Improving Teacher Wellbeing and Free Wellbeing Tracker
A recent study of the health and wellbeing of Australian school teachers by Associate Professor in Psychology at Bond University, Peta Stapleton, discovered that over half of Australian teachers suffer from anxiety and nearly one-fifth are depressed.
In her study of 166 teachers aged 22 to 65 she concluded that compared to other occupations teachers are more susceptible to work related stress, burnout and general psychological distress. When asked what were the main sources of stress teachers highlighted the main concern area to be ‘work’.
Stress, If You’re a Teacher, You’ve felt it!
A small amount of stress in our daily routine helps to improve our functioning but too much stress activation our brains begin to think we are in danger and we become less effective in the short term. Chronic stress happens when stress hormones are functioning in this way over a long period of time. This is when physical symptoms can occur such as pain, nausea, dizziness and fainting.
Unfortunately teacher work load and government support does not seem to be changing so what can we do to support our own and our colleague’s mental health? Therefore we need to have our own self-awareness stress dial to understand our own levels of stress and how it manifests in our bodies. All humans are unique and cope with stress in many different ways.
Regularly engaging in self-care activities will reduce or alleviate chronic stress. Before you start engaging in mindfulness and booking that holiday retreat to Bali you need to first assess your lifestyle factors. These are the foundations of having good mental health and coping strategies. If these lifestyle factors are out of whack then all the coping strategies or yoga sessions you sign up for will only be bandaids.
Lifestyle Factors; The Foundations
This is the MOST important lifestyle factor. Most humans need 8 to 8.5 hours sleep each night. Getting less than 5 to 6 hours sleep each night has critical consequences and can lead to physical health issues later in life equivalent to smoking and obesity.
This is the second most important lifestyle factor. Vigorous exercise for 30 minutes, three times a week is as an effective treatment as anti-depression medication. Exercise also reduces anxiety and has huge benefits for your mood if it’s regular.
Your brain is just as affected by what you eat as your other organs. Gut health has high correlations to your mental health. Most clinical psychologists will firstly reduce the sugar and caffeine intake of someone with high anxiety.
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to what is happening right now. Once you have assessed your lifestyle factors you may want to consider trying to include Mindfulness into your routine. Regular practice of mindfulness helps you to develop your attention on one thing and deal with anxiety. Practicing slow breathing directly sends a message to your fear system to tell you that you are safe.
As well as mindfulness there are many other coping resources that you could identify as deriving pleasure and relaxation from. Take time to write down a list of how you like to use your time away from work? Think of something small that you can add to your weekly routine. This might be reading a book, gardening or something creative.
Change is Hard
Remember change is hard. Try not to make large changes to your routine straight away as this is harder to accomplish and people often then return to their comfort zone when things go wrong. Set a goal that you think is achievable and the anxiety level of this change is tolerable.
Free Wellbeing Tracker
To help you become more self-aware with how your body copes with stressors we have created a free Wellbeing Tracker. Using the Wellbeing Tracker you can keep track of your lifestyle foundations and generate feeling of wellness each day. It also includes your three goals for the day which can be anything from hang out the washing to do some meditation. Don’t forget to add your self-care moment for the week at the end of every week. The happiness wheel graphs your general feeling of happiness over the day.
The Wellbeing Tracker has been printed with a mindfulness colouring background for those that enjoy mindfulness colouring. This wellbeing tracker can be used with friends, family members or your students.
You can download the wellbeing tracker at https://www.tiptheteacher.com.au/free-wellbeing-tracker-for-teachers-and-students.html
We’d love your feedback on the Wellbeing Tracker so please send through your comments and photos of you using the tracker to Kat.Mardell@tiptheteacher.com.au