BLOG: How creating a teacher self-care toolkit can help you get through the winter

YST Ambassador Dr Radha Modgil blogs about how teachers can protect their wellbeing ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

As the days get darker and colder, this time of year is tricky to deal with. Even trickier when you are a teacher trying to educate the next generation in the middle of a pandemic.

Through my work as a GP, broadcaster and ambassador for children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust, I know that teachers are already at the end of their emotional reserves. They have been juggling one Government announcement after the next, fitting workloads around staggered starts and finishes as well as split lunchtimes, and in some cases teaching their class remotely while self-isolating.

This is not teaching as we know it. I want to congratulate teachers for what might have been some of the toughest months of their careers. Many of you might be thinking ‘how am I going to get through the next few days, let alone the next term?’. But if anyone can support us through this pandemic, you can.

On World Mental Health Day, thinking about how you are going to stay well physically, mentally and emotionally this autumn & winter has never been more important. You’ve done so much for your students and it's important not to forget your own wellbeing.

As October half term approaches, try to frame it not as a stressful week to catch up on marking or lesson planning, but a time to do something you enjoy, spend time with friends, family - build up social reserves and recharge your battery ready for what lies ahead.

It’s a great opportunity to use this time to work out some strategies so you have them in your teacher self-care toolkit and can pull them out when you need them.

Why not create yourself a Being Well Backpack?

A couple of weeks ago I came up with the idea of making a Being Well Backpack. I didn’t necessarily have just teachers in mind, but teachers are parents, aunties, uncles and your next-door neighbour too, so this is for you. Think of the backpack as your own personal self-care toolkit. I decided to post a daily tip Monday to Friday on my Twitter & weekly roundup on Instagram to help people create a Being Well Backpack of tools to get through autumn and winter.

There are 181 days for us to get through, and I know that together, we will. Below are five areas of focus, ideas and tools:

Monday – You

Work out which daily habits and strategies make you feel good, we are all individuals and different things work for each one of us - so start to shape your backpack based on who you are and what you respond to.

Tuesday – Your Mind

Dedicate 5-10 mins every morning or each day to sit, be still and watch your thoughts come in and pass. Don't attach to them or judge them. See how you feel after a few days of sticking to this habit.

Wednesday – Your Body

We know that moving helps us to release endorphins and feel good. There is lots of evidence which makes the case for why sport, physical activity and play is good for our wellbeing. Make a list of the different ways you can move your body and which ones you enjoy and when you need them. For me, I run if I feel stressed or worried, yoga if I need grounding, dance if I need joy, weights if I want to feel empowered. What about you?

Thursday – Your Feelings

All feelings have a purpose. We sometimes label feelings as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ones that are ok or not ok. This causes problems as we push them down. Today, feel your feelings, notice them & tell someone how you feel.

Friday – Your World

Looking out for other people in our ‘mini-worlds’ not only helps them but helps us too. Altruism has been shown to give us health benefits and makes us feel good. What can you do today to make your ‘mini-world’ a better world?

Connect

Designed by schools for schools, the new Well Schools platform powered by the Youth Sport Trust and Bupa Foundation, can connect you to a community of likeminded teachers and schools. It is free and shares tons of best practice and ideas to help you overcome challenges you might be facing. Its aim is to help improve education outcomes by placing wellbeing at its very heart to support school staff, senior leaders and young people.

And finally, forget all the things that you didn’t have time to do last term and were going to do over half-term, but still haven’t had time to do and remember that if at the end of the day your students leave feeling happy and have learnt something new, then your job is done. Look after yourselves.

Follow Dr Radha on Twitter @DrRadhaModgil for 181 days of tips/advice to help you manage your wellbeing over the winter months. You can also register to access Well Schools www.well-school.org

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