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Teachers managing stress going into the fall of 2020

It’s getting to be that time of the year again, but we would reckon that for most teachers this year has been unlike any other. No matter what you teach and at what level, you’ve likely been struggling with the chaotic changing of plans to accommodate safety regulations as best as possible—which may include having at least 8,000 different versions of your syllabus/lesson plans and being able to execute them well at the drop of a hat. Not to mention dealing with potentially irate parents, dwindling resources for your students, and taking care of your own family. Breathe. You are doing the best that you can and that is more than enough. This blog is for you, overwhelmed teachers, embarking on uncharted territory in the Fall of 2020.

Stress Management for teachers

Stress may seem like just part of the job for teachers, but the current situation with COVID-19 can send that into overdrive. Self-care is a critical element of managing high stress and unpredictability, and it isn’t a one stop shop process.

4 areas of a teacher’s life that may need attended to for self-care:

  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Spiritual Health
  • Relationships
Physical health

It may seem near impossible to juggle all of these areas of your life while still performing your job duties, but remember: if you don’t take time for self-care, your overall health may suffer and your body may force you to take a break anyway. Therefore, it is well worth the time to do daily self check-ins and take some self-inventory.

To begin with—how much water are you drinking? No, seriously. Try starting your day with drinking a glass of water. Many people are chronically dehydrated and if your body is depleted, you quite literally have less resources to deal with stress. Make sure you are eating some protein throughout the day to boost some of your energy levels—a much longer-lasting energy source than beloved carbs. Get up and move at least once an hour. When you are in a live classroom that is easy, you are moving around the space regularly; but if your fall teaching plan has gone back to virtual, you may need to set some timers to get you up and moving on a regular basis.

Mental Health

If you feel like what goes on in your brain is akin to herding cats, I assure you, you’re not alone. Try to create literal and metaphorical space for yourself. This means taking time to allow yourself to transition from one activity to another, not trying to do everything at once, and giving yourself ALONE time (no matter how small an amount). This also means keeping commitments to yourself like not answering (or checking!) emails past 7 pm, for example. It means not overcommitting yourself and saying no when you need to, and letting go of the fear that saying no will somehow damage your reputation or relationships. The important people in your life will understand you need to take care of yourself. Those that don’t need a readjustment to their perceptions and that is not something you can do for them.

Spiritual Health

This next one is a must. Attend to your spirituality, no matter what that means to you. This is so crucial in a time of social distancing. Figure out what brings you peace. Try some creative self-expression through writing, painting, dance, or some other art form. What makes you feel connected to the universe and those around you? Like you are a “part of?” You might find this place of calm through yoga, meditation, deep-breathing, prayer, reading, meaningful conversation—however you feel like you belong, search out that activity and DO IT regularly.

Relationships

And finally, don’t neglect your relationships. Allow yourself to be open and vulnerable if needed. You are not a burden when you talk about how you are struggling. You can be a strong person and at the same time not be having the best time with the current state of affairs in the world. Make those Zoom happy hour meetings, meet for walks outside, express yourself as authentically as you can—your true friends will commend you and support you.

Teaching yourself to let go of perfectionism

This not so simple concept deserves its own section. Teachers received a lot of judgment and not enough credit even before COVID struck. It is not your job to reinvent teaching modalities in the span of a few months, nor is it possible. Online learning is not necessarily conducive to all developmental levels of students, not to mention their own characteristics and resources! Below is a list of things to keep in mind:

  • It’s ok if a lesson plan falls apart. You get to try again. Your students aren’t the only ones trying to learn.
  • Technology glitches/doesn’t work? Frustrating, yes, but not your fault.
  • Fearful for your health because of the virus and thinking about early retirement? That’s ok. Make the decision that’s right for you.
  • Dealing with angry parents? Their anger says more about their own situation & frustrations than anything about you and your capabilities.
  • Want to do all online classes despite complaining students? That’s ok. You are allowed to have your own opinions and comfort zone despite what other people think.

The takeaway here is that it is impossible to please everyone under “normal” circumstances. Being the teacher doesn’t mean that your sole focus is always on your students. You matter. Take care of yourself and try your best to minimize negativity in your awareness/system. You are pioneering a new way of teaching through a global crisis. This is not “doing school online.” You probably didn’t sign up for teaching online, managing students who don’t want to social distance, sanitizing every square inch of your space 100x/day, or looking at all of your children through masked faces when you started your job. These things weren’t part of your job description and are a lot to adjust to, so if you’re not perfect at it, that’s ok. You are making do with what you have, and that is courageous and beautiful.

Ongoing Support  For Teachers

If you are teaching this Fall and have been struggling to maintain any sense of balance in your world, you are not alone. Reach out to your fellow teachers, use online support forums or groups, or consider counseling to help with the stress and fears. Make an appointment with an Angelus therapist today for extra support throughout this transition back into the school year and throughout the semester. We can help you to manage your stress and let go of any unhelpful thoughts that may be keeping you stuck and feeling yucky, to say the least. Teachers are a gift; please do what you need to in order to take care of yourselves.

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