Like many other teachers across the nation, I have been trying my best to maintain my sanity while teaching during a pandemic. I have been teaching for the last 7 years, and I have never encountered anything such as this! WHERE IS THE BONUS PAY?! LOL. Anywho, I have struggled with how to address coronavirus panic, because honestly there is no easy answer. I don’t actually know the answers, I mean-no one does! We’ve never been here before as a nation let alone as a society. But I wanted to address what’s happening and hopefully bring some comfort to those of you who are anxious and stressed, and share what has worked for me and few of my teacher friends!
Unlike many other school districts, mine actually decided to be face to face from the beginning of August. So I have had actual student bodies right in my face since DAY 1 in addition to my virtual students at home! Crazy right?! It hasn't been all bad though, there is nothing like real interaction with your students. Yet, everyday many teachers like myself are risking it all for the greater cause of saving kids and making a living! The alternative that many students and teachers are facing is being100% virtual comes with many obstacles as well such as the lack of social interaction, technology issues, and overall just getting behind on the required standards & skills that they are actually supposed to retain for the next grade. There is no easy fix and it appears that nobody wins!
I will be honest, there are many days like most teachers right now that I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and defeated. Although we may not have all the answers and have no clue when things may go back to "normal", one thing is for certain- mindset always matters. When you are intentional about having a positive and resilient mindset, there is nothing that you can not do! You are serving a greater purpose, and you should give yourself more credit!
So here are a few tips from myself and a few teacher friends to help you combat your anxiety and feelings of helplessness while teaching during the pandemic!
1. ITS OKAY, TO NOT BE OKAY
It can be difficult right now to focus and not fall into a spiral of negativity. Covid has swept in and changed everything completely, and for many of us, it has forced us to slow down for the first time and really just - sit in our emotions. If you're like me, it can be so easy at times to just stay super busy with all of your tasks to the point of blocking out your problems in an effort to avoid them or numb the feelings of uneasiness.
Fear and uncertainty are no joke and can lead to a vicious cycle that can really affect your mental health. From all the alarming rates of Covid deaths to the frightening news reports, it is now more important than ever to feel and process. I don't mean just stay in the emotions, but instead acknowledge them and why you actually feel that way in an effort to create a strategy for those moments. When we run, the anxiety just increases. When we distract ourselves, because we do not want to feel- we in turn make matters worse eventually building up to an eruption of emotions.
I have struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my life. In high school, it was so bad that I would break out all over in hives and itch terribly from suffering from such high anxiety. Through a lot of self work, therapy, and God's grace- I have learned that it is okay to not be okay. But- in order to genuinely be ok, you have to shift your mindset and give yourself a space to feel. The way that I have learned to manage this is largely by planning and trying to control as much as possible, but with a global pandemic where I cannot plan ahead because I have no idea what’s happening or going to happen, and almost everything is out of my control — well, that’s triggering all of my anxiety and control issues. So to all my planners and people with control issues- YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The only thing that you can do in these situations is to be gentle with yourself, give grace, and allow yourself to be off-kilter. It is normal and understandable to be anxious right now or fearful. That is a natural human reaction, and those uncomfortable feelings are okay to feel, but that is when you lean on faith more than ever. Be gentle with yourself, remind yourself to feel, and remind yourself that it will not always last.
2. TAKE THE TIME TO REST
Most people (and teachers especially) are already always exhausted and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities on their plates when we’re not in a global pandemic. Take the time and do not feel guilty about it! Teachers- that work will still be there tomorrow! We are in the middle of a pandemic for crying out loud! Turn off that computer and rest! You deserve it and honestly, you need it!! To whatever extent is in your power, allow yourself to rest. Because if we’re prioritizing health right now in our society and beginning to finally make decisions as if our health is more important than anything else, then we need to realize that rest is essential to good health. If you do not rest, your immune system will be weakened. Do not expect yourself to accomplish what you normally do, because the world is not functioning as it normally does.
You set the tone for your home, classroom, car, etc. Through your tone, word choice, and interactions with your students and colleagues, you can convey to them that we are all in this together, and you will work with them to offer the kind of support and flexibility they need. This reassurance is probably the most impactful thing you can do right now for them and yourself.
As someone that is used to always being on the hustle, if you do not make time for rest- your body will do it for you.
3. REFLECT and DELETE
It’s amazing how a major traumatic event like this can clarify how many of those things we thought just had to happen and we had to participate in … do not actually need to happen after all. Often, teachers feel like everything on their plates is important and essential, and there’s nothing they can cut out, but that is not the case. This global disruption to our daily lives is the perfect opportunity to rethink and say no to the stuff that you’ve only been doing out of obligation. This could be a chance to wipe your slate clean. Decide what you actually care about and what you want to use your time and energy for in the future. Many people have created more family time, started new businesses, and even found new hobbies.
What do you need to reflect upon and possibly delete? It’s easier to stay busy then to self-examine and reflect. So if you find yourself uncomfortable in the quiet and the stillness, I encourage you to sit with that, because that’s where the growth is, trust me... I know. Prioritize rest and health — meaning the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, because ultimately you cannot thrive if you're empty.
4. REMEMBER YOUR VILLAGE
In a a society where it seems that many people are only out for themselves, it can be hard to trust and open up to people, but it is vital to your mental health during this time. These are not days that we can get through alone, because the unknown can be scary. Having a strong support system around you to encourage you, pray for you, and uplift you is crucial during this time. As teachers, we have to constantly pour into others, and you can start to feel depleted. That is where your village comes in.
This tragedy can connect us if we can think beyond ourselves; which can be difficult at times, because it’s counter to our human nature, which is rooted in self-preservation. But we have to be willing to think more consciously rather than just following our base instincts. If I find cases of Lysol or Clorox wipes, and my neighbors have none left to buy or can’t afford to stock up, that means they’re not washing their hands, which can make me sick. The resources and protections that everyone else on the planet has right now impacts me. It’s always been that way, but not always so obvious. So it is key that we take care of each other and look beyond ourselves. Doing this also helps you to feel more at ease and less anxious as well.
"We have the power to make choices about what the new normal will look like: for our personal lives, for our families, for our communities, for our government, for our planet."
In the end, we cannot control what is happening right now nor can we predict the future. If you have big faith like me, you can rest in knowing that GOD HAS YOUR BACK! Speak life over yourself, and remember that it is ok, to not be ok! Push through, reflect, delete anything that does not bring you joy, and put your mental health first! It sounds simple right?!
For more information or tools to combat anxiety and shift your mindset, lets chat! Drop a comment below or email me today!