Teachers around Australia have reported higher levels of distress and concern in response to the significant changes brought about by COVID-19.
Whether it was the rapid transition to an online teaching environment, or the complexity and uncertainty that's come with this evolving situation, it's had a real impact on teachers’ physical, emotional and social wellbeing.
Even with things having settled down, it's helpful to acknowledge how challenging it's been and to understand that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful or stressed as we come to terms with what we've experienced, and new ways of teaching and leading.
To continue supporting your community during these times, we've developed some practical wellbeing tips for teachers.
Embrace a growth mindset
The unpredictable nature of COVID-19 requires us to be adaptable and to embrace a growth mindset.
Online learning has been a key part of teaching during COVID-19. It might be that your school still employs this strategy, or might need to again in the future. Either way, try to reflect on the thinking and attitudes you currently bring to online learning and technology, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there an opportunity to adjust this thinking to celebrate the learning of new skills?
- Am I accepting that trial and error is a normal part of using an online platform?
- Do my attitudes impact on how my students feel about online learning?
- Have I given myself time, permission and space to learn and make mistakes?
Maintain social supports and connections
Most teachers are social beings and enjoy the connection gained from face-to-face interactions. It’s important to find practical ways to stay connected to colleagues if you're working in an online environment.
- Daily check-ins with your homeroom or class. Check out our package Coping during COVID-19 for some lesson- and connection-building ideas.
- Implement different ways to connect with students in the online classroom. Access our article Connecting with students while teaching online for some ideas.
- Online catch-ups for morning tea with your faculty or other colleagues at work. Bring some conversation starters to the meeting – for example, ‘What’s one superpower you wish you had?’ Themes for the day, such as corporate wear or Hawaiian dress, will also help bring meeting participants together.
- Regular chats with friends and family. Consider using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp to increase feelings of connection.
It’s normal for people to experience a variety of emotions in response to a crisis like COVID-19. Some of the emotions experienced may include grief, anxiety, fear and stress.
Taking the time to notice, name and accept all our emotions is important. Mindfulness is a helpful approach to use, as it allows us to be aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensations without being resistant to them.
Check out Smiling Mind for mindfulness strategies and resources.
Maintain boundaries and routines
Most people function more effectively and feel better when they have a routine in their day. This is especially important if you're working from home, where there is a risk that our work and personal time can blend into one.
Setting (and sticking to) clear boundaries around work time is a practical way to manage this. Don’t forget to build physical wellbeing into your daily routine, such as stretching occasionally, taking movement breaks and eating well.
Some helpful tips include:
- Build regular movement breaks into your day. Taking the time to step away from your computer and move your body is key. For some simple stretches, check out six simple stretches by Safework NSW; and for practical ways to keep active and eat well, see 'Make Healthy Normal'.
- At the end of your workday, turn your computer off, head out for a walk, change out of your work clothes, connect with a family member or spend time on an activity you enjoy. This will allow your mind and body to transition from work to personal time.
Power of positive emotions
Taking the time to experience positive emotions can increase your wellbeing during unpredictable times. Some simple ways to tap into positive emotions and improve wellbeing include:
- Gratitude: At the end of each day, think of one or two things you are grateful for.
- Kindness: Simple things like asking your neighbours if they need help, smiling at others (from a distance) on your walk, or checking in on a friend can all help generate a culture of kindness.
- Experience joy: Think about ways to generate joy in your day, such as by spending time in nature, watching a comedy, reading a good book, exercising, taking up a new hobby, or connecting with family and friends online.
Know where to seek help
It’s important to acknowledge that COVID-19 has created heightened levels of anxiety, stress and fear in our community, which can impact on mental health. There are lots of great places to seek help and to access reliable and up-to-date information.
Some suggestions include:
- Beyond Blue has set up a Coronavirus Mental Health Support Service that provides information, advice and strategies to support your mental health and wellbeing at this time: Coronavirus Mental Health Support Service
- Be you has put together a package of resources for schools: Coronavirus: Supporting schools
- The Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment is providing regular updates for schools: Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): All schools provide access to an EAP program that provides free counselling and other mental health and wellbeing support.