Teachers, this is how you can manage your anxiety
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The Covid-19 pandemic has not only affected learners when it comes to school disruptions, but teachers, who have been forced to bear the brunt of working under pressure to make up for the loss of learning time.
The pandemic which has shaken the education system for the past 18 months, with intermittent school closures, has pressured teachers to deliver learning and support to stressed and anxious learners.
Dr Alicia Porter, a member of the South African Society of Psychiatrists with a special interest in adolescents and women’s mental health, said that for teachers to be able to offer positive support to learners, it is important that they are able to understand, identify and address their own emotional needs.
“It’s important not to fall into the trap of giving relentlessly, without stopping to take stock of one’s own psychological needs.
“It’s important to safeguard the emotional health of teachers. A recent study highlighted that teacher-student relationships are also stressors for the student, and that the teacher’s behaviour predicts the emotional well-being and commitment of the students, which are also important factors for reducing their stress levels,” she said.
Porter recommended that teachers take practical steps to maintain their mental health and reduce stress levels, starting with focusing on what they can control.
- Choose how to spend their time and make healthy choices, such as getting sufficient sleep, staying hydrated, limiting alcohol intake and eating regular, healthy meals.
- Make time for self-care – exercise, rest, reading, writing in a journal, meditating or spending time on a hobby helps to create balance and promote mental health.
- Model self-compassion. “We teach students the basics of self-compassion, but we also need to model it. Be kinder to yourself. This will benefit your mental wellness.”
- Set reasonable expectations. “We have to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a pandemic and it’s not business as usual. We can't expect to be as productive or as organised as before, while having to balance teaching, care-taking and managing households. Set small realistic goals and expectations.”
- Maintain connection. Covid-19 shutdowns and restrictions have made the last 18 months a time of isolation, while social connection promotes mental health and wellness.
- Micro-recharge – make time for “micro-moments”, to pause and allow your system to recover and re-set amidst stress.
Try the 30:3:30 approach
The “30-3-30 approach” – actions that can be taken in 30 seconds, 3 minutes or 30 minutes to help you take a break and switch off to recover, when feelings of panic or being unable to cope arise. These could include:
- 30 seconds – take slow deep breaths, counting to 3 on inhale and exhale; look out of a window and focus on each thing you can see; sit on a chair and focus only on the feeling of the chair pressing into your back and bottom; learn a favourite, inspiring quote to remember in times of stress.
- 3 minutes – do a quick household task; make a quick phone call to a friend; do a word puzzle or listen to a favourite piece of music; make a hot drink and focus on the steps and the feeling of the warm mug in your hands.
- 30 minutes – take a pampering bath; de-clutter one cupboard; watch a TV programme or listen to a podcast; get out for some fresh air and sunshine.