you can dip in and out as required. Friends coming for dinner? Take a lesson in making masterful cocktails and the most delicious curry you have ever tasted. Job interview in a different sector? Brush-up on management speak and presentation techniques commonly used in business. The scope is huge, not just great for teacher mental health but fantastic for being a life-long learner.
Can I get it for free?
Actually, yes! I have teamed up with Skillshare to offer teachers (and anyone reading this article) 2 months free access to their Premium service. This is TWO MONTHS, with no commitment and the opportunity to cancel at any stage. If you fancy a couple of months of learning fabulous new skills or improving old ones – click here and get started instantly.
If you need a confidence boost – read this interview with a Teacher who stepped out of the classroom on their quest for happiness.
I found a lot of reassurance in just starting the process of leaving teaching – the easiest way to do this is by reading this quick-start guide.