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24 August, 2020

Teacher self-care during challenging times

The 2020/21 academic year is shaping up like no other we have yet experienced, with teachers facing extra challenges and concerns.

Louise O’Leary, Advocacy Manager with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services and registered occupational therapist, gives tips for teachers to support their own mental health and wellbeing in the months ahead.

The 2020/21 academic year is shaping up like no other we have yet experienced, with teachers facing extra challenges and concerns.

What do we mean by self-care?

Self-care can be thought of as activities that are directed towards meeting our needs as human beings and supporting our health and wellbeing, both mental and physical.

What do we mean by self-care?

This can include more ‘basic’ things we do day-to-day, like:

  • attending to personal care
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating regularly and stay hydrated.

It can also include things like:

  • making time for yourself, for pleasure and your interests
  • resting
  • relaxing or mindful activities, such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing
  • doing other things that help you manage stress and stay physically fit.

Another important aspect of self-care concerns our attitude to ourselves and how we balance our needs with those of other people in our lives; for example, saying no when we need to, and being comfortable reaching out for support from friends or family when we might need it.

All of these things are important contributors to good mental health in our daily lives.

Why is it important to make and manage time for yourself?

The above may seem like quite a list, and, for many of us, some of these things may feel ‘extra’ or perhaps less important than other tasks we have to tend to in daily life, especially if we are preparing for and managing classes in this year’s unusual circumstances.

Why is it important to make and manage time for yourself?

However, it’s important to remember that if we are to look after other people in our lives in a sustainable way, including our students, we must ensure we also look after ourselves.

Research underlines the importance of teacher wellbeing in the school setting: the mental health and wellbeing of primary and secondary school teachers can influence that of their pupils, as well as their educational outcomes.

A helpful analogy to keep in mind is the key principle from airplane emergency instructions of first securing your own oxygen mask before attempting to assist others. During challenging times like these, when your classroom, home, and community life have been immensely impacted, this remains as important as ever.

What can you do to look after your mental health?

The times we are living in are not normal, but it is normal to experience some impact on our mental health and wellbeing because of them. Many of us will have felt anxiety and worry, a sense of information overload, reduced productivity and or disturbed sleep at various times.

What can you do to look after your mental health?

It’s vital that we:

  • are compassionate with ourselves about these things
  • look after ourselves and the people in our lives
  • keep informed from reliable sources and in manageable amounts
  • stay connected with others.

If you would like more advice and information to support mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find it helpful to see some of the resources below:

Continue to…

“A very enlightening journey”: Looking back at the TY Programme