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Maintaining Your Mental Health as a Teacher

Self-care is important, especially when you spend the majority of your day focused on the well-being of others.

Sometimes as a teacher, I feel as though I lead multiple lives. I have my “teacher” persona and then my “everywhere else” persona, which can be exhausting and confusing — especially if I accidentally carry one persona over to another part of my day! While living a “double life” has its downsides, it’s also beneficial to be able to disconnect from work in your personal time. Work/life balance is hard to achieve, but not impossible. See the tips below in order to make the most out of your hectic life as a teacher and still feel fulfilled!

Self-care is incredibly important for teachers

1. Exercise

Doctors tell you, your crazy friend who does spin tells you, even you tell you: exercise! There are so many proven health benefits to exercise that you’re throwing away if you don’t get moving a few times a week.

As a teacher, exercise has a special place in my heart. It is truly one of the only times during the week that I am actually able to forget about my students and focus on myself. It’s healthy to let your students leave your mind from time to time, as they consume so much of our energy throughout the day (and sometimes nights!).

If you find yourself making excuses such as “I have kids,” “I don’t have time,” or “The gym is too expensive,” find a YouTube video and work out in your living room! Your own body has so much more power than you think. Exercise is a great way to help yourself and your students by creating some mental distance from the classroom.

2. Make Time to Socialize

You may feel that there is no way you can see your friends or family other than for absolutely mandatory obligations: a milestone birthday, a kid’s birthday, a holiday party, and so on, but to limit yourself to only these kinds of high-energy social interactions will result in even more burnout.

Plan one day per week (or two weeks, monthly, etc.) to see friends — and actually stick to it. Having something to look forward to and spending some downtime with close friends is essential to maintaining sanity.

3. Find Outside Professional Opportunities

If you’re like many teachers, you take on more than just your teaching job. Perhaps you work a few nights as a bartender, waitress, or sales associate. Perhaps you babysit, tutor, or work at a daycare on weekends. If you’ve decided to take on multiple jobs, more power to you!

While working multiple jobs can add stress, it can also allow for a mental break from your “teacher persona.” I currently teach fourth grade while also working three shifts per week at a clothing store, and it’s a complete change moving from one job to the next. I find that the extra money, adult interaction, and satisfaction of helping people helps me feel fulfilled, and it also helps me truly appreciate time off! If you’re like me and enjoy filling your life with people and activities, multiple jobs may actually help you in more ways than just financially.

4. Think Before You Vent

Again — if you’re like me, you tend to surround yourself with other teacher friends who understand what you’re going through. I find that sometimes, venting with these friends can really help me work through any stress or issues I may be having at school, but sometimes, it’s better to talk about anything else. When I constantly think about my students and discuss them at length, it can lead to more worry! For the sake of your mental health, it is best to enjoy the company of those around you without always bringing it back to the classroom.

5. Don't Shy Away From Therapy

Unfortunately, going to therapy is not something that a lot of people feel comfortable discussing, but I’d like to work to change the dialogue that surrounds therapy. Therapy is not something people should be ashamed of, in fact, quite the opposite. You wouldn’t feel embarrassed to tell a coworker about going to the emergency room for a broken arm. You wouldn’t feel strange discussing antibiotics for a sinus infection. Why should mental health be any different? If therapy is something you’re considering, I highly recommend: go. You won’t regret it.

6. Go to Sleep!

And finally — SLEEP. Enough said! (If you need a little help, there’s always an app for that.)

 

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Want more from this author? Check out Lisa's advice on classroom seating or creating meaningful classroom rules with your students.
Author Bio:

Lisa Koplik is a fourth-grade teacher at the Greenwood School in Wakefield, Massachusetts. She loves teaching math, reading intense read-aloud books that promote complaints when she has to stop reading, and figuring out educational games to play with her students. Check out her video series on classroom management!

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