Reaching for the oxygen
For Angelo Castelda, if you are going to help others effectively during the ongoing pandemic, you have to make sure you look after yourself as well.
The current demands on teachers
It has become increasingly necessary for educators to focus more on their students’ wellbeing as the pandemic continues. Continued uncertainty, ongoing requirements to isolate, stay away from friends and school look set to continue into the New Year. Despite the approval of several vaccines, the emergence of mutated forms of the virus and the onset of a ‘third wave’ means there will be no let up any time soon. For teachers, this means teaching and supporting their students while experiencing the same challenges that everyone else is going through.
It’s important that people understand the importance of mental wellbeing among online teachers, especially now that fears for a rise in mental health since the start of lockdown seem well-founded. Nurturers by nature, teachers also need to look after their own wellbeing, to fulfill their duties of mental and emotional support toward the students.
So, what to do? In the words of the pre-flight safety message – if there is an unexpected loss in cabin pressure, make sure your own oxygen supply is in place before helping others!
Here are four ways to reach for the oxygen. All are simple and even obvious enough, but none of them will be easy.
1. Carve out time for yourself
Make it a point to allocate time for yourself every day. Everyone has their own set of routines for destressing and self-care, so take time to do that every day, especially if you’re starting to feel a sense of burnout.
While de-stressors vary from person to person, here are some ideas that could help you relieve stress and care for your mental and physical wellness. These may seem obvious – but the indications are that busy people still need to find the time to do one or more of the following on a regular basis:
- Go out for a walk
- Listen to music
- Read a book
- Engage in physical activities (jog or run in the morning or afternoon, do yoga or Pilates, take crossfit training or HIIT, etc.)
- Meditate and do breathing exercises
2. Show some self-compassion
Now is the time to extend kindness not only to other people but to yourself as well. The pandemic has indeed taken a toll on many people’s mental health, which is all the more reason for you need to treat yourself kindly. There are simply things you cannot control given the COVID-19 situation, so allow yourself to focus only on the things that you can control while demonstrating compassion towards yourself. Act kindly and lovingly as you think of yourself, the same way you speak and act around other people.
3. Set some boundaries
Homebased jobs have their fair share of pros and cons. Some people easily get drained because of failing to set the boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid burnout by having as good a work-life balance as you can manage when working from home. Here are some suggestions as to how you can do just that:
- Set your work hours (be realistic – allow for prep and admin as well as teaching) and work efficiently within them, but then stop.
- Ignore work emails after work hours! Making yourself available 24/7 opens you up to communications that will eventually lead to stress and lack of rest over the weekend. Keep in mind to set specific work hours when you can entertain emails from your colleagues and students. Apart from that, let them know that you will not be available, but you’ll be happy to get back to them during your work hours.
- Set expectations – it’s definitely okay to say ‘no’! Communicate with your colleagues and students, be transparent, and let them know when you can’t take another task for the day. Allow yourself to focus only on the things you can do within your working day.
4. Speak to someone
Above all, if you’re feeling a little too overworked and think you’ll be having a hard time fulfilling your duties as an educator, be sure to turn to someone and tell them. Contact a friend, your colleague, supervisor or a counselor. There are also materials online where you can learn more about taking care of your mental health as you work remotely but finding time for a conversation – the sort you would have in the faculty lounge or staffroom – is of far greater value than you might think.
5. Don’t ignore the signs
What the world is experiencing right now is definitely challenging, and even trained and experienced professionals in the field of education are not exempt from these challenges – especially if they ignore the warning signs and don’t find time for themselves.
So – before you adjust the oxygen masks of your students, make sure yours is fitted first!
Angelo Castelda is a freelance writer from Asia. Besides writing, he also spends his time traveling and learning about diverse cultures, which in turn developed his interest in ESL.
Connecting with nature: https://www.wwf.org.uk/5-ways-connect-nature-help-our-wellbeing