School staff wellbeing and self-care | Information & eLearning | Jigsaw

School staff wellbeing and self-care

School staff wellbeing and self-care

Naoise

Monday, 01 March 2021

The emotional ask of teachers and school staff has been significant over the last year. School staff have had to navigate their changing environment and support young people in their classrooms to do the same.

Stacked stones by the water to illustrate relaxation for mental health

Staff wellbeing and self-care should always be a priority and, even more so, this year.

Challenges to self-care

Relationships and emotional intelligence is the foundation for success in the work you do every day in education. Subject knowledge and teaching methodologies only work if you have the emotional resources to build a relationship with the young people you teach. And that takes work.

Empathy and emotional intelligence provide you with the capacity to identify and understand the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of young people.

However, the continuous demand to care for others, which is a daily part of our jobs as school staff, may cause fatigue, emotional distress or apathy. These demands, without a focus on self-care, might result in compassion fatigue. They could leave you feeling as though you are not connected to your role and are unable to be fully present in the moment.

All of this can have a significant impact on your personal and professional lives. Over time, this can lead to burnout.

Self-care in a changing environment

The Employee Assistance Scheme exists to support teachers with a range of supports.

Self-care does not exist in a bubble

The idea of self-care can sometimes feel like a luxury. With so much else going on, self-care is pushed aside, put on hold or forgotten about. Worse, in the teaching role, where teachers and school staff so often face a high-stress environment with little control over policies, resourcing and available supports, the notion of self-care can seem frivolous.

Self-care does not exist in a bubble; just as there are things that can affect your self-care, there are many things that can be influenced positively by putting self-care at the centre of your teaching role. It is important to recognise that the little things matter and that by attending to basic self-care needs, the ability to deal with the bigger things can develop.

Elements of self-care for school staff

Self-care requires us to be proactive. We need to build it into our lives so that it becomes routine. Unlike stress management, which is reactive, self-care is about making ‘taking care of ourselves’ a priority, keeping it on our agenda and making it a part of what we do every day, even when things are not feeling too stressful.

Take a minute to think about each of these elements. What areas do you succeed in? Which could you focus on more often?

 

Do you know when you are likely to feel overwhelmed, worried or tired? Taking notice of these things can help you to plan steps to manage them.

Having activities that we enjoy built into our daily routines is a proactive way of taking care of ourselves. Whether that is swimming, cooking or walking the dogs, make the time for things that you enjoy.

Setting boundaries and sometimes saying “no” is the kindest thing that we can do for ourselves. Know when you have reached your limit, pause and take time to reflect.

Who is there to support you? Find time to connect with like-minded colleagues through shared learning, a love of teaching or simply a safe space to talk.

Take time every day to reflect. Consider how you feel throughout the day. What went well? How can you build on that tomorrow?

There will always be times when you need to ask for help, this may be from family, work colleagues, your GP or online supports. Being proactive in seeking support is an important step in minding our mental health and wellbeing.

Self-care goals

Thinking about the above elements, set yourself two self-care goals and identify two actions you can take to achieve each goal:

Goal 1:

Two things you will do to put this into practice in the next two weeks.

Goal 2:

Two things you will do to put this into practice in the next two weeks.

Reflection exercise

Reflection is a big part of self-care. Taking the time to check in with yourself will help you to make sense of how you are feeling, plan for challenges and support you to build strong relationships with the people around you.

As you prepare for the school year, print out the following handout with some questions you may find helpful to think about.

Self-care course for school staff

If you are interested in delving a little deeper into self-care, Jigsaw has an online self-care course for school staff. This will support you to understand the importance of self-care, develop an awareness of your own self-care needs and develop a self-care plan.

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