It is important that teachers focus on their teacher mental health strategies.
Teachers do it all, right? Teachers educate, counsel, mentor, clean, entertain, and so much more – all on a daily basis. No matter what grade level we teach, it is a continuous cycle of multitasking.
However, there is one task that teachers tend to neglect – our own mental health. We are so consumed with the minds of our students that we forget or simply don’t have time, to take care of ourselves. Our minds are beautiful and integral parts of our bodies; however, this is the one thing we put the most pressure on every day.
If you search online “teacher mental health,” thousands and thousands of articles come up about this devastating struggle. Something to note here is that most teachers know that their mental health is declining, but they don’t know what or how to fix it.
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You may look around at other teachers and think, “wow, they look like they have it all together,” but honestly, we are all out here just surviving every day. You are not alone. I am not an expert in mental health, but I do know some things that our brains and bodies need to thrive instead of just surviving.
This is not a blog post about self-care. So let’s talk about what we can do to help ourselves.
Teacher Mental Health Strategies
Strategy #1 – Daily Meditations
The first time you meditate, you will probably feel awkward or uncomfortable. YouTube has tons of guided meditations to help walk and talk you through the entire process. Just search for phrases like “daily guided meditation,” “guided meditation for teachers,” or “quick guided meditation,” or you can be more specific about what is going on for you.
Most of the guided meditations will also have affirmations you can repeat silently or out loud if you choose. You will quickly find your favourite channels and which ones you vibe with the best. The key is to relax. The guided meditations walk you through how to let your mind and body be present and calm.
YouTube Meditation Channels:
- Boho Beautiful Yoga: Guided Meditations
- Goodful: Guided Meditations
- Great Meditation: Guided Meditations
Tip: Always do a Google Search to see if there is a free teacher/educator version of an app or service
Strategy #2 – Daily Affirmations
Along with your meditations, place affirmations around where you look the most throughout the day. Morning affirmations where you get ready, encouraging affirmations throughout your classroom, and place calming affirmations where you need them most. There are apps that will give you affirmations tailored to you throughout the day. You can schedule them for however often you like.
People recommend the “I Am” app ( Apple & Google Play). The app will tailor your affirmations to what you want to see; you can choose your designs and set times of the day for notifications. They appear on your phone and/or on your Apple watch.
Another great app for affirmations is the “Shine” app (Apple & Google Play). It includes activities you can do as well. It doesn’t have as many free features but still gives notifications when you choose.
Strategy #3 – Move Your Body
Physical activity unleashes all the good endorphins in your body and gets rid of the bad ones. It helps your body release stress and anxiety. I’m not saying go sign up for an expensive gym membership or anything like that.
Find small ways you can fit in a little physical activity to your day! Walk back and forth to the mailbox a few times, walk around your classroom or your house, do a mini workout on YouTube, go to a group fitness class, or whatever you would enjoy.
There is an abundance of streaming exercise options that have become available to do at home. I know a teacher who lost 18 pounds from doing free online yoga and thinking critically about the food she was consuming.
Yoga YouTube Channels
I know how difficult it can be to schedule exercise during your day. My daily commute, combined with the stress of teaching and poor eating habits, led me to my highest weight ever. Go on YouTube and start with 10 minutes a day.
Strategy #4 – Helpful Distractions Adulting Colouring Books
Another teacher mental health strategy is colouring. Adult colouring books are everywhere! You can even download adult colouring pages and print them off if you don’t want a whole book. Colouring is a chance for your mind to lighten and either wander or hyper-focus on what you’re doing.
Either way, your mind is getting a break from the stress and anxiety of your day.
Free Colouring Apps
Adult Colouring Books from Amazon
This Teacher Is Off Duty Teacher Coloring Book
Mindfulness Coloring Book For Adults
Strategy #5 – Helpful Distractions Reading
Another helpful distraction strategy is reading. Reading helps you leave your current location and go to another new location for free. Go to your local public library or Little Free Library and check out a few titles.
Always have more than one book selected in case you don’t like your current book and want to abandon it for a new book. In case no one has told you this – it is 100% okay to abandon a book at any point.
The quickest way to get library books is through an eReader like a Kobo (Canada) or a Kindle (USA). Your local library most likely provides free eBooks that you can instantly download to your eReader.
If you are not sure what books you might want to read, check out this blog post, Book Recommendations For Teachers.
Strategy #6 – Helpful Distractions Podcasts
If you have followed me at all on social media, I will 100% admit that I love podcasts. There is a podcast for everyone. If you want to find ones about teaching, check out this list.
Here are some non-teaching podcasts:
- Crime Junkie (True Crime)
- The Cost of Living (Weekly Consumer Topics)
- The Daily (Daily News Podcast)
Just go to your podcast app on your phone and use the search feature to find what you are looking for.
Strategy #7 – Seek Professional Help
Think of a captain of a ship. They can steer the ship, but they need help from a lot of other people to keep the ship running smoothly. Your body is not an island. You can reach out for professional help. The challenge is finding affordable mental health help.
- Start with your union or HR department. Ask them what services (if any) are paid for by your district, school or government. See if they have an Employee Assistance Program. If your district does not have a program like this and you have a significant other, ask them to see if their employer has this available.
- Reach out to your primary care provider and ask for a doctor’s note and/or a referral for professional mental health services. Some health care benefits plans cover this type of service.
- Be open and honest with your doctor about your feelings, options and thoughts. Ask them what other help they can provide you or refer you to. If you need to take sick leave from your job, then take one.
- Try online mental help services such as Starling Minds or Better Help. If you are in Ontario, ask your union or call the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan about the new OTIP partnership with Starling Minds. This is an online program to help people with anxiety, burnout, depression and stress.
I want to reiterate you are not alone. As teachers, we rarely share anything deeper than a passing “I am so stressed” comment with our colleagues. But once the real talk happens it normalizes taking care of one’s mental health.
Strategy #8 – Nutrition
Would you put leaded or watered-down gas in your car? No!
Why are you trying to fuel your body on little food, no food, or bad-for-you food?
I have seen teachers eat takeout or microwave food meals daily for lunch. I always wonder how they have enough fuel in their body to get through the rest of the day. The best way to fuel your body is with whole, non-processed foods. But who has the time to cook? Two easy-to-use appliances are a go-to in my kitchen – the slow cooker and the Instant Pot.
Both of these appliances are set it and forget it. You throw the ingredients into the pot and set it to cook. Go to your local library or find recipes online for either of these kitchen tools.
Meal planning and preparation are key parts of my weekends. You can choose another time of the week that works best for you to meal plan and prep. If you try to prepare your lunch each morning and decide that night what to eat for dinner, it will only add to your stress level.
And for the love of all that is good, DRINK. YOUR. WATER. I know, but then I’ll have to go to the bathroom all day, but it’s worth it. Do you have headaches, stomach aches, or tiredness most days? Those are all signs of dehydration, as well as stress.
The point of all this is to say your mental health matters. You might feel like your needs aren’t a concern to others, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to YOUR mental health. You have to take care of yourself. It is not selfish or a waste of time; it is for you. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Try This Self-Care Challenge
Additional Teacher Mental Health Resources
- Check-in on your Mental Health
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- The Calm app has a Self Care Guide for Teachers
- Apps and Tools to Help Manage Stress for Teachers
- Teacher Time-Saving Tips
If you are reading this blog post and are in urgent need of emergency mental health care, please call your local emergency number (911 in North America) or reach out to the resources listed on this Get Help Now page from Better Help.