As many parents cheered when the Prime Minister gave the nod for schools to reopen on 8th March, many teachers felt a sense of anxiety about returning to their role. A recent survey conducted by Quizlet, a digital learning platform and app, found that more than eight in 10 (85%) felt anxious or overwhelmed during the pandemic, and this was consistent across the state, grammar and independent sectors. The survey, which involved more than 1,200 teachers, also found that nearly two thirds (62%) of teachers surveyed feel their occupational stress levels have increased as a result of the pandemic.
These findings mirror a YouGov survey which found half of the UK’s school teachers (52%) say their mental health declined during the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic. 67% of senior leaders working on-site at a school or college said the lack of timely government guidance was a key challenge for them throughout.
So as teachers head back into schools with Covid restrictions to navigate now as well, how do you achieve a better work-life balance? Here are our top 5 tips:
1. Prioritise: By making a list you can set out the things that are important to you for that day/week. This can be a list of both work and personal priorities – making time to mark homework and lesson plan but also feeding the ducks at the local lake with your children. Map out how you’d like to prioritise your time and leave space for those last minute requests that will undoubtably land with you. By having a list you won’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks to do, you can calmly work your way through them making sure fun activities are on the list too.
2. Team work: It’s really helpful to remember that you’re part of a team right now. Collaborating with colleagues is one of the best ways to share knowledge, provide solutions and remind yourself of that support network around you. Also, don’t be afraid to say no if you won’t have time to be able to do something at work. It is better to be respected for telling the truth rather than missing a deadline in the end.
3. Have a natter: Use that support network at school to catch up with your colleagues in the staff room over a cup of tea or reach out to family and friends. They will help to ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way and provide solutions. The activities we do with friends help us relax, laughter is a great stress reliever.
4. Stay active: Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly. Exercise can also provide some ‘me time’ where you can just be yourself.
5. Perspective: While it is fantastic to enjoy your job, it’s good to remember that school is your work. If the burden of endless admin or children’s attainment targets for example are getting on top of you, it’s important to put your health first. There are a wide range of helpful links on the NHS website to help combat stress, relieve mental health anxieties as well as lists of charities set up to help those struggling.