Teachers are over-worked. As of 2019, we’re working an average fifty hours a week, but that really only captures the half of it. Yes, we’re lucky enough to have 13 weeks of holiday a year, but that isn’t without significant commitment, hard work, and sacrifice. There are some weeks where we forgo other commitments in lieu of dedicating extra hours to the craft.
I wouldn’t still be in the profession if it wasn’t all worth it.
It would be disingenuous, though, to say that teachers don’t sometimes struggle with the workload, or balancing work with every other part of our lives, or winding down. I feel that, generally, teachers have become so good at spreading the good word that mental health is a priority, but we often forget to look after our own. Here are the top 3 things that I do as a teacher to optimise my mental wellbeing.
When I first started to use a Bullet Journal, I would set up a monthly gratitude log. This was a page where I would write down two things that I was grateful for every single day. It could be as specific as something done for me by an important person in my life, or by a stranger – or it could be something that others might call stupid. I remember once being grateful for the smell of freshly baked bread (because, really, who isn’t?)
Whatever it was, reading through the list of things that I was grateful for would never fail to cheer me up. As the years went on, though, how I used my Bullet Journal changed dramatically. Things became a lot simpler. I started to tire of writing down what I was grateful for, since it just felt like a bit of a waste of time if I was repeating myself.
Plus, there were some days – and there still are – where I don’t use my Bullet Journal. When that happened, I wouldn’t write down two things I was grateful for, and I’d end up with a bunch of empty pages. I’m not about to waste a load of paper in a posh journal again.
As a teacher, I like to often jot down whatever it is I’m grateful for if I’ve had a rough day. Reducing this to an ad hoc activity, rather than forcing myself to do it every day, has made it a far more enjoyable, and useful, process.
When my body’s active, and moving, and feeling good – I feel good. That’s just how it works for me. Knowing that I’ve got one step closer to my exercise goals brings me so much joy. Knowing I’ve done a tough workout and have sweated like no tomorrow allows me to rest easy, since I know I’ve done a good job and, with every workout, am getting closer to my fitness goals.
If you don’t enjoy lifting weights, or practicing Taekwondo, like I do, then go for a walk along a canal, or up a hill, or a bike ride with friends. Try doing something active and your body – and mind – will thank you for it.
Making me time
Not so long ago, I spoke about the importance of listing non-negotiables – activities that you must do, regardless of how busy you are, because you enjoy them.
It is so important that, as a teacher, you adopt this mindset. It’s so easy to spend all night marking, and all weekend planning, that you might soon kick out your non-teaching personality and replace it with your teaching persona. Don’t do that. You need to stick to who you are, by doing the things that you love, or you will lose a sense of who you are.
In reality, what I’ve suggested applies to any job. We are so much more than our work, and it’s important that we remember that if we want to have good mental health, and an even better, positive, wellbeing. I think it’s just extra easy, as a teacher, to forget to look after yourself when you’re busy looking after hundreds of children every week. Plus, being able to take your work home with you can be both a blessing and a curse.
Teachers! How else do you optimise your wellbeing?
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