Saturday, October 10, 2020

#WorldMentalHealthDay - Teacher Thoughts

Today is world Mental Health Day. It seemed fitting that I would ease back into social media today. I stepped away for about 3 weeks because there was too much going on all over my life and I just didn’t need to see the dumpster fire of the world in one more spot. 

I am teaching face to face with students who are joining remotely. It is a high anxiety situation. Not because of the fear of contracting Covid-19, but of not being the best teacher I can be in these circumstances. I have always taken pride in putting my best effort in to any problems at school and not letting things get in my way of providing the best educational experiences possible for students, but there are times I will fail and I still, after 15 years, still let it get the best of me. Trying to turn a design class into something that works in person and remotely has been tough and every obstacle has caused me stress and anxiety. I am better off than I was 3 weeks ago and I think it is a combination of things that made it possible. 

1. Supportive Admin and Staff

I cannot stress enough how important a supportive staff and administrative team can be in helping teachers cope with anxiety. I don’t think I’d be teaching in another environment if it were not for their hard work, attitude, and empathy. As things got tough, they were there to offer support and, sometimes, problem solve. As teachers, we cannot be left to fend for ourselves. I have friends that are dealing with serious vacuums in their leadership and it is causing more issues than can be shared. My heart breaks for them. 

2. Stepping Away

Taking the break from social media is important and I recommend it to everyone. It was tough not connecting with friends and letting them know what is happening in my world, but I needed to go cold turkey if I wanted to really step away. More than anything, those minutes I saved were used for self care techniques I’ll share in a bit. Those minutes add up and I will be looking to keep the minutes I add back to a minimum. 

3. Meditation 

I use the Calm app to help me quiet the noise in my head. I do it almost every night and I could not be happier. Taking the time to just empty my skull of the nonsense of the day and focus on breathing and wellbeing makes a difference. During some of my most stressful anxiety driven moments, meditation helped me through it.

4. Therapy

It might not be for everyone, but it is for me. If people are comfortable, they need to share more often that therapy is a part of their life. There is still a stigma out there about people who go to therapy. It is a shame. Therapy is a great way to talk through issues with a neutral third party. I am lucky to have health insurance that covers therapy visits. 

5. Distraction 

Finding something that distracts you from the noise can be helpful. I used to run, but my knees and back are starting to disagree with that form of distraction. I game fairly regularly at night. Shooting ghouls can help calm the nerves. I listen to podcasts as well. Welcome to Nightvale is amazing and I also love Fake Doctors, Real Friends which is podcast by Zach Braff and Donald Faison. Scrubs is one of my favorite shows of all time and those two are rewatching the series during lockdown and sharing their memories. If you love Scrubs, you will love this podcast. 

The world is not going to be getting easier in the next month. In November, about half the country is going to be very angry and teachers will be on the front line again to support the students who need it. I might need to add more things to help me cope, but I know I can do it.

For those of you reading that do not deal with mental health issues, but have friends who do, here are a couple of things you can do.

1. Listen

Just listen. Don’t solve problems, just listen to them.

2. Don’t isolate them even if they want it

They are going to push you away, ignore your texts, and try to ghost you as much as they can. Be persistent, but not annoying. Checking in every few days lets them know you are still thinking about them and are there. I know it is more work, but your friends need the extra help right now.

3. Love them

Let them know how much you love them and how important they are to you. If you can, give them big hugs. The fact that we have a strict no touching policy in this country to keep everyone safe is making it very hard for those who deal with mental health issues who need hugs. It seems silly, but there are plenty of studies that show how important hugs can be to the body. If it safe and you are in bubbles, just giving them a hug or holding them can help so much.

I hope all of you will take a few moments to connect with your loved ones, let them know you love them, and share this with anyone you think needs help. 

I love and miss allot of you very much. 

Hugs and High Fives, 

NP