Staff Wellbeing: How to Self Care
The role of a teacher is ever changing, and requires constant flexibility and motivation from the professionals who join this career path. Teachers strive to meet the needs of their students and provide education which aligns with academic approaches and expectations that the modern schooling environment requires. The definition of the role is now one which is multifaceted, with teachers integrating new technologies, increased expectations and responsibilities, and a recent focus on mental health and pastoral care. Alongside these changes, teachers have navigated the “new normal” that has developed alongside COVID-19, and what this means for their classrooms and themselves.
This array of factors has contributed to reported increases in overall staff stress and decreased wellbeing; with stress, depression and anxiety continuing to be present at high rates within staff. Even though there has been a recent spotlight on improving mental wellbeing and skill development, often this focus has targeted the students who attend the school. With this in mind, it is increasingly important for teachers to also have access to wellbeing and self-care resources, as lack of access and support contributes to low staff wellbeing scores, decreased sense of career satisfaction and challenges with workplace retention. It is important that teachers are equipped with support and strategies to manage their own self care, to enable ongoing wellbeing success. (Savill-Smith & Scanlan, 2022), (Lipscomb et al., 2022).
What is wellbeing?
Wellbeing can be defined by two factors, how an individual feels, and how an individual functions. This can be a bidirectional relationship where, when we feel good we function well, and when we feel burnt-out, overwhelmed, or exhausted our performance reduces and our wellbeing is negatively impacted. When we have teachers who feel supported, motivated, valued, and energised, they are effective in their work and often go above and beyond for their students.
What is self care?
Self care is the deliberate dedication of time, energy, or resources to focus on your own mental health and wellbeing. Activities of self care can encompass looking after your physical fitness, mental wellbeing, and spiritual health. It is a crucial skill to learn and implement as with increased self-care routines comes improved wellbeing, which acts as a protective factor against symptoms of burnout and other mental health challenges.
What happens when self care is not prioritised?
Teachers experience large amounts of pressure and stress within their roles, which can impact their workplace satisfaction, but when there is an absence of positive self-care routines or skills, the below factors can also be observed:
- Symptoms of insomnia, or difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of irritability, decreased mood and ability to concentrate
- Diminished physical health, high blood pressure, muscle tension, headaches
- Over or under eating, substance abuse
- Signs of burnout, such as frustration, exhaustion, memory difficulties
- Depression and anxiety
- Increased apathy for the role, decreased motivation
Spotlight on self care
As highlighted above, it is crucial to prioritise wellbeing and instil beneficial self-care habits to support yourself and your students. If your cup is empty, there is nothing there to give to others, but if your cup is full, you can share it with everyone else. So with this being said, how do teachers look within and improve to maintain their own wellness?
- Connect with peers, friends, or loved ones: Make sure you prioritise time with people who can be there to listen, and focus on things that matter. This may be by going for a walk together, calling someone, or talking in a support group. (Stark, Daulat, & King, 2022).
- Begin your day with something positive: Do something in your morning routine you enjoy, such as spending time with pets, doing yoga, eating your favourite breakfast.
- Focus on creating healthy habits: Prioritise good sleep by instilling healthy sleep hygiene habits. Try to cook healthy meals throughout your week. Ensure you are hydrated, drink water!
- Schedule time for exercise: This can be easier said than done when balancing career, family, and social pressures, but try to get out and move your body every couple of days, even if it is for a short walk.
- Schedule relaxation time: Identify things that make you calm, happy, or help you switch off after a stressful day. This could be listening to music, lighting a candle, painting, reading, playing your favourite game, doing group activities etc.
- Prioritise breaks: Sometimes the role of a teacher does not allow for breaks within the school day. Ensure you put 10-15 minutes aside when you get home to decompress and reset. This can tie into your relaxation or enjoyment activities.
- Practise self-compassion: Accept that you are only human. Often teachers have an innate desire to support and encourage students and fix all problems that arise. Be aware of all the things you do for your students, but also what is outside your ability, and know that it is enough. Remind yourself “I did everything I could today”. When you leave the school gates, try to switch off from the responsibilities of the day.
- Ask for help: Linking back to “being human”, it is ok to need support and guidance from others. Take time to reflect and process on experiences in the classroom, and reach out to colleagues or other professionals when needed.
By instilling positive self-care routines, your mind and body have the opportunity to recharge, to process experiences from the day, and create mental boundaries between work and home. All of which allows you to switch off from work stressors, support your positive mental processes and allow for a clearer mind and a sense of self efficacy leading into the next work day. Which will contribute to effectively taking care of your students, by ensuring you take care of yourself first. (Crowe, 2021).
- Crowe, A. (2021). The Importance of Self Care for Teachers & 20 Ways to Help. Prodigy. https://www.prodigygame.com/main-en/blog/teacher-self-care/
- Kun, A., & Gadanecz, P. (2022). Workplace happiness, wellbeing and their relationship with psychological capital: A study of Hungarian teachers. Current Psychology, 41, 185-199.
- Lipscomb, S. T., Chandler, K. D., Abshire, C. et al. Early Childhood Teachers’ self-efficacy and professional support predict work engagement. Early Childhood Educ 50, 675-685 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01182-5
- Savill-Smith, C,. & Scanlan, D. (2022). Teacher Wellbeing Index 2022.
- Stark, K., Daulat, N., & King, S. (2022). A vision for teachers’ emotional wellbeing. Phi Delta Kappan, 103(5), 24-30.
- TUIO Staff (2022). Self-care for teachers and why it matters: 7 Simple Tips. https://tuiopay.com/blog/self-care-for-teachers/