To help students succeed academically and manage the stressors of life in the classroom, it has always been important for teachers and staff to effectively manage their own anxieties.
For some, the changes, uncertainty, and stress of 2020 and 2021 have resulted in a lingering sense of anxiety. Even more students are likely return to full-time in-person learning in the fall, which will place renewed demands on staff and teachers to help them transition.
Even if your school is virtual or hybrid, back-to-school anxiety can still happen leading up to any new school year. This might be a general sense of anxiety, or because of specific challenges related to setting up a remote classroom, work-life imbalance, difficult student behaviors, and many other factors.
Whatever is causing your stress, here are a few tips to help you head into the new school year as your best self mentally and emotionally.
How Teachers and Administrators Can Manage Anxiety
- Establish clear lines of communication. There is always a lot going on at the beginning of any school year, and peace of mind for students, parents, teachers, and staff alike starts with good communication. School administrators and teachers can make a difference by clearly communicating what to expect for the school year – including your recommendations for keeping children and teachers safe and healthy in the classroom.
- Reconnect with your colleagues – Your fellow staff members may be a great source of advice and empathy when it comes to easing your concerns about the new school year. Schedule time with your colleagues before school starts – either casual conversations over coffee, or formal meetings. This opportunity to discuss each other’s experiences may yield new techniques that alleviate your anxiety and will also help you build stronger professional ties with your colleagues.
- Understand your triggers. Understanding the source of your stress is essential to helping you address it. According to David Donnelly, a licensed behavioral analyst, we normally look to external triggers for the source of our stress, but we experience it internally. Understanding your underlying emotions will help manage your reaction. For example, many teachers are stressed because they care intensely about the success of their students. Make sure to acknowledge when caring is the source of your stress.
- Plan a routine that works for you. Just when you thought you had remote learning figured out, it is time to return to the routines of the classroom. A personal routine that addresses your daily needs – from exercise to food to grading — can make a big difference in your success. Think about your ideal daily schedule and energy levels. When are you at your most alert? When does your energy lag? Then match your most important daily habits to appropriate ties of day and do your best to stay consistent.
- Know your limits. Even more than other professions, teachers and school administrators bring their work home at night: grading assignments, planning upcoming classes, communicating with parents, and more. Despite the importance of these work activities, it is also vital to your mental health that you take time to “shut off.” If you are having trouble ending your workday, consider working only in designated areas and times. These predetermined boundaries will mentally help you shut off work when it is time to let your brain relax.
- Take time to relax. Educating children is an important, stressful job. Doing so much for others can distract you from self-care, so take time to sleep, exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and nurture hobbies and relationships with family or friends. And before the new school year begins, embrace the summer as a time to relax and enjoy yourself.
Transitioning to a new school year is never easy on teachers and staff – and the 2021-2022 academic year will be no exception. Working in education demands that teachers keep up with the ever-changing needs of students – including their emotional needs in a hyperconnected, smartphone-centered world. Teachers who can successfully manage their own anxieties are teachers who can be successful caregivers to the students and families they serve.
Need more help?
Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to an end, but our mission to provide support for the mental and emotional wellness of children, youth, and young adults never stops. If you find yourself struggling with stress and anxiety. The Bougainvilla House, offers therapy sessions for students and adults who struggle with managing their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. If you would like to get started, please schedule your free screening here.