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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 empathetic 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 caring and attentive instructors for their students despite 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 not alone. Many stressors are involved with teaching, including testing pressures, lesson planning, student behavior issues, administrative challenges, and more.

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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 necessary.

We are only human, and having a list where not everything is crossed off each day is perfectly fine. Our hours and energy levels are limited, so give yourself a big break, especially when unexpected issues, actions, or concerns arise. See that list as a fluid document where things can be adjusted, removed, or added all the time without blame or worry.

Prioritize self-care

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. On 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 enjoyment, it will invigorate your psyche and ease some of that anxiety and overwhelming feelings.

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 with free time in their day or week feel 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 return. You’ll focus on them better when you have other hobbies and interests to occupy your time away from them.

Take your kids to the park, 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, exercise regularly, 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.

Take care to keep a jug of refreshing water nearby as you teach and work each day. Add 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.

Ensure your meals have plenty of vitamin-packed vegetables and fruits and include 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 is enormously helpful for treating anxiety, and its long-term effects substantially benefit 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 bodies and makes us instantly feel better.

If you find yourself stressed out and need 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. 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.

Accept imperfection

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, 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, taking notes and getting some good ideas is fine; however, do not compare yourself or become overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to be that fabulous in your teaching career. These things lead to more anxiety and even teacher depression. 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, focusing on yourself and your well-being when confronted with them is important. Speak to yourself with a pep-talk in your mind, trust your intuition, and steer clear whenever possible.

Talk with positive people about the situation, even if to vent or 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 in 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 worthwhile to seek professional help whenever you feel it may benefit 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 feel anxious and even depressed because a lot is expected of them.

Anxiety can appear in different ways, with varying symptoms for each individual. You must 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 happy in the noble teaching profession for the long haul.

Take good care of yourself, and always know you are not alone.