Tips for teachers - managing your own mental health

Stephen Mordue

Stephen Mordue is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Sunderland. He has a specific interest in the impact of stress on wellbeing and focuses on how self-care and being organised can mitigate the effects of stress and improve productivity. Before moving to academia, he worked in older people’s social work as a practitioner and team manager. 

In the workplace, poor mental health can often be a consequence of work-related stress. The effective management of stress has been high on the agenda in schools for over a decade and stress has been identified as the most common health and safety problem in the UK. Historically, teaching has been identified as one of the most stressful occupations with 67% of teachers stating that their job has adversely affected their mental health. If you are yourself a teacher, you can probably relate to this either using your own experience or the experience of colleagues.

The care and education sectors certainly have their reputation for having employees that are susceptible to high levels of stress, huge workloads and targets upon which the wellbeing of others seems to rely. As a social worker by profession, I can relate to the struggle that my colleagues and, similarly, teachers face on a daily basis. Both professions are fundamentally human acts. Working with a range of individuals, we are also required to work with other people’s emotions. As we invest in the problems of others, it can, unfortunately, have a detrimental effect on our own psychological ‘capital’.  With more young people than ever before suffering with or now recognising their own poor mental health, capacity is being spread more thinly. The demanding nature of our roles can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed, which fuels stress and leads to burnout.

The question is, what can be done? There is a lot you can do yourself to mitigate against feelings of stress by building resilience. Resilience is multifaceted - there is emotional resilience, physical resilience, and practical resilience. How you sleep, what you eat, and how much exercise you take all have the potential to contribute, and in turn improve, your mental health. Being organised will help you find time to do these things and also feel in control of your working life.

I was happy to work alongside NCFE on a series of mental health focused articles to offer my advice to teachers about how to try and manage your own mental health. Although specifically for teachers, I would encourage all education professionals to take a look at the series. Make the important decision that you’re worth looking after and by doing so, you’re taking back some control. We’re all in this together, so let’s help each other to create a healthier, happier and more productive workplace. 

If you enjoyed this blog, read more from Stephen and his tips for managing your mental health through sleep, organisation, nutrition and exercise.

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