Mental health is something that affects everyone. Some people are more resilient, some cope better, but everyone needs to be aware of their own mental health and the mental health of others.
Teaching can be draining, tiring, fatiguing and knackering – it’s important to know how to deal with stress, anxiety and exhaustion when it occurs, not just push it away.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you look after your mental health:
Teaching is stressful and your influence is limited
We want each of our students to do as well as they can, we care, we become involved in their struggle – that can be a burden when things don’t go well. It’s hard, but you have to know that your influence is just a tiny strand of their life. If things don’t go as you like, you can’t hold yourself responsible.
Protect your time
Time is your greatest asset. We all get twenty-four hours a day, no more, no less. You DO need to spend time doing things that are not work – sleeping, relaxing, spending time with the important people in your life. Have a deadline when you finish working – say 9pm – and book regular things at weekends so you’re not at home looking at that pile of books.
Energy is a teacher’s greatest tool
Think about it, what does a teacher really need? Powerpoint? Board markers? Exercise books? What do you remember about the great teachers of your past? I bet it wasn’t their Powerpoint animations or creative YouTube clips. A teacher’s energy is their most important tool – I bet (based on experience, not research) that it has a bigger impact than marking, homework, seating plans or pupil premium spending! Know your energy level, monitor it carefully throughout the day, don’t plan five energetic lessons back to back, know in advance what is going to require the most energy that day and save yourself for it.
You need to know your strengths, your weaknesses, when you’re feeling good and when you need to stop. It’s ok to say no to things if you’re feeling burned out. Get to know when you’re most productive and use that time – for me, it’s first thing in the morning, whereas others work better later in the evening.
If you are struggling, reach out.
Find someone to talk to about the stresses of the job
Sometimes talking can be enough, let off steam with someone who understands. Explain to them that you just need to moan for a while – maybe they don’t even need to say anything, just listen. If it’s an ongoing stressor that you’re constantly battling, then that needs to be sorted. I follow the belief that I’ll moan once, solve it if it happens a second time.
Get in touch with Education Support UK
Education Support UK is a charity providing mental health and wellbeing support to people working in education. They’ve got a free and confidential helpline at, 08000 562 56), they’re on Twitter @EdSupportUK, or on the web at http://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk.