As a teacher, you’re always looking out for others: your students, your students’ families, and your whole educational community. It’s also important that you look out for your own mental health. Protecting teacher mental health is good for both teachers and students. But how can you focus on your mental health when you’re already so busy?

 

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of mental health for teachers 一 and give you simple tips to protect your mental health this school year.

 

The Importance of Mental Health for Teachers

Teachers around the country are under a lot of stress 一 to put it lightly. Some surveys have shown that up to 3 out of every 4 teachers say that they deal with work-related stress on a frequent basis. Stress levels have only gone up since the pandemic hit.

 

This stress has real-life consequences: when teachers are stressed, they’re more likely to drop out of the profession. On top of that, chronic stress has long-term consequences for physical and mental health 一 including a weakened immune system, heart problems, and an increased risk for mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder.

 

We need to address teacher mental health now. Improving teachers’ mental health will not only benefit teachers, but their students as well.

 

The solution to teacher burnout isn’t a simple one. To prevent teachers from burning out, we need to address the problem holistically, and consider both societal- and individual-level changes that we can make to protect some of society’s most valuable people.

 

3 Simple Ways Teachers Can Protect Their Mental Health

mental health

 

With that being said, there are strategies that teachers can use in their own lives to protect their mental health and manage the stress that comes along with this vocation.

 

Here are 4 tips that can help you lower stress levels and give your mental health a boost.

 

Set and maintain boundaries

It can be hard to keep strong boundaries as a teacher. Many teachers find themselves working late or taking on last-minute responsibilities that they didn’t expect. 

 

While some of that may be unavoidable, try to keep your boundaries as firm as possible. Set these boundaries early on in the school year, and make them clear to both administrators and parents. For example, you might let everyone know that you will not be responding to text messages after 5PM. 

 

Having boundaries with your time and energy will keep teaching from invading the rest of your life. While teaching may be a large part of your identity, you deserve time away from the job, too. Take that time to engage in self-care and connect with your loved ones.

 

Practice holistic self-care

Our bodies and our minds share a deep connection. That means that when taking care of your mental health also involves taking care of your physical self.

 

Make sure you’re practicing self-care 一 in the most basic sense of the term. Are you getting enough restful sleep every night? Are you filling your belly with nourishing meals? Are you finding ways to move your body? These things, at first glance, might look disconnected from mental health 一 but they actually make a big impact.

 

Cultivate gratitude

At first glance, being told to “be grateful” may feel like you’re being asked to sweep all of your stress and problems under the proverbial rug. 

 

But that’s not what gratitude is all about. Being grateful doesn’t mean that your hardships are less important. Gratitude is simply about intentionally shifting your perspective, and maintaining your focus on the things in your life that you feel happy to have.

 

You could be grateful for the big things, like a roof over your head and clean drinking water; or you could find joy in the little things, like a student’s smile or a beautiful flower.

 

And research shows it works 一 “counting one’s blessings,” a positive psychology exercise, has been found to increase overall well-being.

 

Practice mindfulness

Lastly, mindfulness is an evidence-based practice that can help you be more aware of your emotions and improve your mental health.

 

Mindfulness has been found to have many mental health benefits, including:

  • Decreased stress levels
  • More empathy
  • A more regulated nervous system
  • Improved focus
  • Deeper self-awareness

Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to mean that you sit quietly, alone, for hours at a time. You can practice mindfulness at any moment, including while you’re teaching.

 

If you’re interested in starting a mindfulness program at your school to improve both student and teacher mental health, get in touch with us today. Over 80% of the teachers who have participated in our programs say that they feel more calm and relaxed, and that they’re more aware of their emotions. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.