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  • Teaching is one of the most important professions, especially when it comes to shaping the future. Supporting teachers is critical for ensuring productive communities nationwide, as well as globally. However, teachers face a disproportionate number of professional stressors, which can lead to decreased mental health. Read on for a deep dive into teacher mental health and strategies to help teachers prioritize their mental wellness.

    What Factors Are Behind the Decline in Teachers’ Mental Well-Being?

    Compared to adults in other full-time professions, teachers report higher rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout. Prior to the pandemic, teachers were burdened with many constraints, including increasing class sizes, lack of resources and funding, safety concerns, and longer work hours. However, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a whole new host of stressors for teachers. Fears about physical health, personal well-being, and the well-being of students have only increased the psychological burden on educators. In the post-pandemic era, numerous studies reveal that teachers experience significant job-related stress, which can often lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

    What Do Statistics Say About Teacher Mental Health?

    A recent survey of teachers and principals conducted by RAND Corporation showed that almost 75 percent of teachers and 85 percent of principals faced frequent on-the-job stressors, compared to only 33 percent of working adults. More than half of the teachers surveyed reported feeling burned out.

    Other RAND survey statistics showed that:

    • 26 percent of teachers sometimes or often feared for their physical safety at school
    • 23 percent of teachers reported that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the school year
    • 25 percent of teachers noted that they either did not know if their job provided mental health support or that there was no mental health support available to them at work

    More troubling still, recent research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed rates of anxiety symptoms among teachers ranging from 38 to 41 percent and depression symptoms as high as 77 percent.

    Expert Strategies for Improving Teacher Well-Being

    While taking back control of mental wellness can seem intimidating, especially with the numerous challenges facing the education profession, several tips and tricks can help teachers stay above water and continue to enjoy the critical contributions they make to the profession and society at large.

    Tip #1: Prioritize Self Care

    Teachers are often “helpers” to a fault, meaning that they prioritize the needs of everyone in their orbit before turning to address their own needs. The first step to re-prioritizing one’s mental well-being is recognizing a tendency to defer one’s needs. After acknowledging that underlying trait, teachers can begin to take steps toward putting a greater emphasis on their well-being. Self-care looks a little different for every teacher. These are common self-care activities that many teachers find helpful.

    • Routine exercise
    • Focusing on nutritious foods
    • Improving sleep hygiene
    • Taking scheduled and unscheduled time off
    • Spending time with sources of positivity, whether family, friends, or pets
    • Engaging with nature
    • Routine spa appointments, massages, facials, or other body-focused therapies

    Experts at Mental Health America recommend that teachers physically write self-care activities into their schedules or onto their personal calendars in order to safeguard these activities and limit deferrals or excuse-making.

    Tip #2: Set Healthy Boundaries

    Teachers are altruists at heart, devoting themselves to the education and promotion of others. As such, they often have a difficult time saying “no” and end up taking on more responsibilities and tasks than they truly desire.

    Teachers can refocus on their mental health and reduce their sense of being overburdened by setting healthy boundaries and working to maintain them. This means saying “no” despite the fact that it might cause them discomfort in the moment. Playing defense is crucial to controlling one’s time and schedule and, therefore, feeling agency in one’s own life.

    To help teachers set healthy boundaries, one expert on maintaining resilience in education suggests the following habits:

    • Sticking to specific grading times instead of letting work bleed into personal time
    • Scheduling set office hours to help students in order to protect personal time
    • Making no exceptions to the boundaries that are set
    • Enforcing personal breaks that cannot involve work
    • Considering each day a fresh opportunity instead of wallowing or letting emotions carry over from previous days that were challenging

    Tip #3: Find Social Connection

    The power of social connection is real. Staying connected with others in a similar situation can often be particularly therapeutic, as long as it’s done intentionally and does not dissolve into pure commiseration. Experts at Mental Health America suggest that in order to protect their mental health, teachers should routinely check in on one another. This can allow them to express and share their own vulnerabilities, which can go a long way in combatting feelings of isolation. Establishing a group of fellow teachers who can regularly come together to vent and praise each other can help buffer the daily stress of the job.

    Tip #4: Deliberately Pursue an Activity Outside of Teaching

    Teaching is the ultimate example of a career that “follows one home,” and this is often because teachers are highly dedicated to their jobs and to the well-being of their students. However, allowing the job to bleed into one’s personal life can be detrimental to mental health. One way that teachers can avoid the temptation to fixate on work at home is to deliberately pick up an extracurricular hobby or activity. This can help teachers keep things in perspective, which is an important element of teacher mental health, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

    Tip #5: Lean Into Mental Health Support Channels

    Focusing on mental health can sometimes feel like one more task for busy teachers who are already experiencing job-related stress and burnout. However, professional mental health support can be an amazing addition to the tips listed above. Teachers who seek professional support can benefit from tailored mental health plans with trained counselors to talk to in a confidential setting.

    Telemynd is an online resource that offers virtual appointments with licensed mental health professionals. Telemynd is included in many benefits programs, and it allows teachers and other busy professionals the ability to schedule appointments anytime, anywhere. Its secure platform and licensed therapists and prescribers are ready to give teachers the support they need to keep doing what they love. To learn more, contact us today.


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