Being an educator in this modern world comes with many challenges and obstacles, and it can promote feelings of teacher anxiety. This is true especially for the very empathetic and sensitive among us — many who pursue a career in teaching young people have these traits. Teacher depression is unfortunately common.
How do those who feel anxious overcome or treat their symptoms and press on to be a caring and attentive instructor for their students in spite of this hurdle? While different actions work for different people, there are some good general suggestions for everyone.
If you have frequent thoughts like, “School gives me anxiety” or “School is making me depressed” — or even feel this just once in a while — know that you are definitely not alone. There are plenty of stressors involved with teaching, including testing pressures, lesson planning, student behavior issues, administrative challenges, and more.
To-do list pressure
Looking at that long to-do list can exacerbate even a small amount of anxiety. Let some of those items go. Either re-assign them to the next day (or two), delegate if possible or eliminate items that are not totally necessary.
We are only human, and it is perfectly fine to have a list where not everything is crossed off each day. Our hours and energy levels are limited, so give yourself a big break, especially on days when unexpected issues, actions, or concerns arise. See that list as a fluid document, where things can be adjusted or removed or added all the time without blame or worry.
Spend every single day doing at least one small thing just for yourself. Some days this may include a lovely leisurely walk through a nature-filled area or a decadent lunch out with friends. Other days this may be simply ten minutes of deep-breath meditation or leisure-reading as the schedule allows. As long as you do something just for your own enjoyment, it will invigorate your psyche and ease some of that anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
Your school, your family, your community — they all appreciate your time and effort spent on them, but you must carve out time to recharge your batteries for yourself or resentments will flare and teacher anxiety will grow.
Free time default
Many teachers who find themselves with a bit of free time in their day or week feel that they should dive into their work. It’s that teacher mindset — the passion for the profession leads to saturation in their lives. As hard as it may be, though, do something else.
You need white space around your daily teacher tasks and goals, and they will still be there when you get back. You’ll focus on them in a better way when you have other hobbies and interests to occupy your time away from them.
Take your kids to the park, go get a spa treatment, visit a new restaurant with your partner, go hiking, or see a movie. Do something other than schoolwork when you have some precious free time. Even social media and web surfing can too often lead to school-related research or list-making — so stay off the internet, too. Do something completely different and completely exhilarating.
Use health-centered coping mechanisms
It is common sense that everyone should eat right, get regular exercise, and drink plenty of water each day to maintain optimum health; however, this is especially helpful for those who experience teacher anxiety or emotional strain in their lives.
Take care to keep a jug of refreshing water nearby as you teach and work each day. Add some lemon juice for a mood lift or ginger essence to calm a nervous stomach. Staying hydrated helps every single organ in the body, including the (sometimes overthinking) brain.
Make sure your meals have plenty of vitamin-packed vegetables and fruits and include some protein snacks like nuts to maintain stamina during busy school days.
You may not feel like a workout after school, but how about time on the exercise bike before you start the day or a brisk walk during lunch? Exercise has been shown to be enormously helpful for treating anxiety and its long-term effects are shown to be substantially beneficial for both physical and mental well being.
Find something to giggle about
Did you know that having a sense of humor vastly increases the quality of life? Being able to laugh at something, even (especially?) during times of stress, helps us cope and get through it. Laughter is great because it produces endorphins in our body and makes us instantly feel better.
If you are finding yourself stressed out and in need of a release (and don’t have time to exercise right then), find something to laugh about — perhaps a fellow teacher can laugh with you, too. There are hilarious videos on the internet, and plenty of witty books and articles to peruse. Share some jokes or relay an outrageous story to a friend. Whatever gets you giggling, find a way to tap into it when you want to ease some tension.
It’s been fun sharing ideas with other teachers on social media and Pinterest in recent years, but along with that comes huge expectations for perfection. Many people, including teachers, tend to share only their best outcomes, ideas, photos, and projects on their websites and pages. It can make viewers feel discouraged if their attempts do not turn out as well.
Take a step back and remind yourself that no one shares their bad days or failures online. No one’s classroom or projects are perfect. As you look through the stunning photos and posts from others, it’s fine to take notes and get some good ideas; however, do not compare yourself or become overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to be that fabulous in your own teaching career. These things lead to more anxiety and even teacher depression. Definitely take a breath and keep life in a realistic perspective.
Stay clear of negativity
This goes for both people and situations. When a co-worker or even a place leaves you feeling tense, spend as little time as possible there. Toxic people and toxic situations feed on anxiety, so don’t feed those trolls. Being around their extreme negativity is not good for your mental and emotional health, and truly it is exhausting just pressing through that time.
While you cannot always avoid these downer situations, it’s important to focus on yourself and your own well being when you are confronted with them. Speak to yourself with a pep-talk in your mind, trust your intuition, and steer clear whenever it is possible.
Talk with positive people in your life about the situation, even if just to vent or perhaps to get more ideas on how to get through it. They may suggest a way to persevere that you had not considered. Positive people can be very creative and ingenious when it comes to getting through tough situations.
Seek a professional counselor
If your teacher anxiety feels too overwhelming to treat on your own, consider seeking the advice and help of a trained counselor or psychologist. It’s absolutely worth your while to seek professional help whenever you have a feeling that it may be beneficial for you.
Look for a professional who specializes in treating anxiety and other mood challenges. There is no doubt they have seen other teachers as clients, and they most likely have some excellent ways to treat your unique challenges.
Teachers deal with a lot of stress, especially in current times. Many do feel anxious and even depressed at times because a lot is expected of them.
Anxiety can appear in different ways, and with varying symptoms for each individual. It’s crucial that you not try to hide or deny it, but find ways to treat it when you recognize those feelings. How you cope and care for yourself can make a difference in your career and life. It can even determine whether you remain happily in the noble teaching profession for the long haul.
Take good care of yourself, and always know you are not alone.