The start of a new school year brings a range of emotions. You’re excited, but maybe a little anxious, you’re energised but careful to pace yourself, and you’re eager to start, even if you wouldn’t turn down another day of rest. In the middle of ever-present uncertainty, these back-to-school emotions are running higher than ever. Incorporating teacher wellness and balance strategies not only will reap immeasurable benefits for yourself, but also can impact those around you. Check out some of the wellness tips for teachers below to take care of yourself, both in and out of school, so that you can present your best self.
- Put on your oxygen mask first. You probably heard this the last time you were on a plane preparing for take-off. It’s not a selfish act. We must take care of ourselves before we are able to fully help others. However you envision your oxygen mask (maybe it’s regular exercise, quiet time to read, or being in nature), carve out time in your life to do those activities that help you breathe a little easier when life becomes hectic.
- Wellness, mindfulness, and balance are individualised. Just because one mindfulness technique worked for one colleague doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be a good fit for you or your students. Mindfulness takes practice, especially if you are introducing it to your students. Wellness generally means “the state of being in good health,” but it can encompass many different aspects, ranging from physical to emotional to environmental. When it comes to balancing your life, think of it as a river – it is ever flowing and always changing. What you need to balance work, family, and other interests now may look different than what you needed six months ago!
- Adjust your mindset. It seems easier said than done, right? The truth is that we have a choice in how we manage our time. Sure, our days may be scheduled, but we prioritise what we want to do with that time. Instead of thinking, “I have to…” change your mindset to, “I get to…” Suddenly, tackling yesterday’s marking seems more manageable. “I have to mark 30 tests,” is now “I get to learn about 30 students’ perspectives on what we discussed.” Changing your approach to those must-do tasks can make them more enjoyable and less of a stressor.
- Listen to your body. Don’t ignore physical manifestations of stress – they can be a clue that it is time to slow down. It is important to keep the scheduled visits to the doctor and dentist and be aware of current safety precautions. Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Your body will thank you!
- Stop “doomscrolling.” With so much going on in our world, it takes energy to stay informed and to filter out the noise! Sometimes, in our attempts to know the latest headlines, we keep scrolling through seemingly-endless gloomy news, called doomscrolling. This ABC article has some great tips to avoid such behaviour, including setting a timer for your own scrolling brain breaks, recognising why you visited a site in the first place, and doing activities that bring joy to your life.
- Set your boundaries, but be flexible. As the pandemic continues this year, we are encountering policies, suggestions, and opinions that are constantly in flux. It can be hard to stay completely on top of school, regional, and state public health mandates all while trying to ready your classroom, yourself, and your students for the school year. It is more important than ever to set boundaries and expectations for yourself and your students. Doing so will allow you to think outside the box, find creative solutions, and develop action plans for those situations that are in need of clarification. The importance of being flexible and keeping an open mind, especially this year as the landscape seems to change from day to day, cannot be stressed enough. Modelling this behaviour for your students will go a long way in how they manage their own lives during moments of difficulty or chaos.
Remember that your students are looking to you more than ever right now. Incorporating wellness and mindfulness strategies in the classroom and in your own life will strengthen you to meet whatever the year sends your way.