Just like everyone, teachers need to relax and recuperate. Whether we call it switching off, relaxing or resting, taking time to recharge is vital for teachers’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Ongoing, long-term stress has negative effects on every aspect of our health. Chronic stress leads to lowered immune function and susceptibility to illness, elevated blood pressure, digestive impairments and an increased risk of anxiety and depression.
Additionally, teachers’ long-term stress can lead to burnout: a persistent experience of physical and psychological exhaustion. This saps your motivation for the next academic year in a vicious cycle.
Teaching can be an incredibly demanding profession with many potential stressors, not least your duty to look after your pupils’ academic and mental wellbeing amid a global pandemic!
Many educators use their summer break to develop themselves for the next academic year. This is useful, but it’s equally important to give yourself at least 2 weeks of total me time. Your body needs time to heal from a tough year of educating.
Here are 6 practical ideas for how teachers can look after their wellbeing and heal over the summer break:
1. Tap into Gratitude
Practicing a sense of gratitude has wide-ranging positive effects on the mind and body. It has an immediate mood-enhancing effect and can be done anywhere.
Feeling gratitude is especially important at difficult times. It doesn’t mean we ignore what’s troubling us; it just means we pay attention to the good things too.
Over the summer, keep a log of ten things you’re grateful for every day. You can write them down, or take photos, collect objects or draw: it’s up to you! These things don’t have to be major features - quite the opposite. The more we practice noting down the small, joyful details of life, the better we become at spotting them!
You can include things like the sunshine, having a soothing cup of tea, or just smiling at someone: the possibilities are endless.
2. Reconnect with Nature
Mother nature is a great healer. Connecting with nature can improve physical health, lift mood, reduce feelings of stress and anger, relax you and build confidence.
Build lots of time into your routine this summer for walks in the park or local green spaces. You could even grow houseplants or vegetables. Whatever outdoor activities you choose, they will improve your wellbeing.
3. Become More Mindful
Mindfulness is the awareness we gain from focusing on the present moment with kindness, curiosity and without judgement.
A big part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies through our senses of sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. Regular practice helps us become more present in our day-to-day experiences.
This helps us enjoy the world around us and understand ourselves better. We become better at observing our thoughts and feelings, helping us respond better to life’s difficulties.
4. Connect with others
Social connection is a fundamental human need. It benefits our mental health, physical health, and longevity. Social connection even strengthens our immune system and help us recover from illness faster.
Changing lockdown rules make it easier to connect with others. Do yourself some good this summer by spending time with another household, or go for a socially distanced activity with a friend or family member. Even video calls and texts can make a difference.
You can reap the benefits of connection even when you are completely alone! A form of meditation known as Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) can make us feel connected in just a few minutes. Get started with an easy meditation.
5. Set Some Boundaries
We can’t properly relax when we’re constantly reminded of work. This is why setting some boundaries between our work-life and life-life can be invaluable.
Try setting a boundary about checking work email. Assign a period over the summer (1 or 2 weeks, for example) when you won’t check your work inbox, with mail notifications on your phone or laptop switched off.
You can also separate your work and life inside your living environment. If possible, try to do any holiday work in a separate area from where you relax.
You can achieve a similar result by packing your work items away at the end of a working period. Not seeing teaching-related items will help you switch off more completely.
Teachers are experts in providing care and compassion to others. Sadly, not all of us feel able to show it to ourselves.
Making self-care a priority can make you a happier, healthier person and a better educator.
Self-care is any activity that you do for yourself and your own wellbeing.
You could start with sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is crucial for recovering from the stress of the school year and its extremes. CALM has some great guided sleep meditations to help.
Moving your body in a way you enjoy is another excellent way to take care of your wellbeing. Any movement counts!
There are many ways to get active that you can access online, from yoga to home workouts. Gyms and leisure centres are also open again and offering classes. Don’t forget - you can easily exercise outdoors while practicing social distancing by walking, cycling or running.
Self-care can even involve just having a bath, reading a book, ordering a lovely meal or most any other activity you enjoy.
And lastly, the wellbeing team here at Protocol will be offering a Mindfulness and Wellbeing webinar over the summer to support your holiday self-care. WATCH THIS SPACE
We hope this advice helps teachers and educators look after themselves and their wellbeing this summer.