As many teachers will be largely working from home at the current time, and with the situation expected to persist for several months, cases of stress, anxiety and depression are likely to increase, so it is important that everyone looks after their own mental health.
This will be particularly important for those living alone, and/or with limited outdoor space.
This guidance is intended to give some tips on managing your mental health during this time.
Routines are important - try to get into a steady routine
- Wake and get up at the same time each day and have a set routine to get ready to work.
- Have defined breaks and lunch times - it may be useful to copy your usual routine. When on a break, make sure you stop working and do something you enjoy. Make sure you leave your workspace in break periods.
- Have a routine for evening meal as well. Try to eat healthily and avoid snacking throughout the day.
- If you are looking after children as well as working from home, ensure you build this into you routine as well. Children will also benefit from having established routines.
- If living with other adults or older children discuss and assign household jobs to peoples routines.
If possible, have a dedicated workspace
- Try to have a defined workspace away from your sleeping area. A home office is ideal, but it could be a desk in a room or even a specific space on a kitchen table.
- As far as possible, make sure your workspace is set up to be conducive to working. Avoid clutter and ensure you are sitting correctly etc. to avoid physical strain or poor posture. Advice can be found on the NHS How to sit at your desk correctly web page.
- Exercise is very important for your physical and mental health and should be built into your routine.
- Although the Government restrictions allow for one period of outside exercise per day, exercise can be taken within the home environment, for example walking round your garden, doing some gardening, or following an online video workout or yoga class. Even some DIY can help.
- If you wish to go out to exercise, and are not self-isolating, make sure you stay a minimum of two metres away from anyone else and do not use equipment in parks. This could be a jog or a cycle ride before starting work or in the evening to define the end of work.
- You can also take exercise with others - virtually. An example could be going for a jog with a friend. Arrange the time, jog at separate locations but chat on the phone through earphones as you go. The same can be done with online sessions in your home using a webcam or similar.
Avoid mental isolation
- Although we are all physically isolating ourselves to some degree, it is important to avoid mental isolation and loneliness.
- Even if you are living with others, interactions with people outside your home will be important for your mental health.
- Set up a group on an app such as WhatsApp to chat to work colleagues in your school/department.
- Make greater use of voice and video calls rather than emails or messenger apps to stay in touch with work colleagues and friends and family.
- When not working, try to regularly call friends and family. You will be helping them also!
- Senior and middle managers should schedule regular keeping-in-touch calls with colleagues. These should focus on wellbeing rather than work.
- Arrange with colleagues to have virtual coffee breaks using video conferencing.
Take your leisure time
- At the end of the working day, make sure you stop working and do something you enjoy. Leave your workspace and do not return until the next day.
- This could be watching the TV or catching up with social media, but try to limit screen time. Reading a book or magazine is a great alternative.
- Avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption. These are quick fixes which could lead to more issues in the future.
- Don’t forget to check in with family and friends.
- Try something different - there are many people offering free online lessons in a variety of skills and crafts. This could be the ideal time to learn a new skill or hobby.
- If you are living with your family, ensure you have some time together and do a group activity, such as a board game or jigsaw.
If needed, get support
- If you are feeling that you need extra support to cope with mental health issues, there are numerous organisations that can help.
- If your employer has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), these often include confidential counselling services.
- Your workplace may have a mental health first aider that you may be able to contact.
- Mind, the mental health charity have produced guidance on Coronavirus and your wellbeing.
- The Education Support Partnership has a free confidential counselling service for teachers on 08000 562 561. Their support is not limited to work-related issues.
- The Samaritans offer free, confidential support 24 hours a day on 116 123.
- If you are experiencing work-related stress due to unreasonable demands from your manager or employer, contact the NASUWT.