I recently talked to a friend of mine who is teaching in a school that has been implementing virtual learning. She is juggling the increasing demands of staying connected and teaching her students throughout the day and the demands of helping her own, personal children with their virtual learning. There have been tears and struggles from students, co-workers, and her own children. Another teacher friend of mine is teaching in-person with masks, but faces fear and worry about contracting COVID-19. Many teachers are now having to do double the work and make both virtual and in-person lesson plans, and all teachers are facing many questions regarding the unknown. Will we ever go back to in-person learning? What happens to my students who are getting farther behind and have no one at home to help? Will my school have to shut down again at some point this year?
One thing is for sure, COVID-19 has completely rocked our education system. Administrators and leaders are in extremely difficult situations as they make decisions for the common good and health of students and employees in their districts and schools. Teachers are faced with new technology platforms, and limited face to face interaction with students. Their workloads have increased, and the new “normal” seems to change from day to day. The common theme that I am hearing from all of my teacher friends is that they are extremely “stressed out.” I have even heard of teachers quitting due to the high amounts of stress and anxiety that they have been facing. Educators are in such a hard place right now, and many are struggling with how to handle the increasing anxiety that they are facing. The therapists at Waters Edge Counseling want to pass along some tips for our teachers on some ways to help manage this overwhelming time.
- Focus on What Is In Your Control – Right now, it seems that things are spinning out of control very quickly. And the truth is, there are many things going on right now that are out of our control. Focusing on these things will only leave you frustrated and drained. If you are a teacher, you cannot control when your district will return to in-person learning or what COVID protocols have been set into place. However, you can control the attitude you portray to your students about our current circumstances or the way you respond to technical difficulties during virtual learning. You can control the care and concern that you show your students on a daily basis. Focus on these things and work on improving the things that are in your Control.
- Practice Mindfulness – When we spend mental energy focusing on an unknown future, we quickly become anxious. Anxiety is essentially worrying about what “might” happen in the future. The future, what will happen next month, three months from now, and next school year, is very unknown. Worrying about this unknown will greatly increase your anxiety. Accept that you do not know what is ahead, and focus on today. The term therapists give to this present focus is “mindfulness.” Be mindful of the present day and the gift that it is. Do not let your mind go to all of the “what ifs” of the unknown future. This will only cause more anxiety.
- Give Thanks – When times are hard, it is very easy for us to focus on the negative things that are going on around us. This is our natural tendency as humans. Being thankful is a discipline that we should all practice more of. Make it a point each day to name 3-5 things that you are grateful for. Perhaps the weather was beautiful or a student finally understood a math concept. Perhaps you got through a zoom meeting without someone being cut off, or you made it a whole hour without being annoyed by your mask. Training your brain to focus on the positive and be thankful, will reduce stress and improve your overall emotional state.
- Schedule Time for Yourself – With the increasing demands that teachers are facing, this may be a hard one to implement. However, taking care of yourself is important. Make it a point to schedule in some time for yourself at least a couple of times a week. This may be a 20 minute power walk or a warm bath before bed. For you, this may look like reading a book or even going to the grocery store by yourself and listening to your favorite music or podcast in the car. You need to guard this time to take care of yourself or else you are going to burn out very quickly. This time is needed for you to recharge and refresh your mind. Protect this time and write it on your schedule! It is just as important as the other things that are vying for your time right now.
- Journal – The therapists at Waters Edge Counseling are big fans of journaling. Journaling actually accesses the left side of your brain, which is the side responsible for analyzing and rationalizing. While your left brain is working, your right brain is free to create and feel. Many researchers argue that the act of journaling actually removes roadblocks and allows you to access your full brain power to process the circumstances of your life. So, take some time to write down your thoughts, questions, and feelings about all that is going on. This act will help you to more fully process what is going on inside of you and will help to reduce the bottled up anxiety and stress that you’re feeling.
- Reach Out for Help – We are made for community with others. No one should walk through hard times alone. If you are struggling, anxious, and overwhelmed, talk to someone. Confide your struggles to your spouse, a trusted friend, or a co-worker. Maybe it’s time for you to reach out for professional help if your anxiety is beginning to consume your day to day life to a point that it is affecting your daily activities.
If you are struggling with the stress, anxiety, and demands of this school year and you need some support, please reach out to us at Waters Edge Counseling. Our therapists are here to support teachers, administrators, parents, and students however we can. We want to help you navigate this hard time. Give us a call at 912-319-5552!