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How To Reduce Stress? 4 Self-Care Methods To Improve Educators Well-being

If you're a teacher and feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed you're not alone. Turns out, if you're not experiencing any of these symptoms - you may be the exception. Self-care at a time like this is key, and we have some suggestions for you on how to practice it.

According to EdSurge, 5,000 US teachers recently participated in a survey in light of COVID-19 and reported feeling anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad due to recent events. The specific reasons mentioned for those feelings were fear of having someone in the family sick and managing time between their families and the demands of a work-from-home scenario while adapting to new educational technology tools.

Even with no pandemic involved, we all know teaching can be a demanding, stressful job. According to a teacher's health survey conducted in 2017, 75% of teachers and education staff said they had experienced a variety of stress or anxiety symptoms in the last two years. 19% of participants had experienced panic attacks, 56% had suffered from sleeping disorders, and 41% had experienced concentration difficulties.

The question remains how, given the fact our job is hectic, demanding, and sometimes overwhelming – can we keep our mental health in check? How can we make sure our work is not severely impacting our well-being?

The good news is, there are multiple things you can do over the summer and during the school year to support your mental health and reduce your anxiety. Here are some suggestions:

1. Create a list of daily work-related things that cause you to stress.

It may not sound like a relaxing experience, but acknowledging what some triggers in your life are, may help you think of solutions for when they happen. For example, if not having a lesson ready in time gives you stress, try to think of the element in it that gives you the anxiety: is it finding resources? Is it building the actual lesson? Is it the need to differentiate for your students? After figuring out the stress factor, try to find solutions to the problem before it happens. For example, find an online resource for pre-made lessons, build a few "spare" lessons and save them for a rainy day, open a shared folder of teaching materials with your colleagues so you can collaborate. Knowing you are solving for issues that stress you out before they arise can ease your anxiety.

2. Don’t overcommit yourself!

As teachers, we are often the kind of people who care a lot, who volunteer to do everything, who always participate and try to give our all, to any task and anyone. However, because of this tendency, we should be very conscious of what we agree to do, especially if our agreement means less free time for a non-professional activity that allows our soul to rest. Prioritizing our definite "yes" in life will enable us to decline events, commitments, and additional responsibilities. Saying "no" to things may offer us some much needed time to relax, hang out with family and friends, and watch TV.

3. Take good care of your body. Eat great food. Explore the endless options of online fitness programs.

We all know exercise and nutrition are essential to maintaining a healthy life, but as teachers, it may be challenging to implement. During the school year, we usually have about 10 min of eating (while standing up between lessons!), and barely sneak into the restroom once a day. Summer vacation may be just the time to implement a change, to learn about foods, to search healthy snacks we can store for the next school year, and maybe even learn how to prepare some shakes for an on-the-go meal. Sports shouldn't be considered a luxury, but an essential, and COVID-19 had taught us all how rich the internet is with free fitness content- from yoga to belly dancing to HIIT- everyone (even self-proclaimed couch potatoes) can find the right activity to suit their taste.

4. Join a fun, virtual community of teachers that will cheer you up when times get tough.

We’re all in the same boat! Why not laugh about it? Seeing some fun memes and Tik-Toks, or following funny teachers on Instagram, can brighten up your day. Twitter and Facebook have a lot of great educators groups you can join, most of which are broken out by grade level, subject area, or specialty. It is often therapeutic to chat with folks who are experiencing many of the exact same things you are.