Top Tips for Positive Mental Wellbeing
How would you rate your mental health?
The last 19 months have been fraught for many.
It is hardly surprising that the nation's health has suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic as people had to shield, work from home and not socialise. Our worlds were turned upside down with lockdown, with many of the day-to-day activities we all took for granted being removed.
Far from being asked to work from home, those in the education sector stayed open for the children of key workers and provide teaching and learning remotely for all other pupils and students. The right thing to do for our children and communities - undoubtedly - but a new way of working. As the sector adapts, worries about health and concern over regulations and procedures have taken their toll on the mental health of school leaders, support staff and teachers.
With the lockdown lifted, the new school year is in full swing, and local risk assessment has replaced national regulations around Covid-19. While school day activities have seemingly almost returned to normal, pupils, students and school staff still feel lockdown effects.
The virus isn't going away, and as the colder weather comes in, there is a risk of a spike in cases. One of the immediate effects schools are struggling with is to staff classrooms this term because of staff absences (before even factoring in children being away with covid-19 or due to isolating). Of course, this creates added pressures and strains to school budgeting, resources, and the mental wellbeing of teachers and support staff.
To fully support their pupils and students, school staff must prioritise their own mental health and seek help when they need it.
At Keystone, we support our schools and MATs with mental health policies and HR procedures, and we wanted to take a few moments to list four simple pieces of advice to help deal with mental health struggles and negative thoughts:
(1) Remember to take regular breaks. We understand it can be a challenge to step away from your work And with the increased pressures throughout the pandemic still felt in the school environment, it can feel like there is no time for yourself. You must take time to stand up, move, and enjoy some fresh air on your breaks. Try and plan a short walk on your lunch and take an extended break from your computer or other duties
- In the same vein, set a good example. It is important to leave on time whenever your schedule allows; doing so allows for correct and proper work-life balance, which will support your mental health.
(2) Speak to your line manager, headteacher or your HR department. With the return of full classrooms, the removal of the mask mandate and the lasting effects of the last two years it is normal to feel massively overwhelmed, which can be a real strain on your physical and mental health. Don't be afraid to speak to your line manager, headteacher or HR about your concerns. Most bosses will want to ensure that your transition back to normal working is smooth and in the best interests of the teacher, the school, and the children they support.
(3) Do not be afraid to speak to your GP and or mental health professional. Many professional outfits are available around the clock to talk to if you become overwhelmed or feel that everything is too much. Do not feel like you are a burden on anybody; speak to somebody you can trust about your concerns. Your employer should have a dedicated mental health policy, and they will encourage you to talk to your GP regarding your mental health. You must speak with somebody and confide in a party that you can trust. (If you are part of a union, these organisations may also have mental health professional representation.)
- Don't put pressure on yourself. It's easier said than done, but sometimes it is important to avoid sending out-of-hours emails and checking your notifications through the night. This is a meaningful conversation to have with your line manager or headteacher, but most professionals suggest a curfew between 7 PM and 7 AM, and weekends.
(4) And don't take yourself too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself. Many people will be suffering from feelings of being overwhelmed or upset in the aftermath of the pandemic. Work with your trusted loved ones to build up your mental health and strengthen your mental wellbeing. There are some pressures of a school or academy environment that are unavoidable, but it is important that you do not feel as if you are a burden on anybody while you adjust and re-adjust to the new normal.
There are many different ways to manage your mental health. It is important to understand that no one fixed or conscripted mental health policy suits everyone and that you need to find what works for you.
It is also important to remember that the last 19 months have been massively challenging for many in many ways. It is essential to take time to reflect and be patient with yourself. The right avenues are there for you to take to try to bolster your mental health, but these fixes may not work overnight.
Be patient, reflect, and know who you need to talk to if you feel overwhelmed or upset.