While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected most of us on an individual level, many industries have been deeply impacted as well. One of the most notable impacts for many has been on the education system.
The school closings that have taken place due to this pandemic are deemed by many to be largely unprecedented. Even during the 1918 influenza epidemic, for example, some schools closed for a few months—however, this was considered by many to be done at a quantitatively smaller scale.
With the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, many teachers were expected to move their curriculums to a virtual platform, highlighting many of the possible socioeconomic disparities at play in the American education system—and taking a toll on teachers’ mental health.
In this article, we’ll explore the mental health effects of the pandemic on teachers, as well as a few tips for how to care for mental health in stressful times.
How Has The Pandemic Affected Teachers' Mental Health?
Teaching can be a stressful occupation for many. With the events of the pandemic, many teachers have faced the added stressors of shifting to a remote or hybrid model, keeping students engaged virtually, ensuring students wear masks properly when in school, their own risks of exposure to COVID-19 and more.
For instance, one study found that teachers reported a greater prevalence of anxiety disorder-related symptoms than did those in other professions, and that remote teachers might have experienced higher levels of distress than those teaching in person.
Another study found that suggests that during the pandemic, public school employees were significantly more likely than other government workers to report feeling stressed, burned out, or fatigued.
Finally, a survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center found data that suggests that 84% of teachers said that teaching was more stressful than it had been before the pandemic.
We do want to note: While the statistics highlight the primary concerns of teachers in the scope of their experiences, it can be possible for teachers living through the post-pandemic landscape to find relief from this stress. Online therapy and other supportive strategies can be critical to the healing process and can be incorporated in a complementary way that promotes the highest level of healing.
How Can Teachers Care For Their Mental Health During Stressful Times?
There are many ways that teachers can support their mental health, both on their own and through the help of a therapist. We’ve included a few ideas for your consideration below:
Practice self-compassion. When times are hard, you may consider being kind to yourself. In doing this, you can try to treat yourself as you would a friend who was going through a tough time. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hold yourself accountable, but it does mean that you can “cut yourself some slack” and recognize the stressors that could be currently at play in your life. This form of acceptance can be helpful and validating, possibly promoting a higher quality of life.
Distinguish between the things you can control and the things you can’t. There are some things we don’t generally have control over. Instead, you can try to focus on the things that you do have control over, investing your energy in improving what you can. This can be a helpful mindset shift that can reduce mental strain.
Create a dedicated workspace when working from home. You might consider creating a space that is only used for work to possibly help you to maintain that separation between your work life and home life. Even if it is just a small nook in your room, having the mental separation between work and home life may help you to unplug from work once you’re done for the day, possibly empowering you to be more fully present and relaxed in your off-work hours.
Identify and utilize healthy coping mechanisms. It can be helpful to make a list of various coping mechanisms that you know positively impact your mood and help you reduce stress. For example, maybe taking a daily walk after dinner helps you clear your mind. Or maybe you enjoy journaling, meditation, or spending time with your pets. There are many healthy ways to handle stress, so you can experiment to find what’s best for you—and the list can offer several helpful jumping-off points if you feel stuck.
Take care of yourself. As difficult as it can be when under stress, it can be important to get enough sleep, fuel your body with healthy foods, and stay active. Diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle can play a role in managing your stress levels and overall mental health.
Reach out for help when needed. If you’re experiencing difficulties, you might want to reach out to a coworker who is going through a similar situation, or you may have a few friends and family members that you know you can turn to when times are tough. Additionally, if you feel you’re reaching a breaking point or are struggling to get through your day, it may be wise to schedule a session with a mental health professional. They can offer you specialized knowledge, expertise, and experience to help you get through tough times.
How Online Therapy Can Help
If you would like additional support with your mental health, you may also consider seeking help through online therapy. Virtual therapists can help individuals sort through thoughts and emotions, develop healthy stress management skills, and cope with life’s challenges in the most effective way for their specific needs.
For busy teachers or others who may already feel stretched thin, the idea of finding time for therapy can feel overwhelming. In these cases, online therapy can be beneficial—offering the options of remote sessions, which may be easier for many to fit into hectic schedules.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Research suggests that online therapy can be an effective option for a range of concerns, including stress. For instance, one such study explored the efficacy of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) that was designed to possibly reduce stress in adults with elevated perceived stress or stress-related disorders.
The researchers concluded that the results of the study “provide evidence of the efficacy of ICBT to reduce stress, anxiety (disorders), and depressive symptoms in adults suffering from elevated stress or stress-related disorders”.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Is Mental Health Important For Teachers?
Teachers are generally regarded as having an incredibly important job in educating the next generation. Adverse impacts on mental health such as extreme stress, anxiety disorder-related symptoms, burnout, fatigue and so on can all influence the teacher’s life as well as their ability to teach their students.
Maintaining good mental health can be paramount not only for the teacher’s own personal health and well-being, but for that of students as well.
How Can Teachers Manage Stress?
Teachers can manage stress in a variety of ways. Some options to consider can include:
Discussing concerns with a licensed therapist.
Practicing mindfulness techniques to help stay grounded and connected with oneself.
Incorporating self-care and self-compassion through activities, such as setting aside half an hour each day to do something one enjoys—be it reading a book or going for a run.
Giving oneself grace and positive self-talk.
Acknowledging that there are things we can control and things that we can’t, collectively, and investing one’s energy in the things that one can change.
Prioritizing healthy coping mechanisms, such as meditation, mindfulness, exercise, journaling and more.
Practicing gratitude and celebrating one’s accomplishments. Teaching can be a very difficult, taxing and stressful job, but it can also be very rewarding.
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