Since Mental Health week was just last week, and frankly, anytime is a good time to discuss mental health, I thought I would continue with my theme of wellness, this time for teachers. As teachers, we tend to put ourselves last. When we have time, and even when we don’t, we mark assignments, write lesson plans and contact parents. We must keep in mind that we are no good to our students our families or friends when we are depleted and lacking focus. We need to remember to put ourselves first and take time to exercise, get out in nature or do whatever feeds your soul.
I had the opportunity to visit the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains this week. It was the perfect mix of adrenaline rush, including a mountain roller coaster and a zip line, followed by a refreshing pool and a warm sauna. We went on hikes, we sat by the fire and played games and we sat through a raging storm and we experienced the first snowfall of the year. It was the perfect mix of getting out in nature and relaxing.
During COVID-19 I’m not recommending travel, unless it can be done safely. We rented a private chalet and practiced social distancing, including eating outdoors and we wore our masks when around others. It was the shoulder season, so there weren’t too many people visiting the mountains. Even if you cannot safely travel right now, getting out in nature, or taking time to read a book for pleasure can help you gain some perspective, and focus on something you love to do.
If you are able to get out in nature or participate in activities you normally like to do, and yet you are not able to experience joy, it may be time to seek help. Many School Boards offer counselling sessions to their employees, which may have to be virtual due to COVID, but could be potentially helpful to have a trained professional to talk to.
Keep in touch with people when possible. It can be hard to stay connected when the very message from doctors is to stay apart. I have started reaching out more socially on Zoom with friends and family in Canada. Even if you only have fifteen minutes to connect, it can really brighten your day.
As a teacher, I like to collaborate with other teachers and hear about their triumphs and challenges and see if we can help or learn from one another. Talking through issues or sharing tips can help you to know others are going through the same thing you are. Feeling connected is a struggle right now, but worth the effort to find ways to meet such as in the parking lot at school, on FaceTime, or Zoom if there are a few of you, or simply calling. Even just sending a text checking in on a friend can provide a much needed pick me up.
In recent years there have been a wealth of wellness apps on the market. While I haven’t tried any myself, I know friends that swear by Calm. It was named by Apple as the 2017 iPhone app of the year. Calm provides people experiencing stress and anxiety with guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music.
“Need a happy fix? With its psychologist-approved mood-training program, the Happify app is your fast-track to a good mood. Try various engaging games, activity suggestions, gratitude prompts and more to train your brain as if it were a muscle, to overcome negative thoughts. The best part? It’s free!”
In this stressful and uncertain time, our well-being is so important. Make putting yourself first a priority. When that simply is not possible, try again the next day. Make and keep connections with others, even if it is just a text, or an email. Reach out to a professional if you feel like you need help or someone to talk to. There are many mental health programs and apps you can access for free or the premium versions for a monthly fee. If you need additional resources, you can access the Mental Health Commission of Canada at: https://mhfa.ca/en/general-resources