Teaching with the Blues

How to Cope with Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression in the teaching profession isn't something that is talked about openly. Teachers don't want others to think that they don't have control or to jump to the conclusion that teaching wasn't cut out for them. Teachers wear so many hats and forget that they need to take care of themselves first in order to be the teacher they want to be.

 

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(Disclaimer: This post is in no way a substitute for professional medical help. Please seek help from a licensed mental health professional right away if you believe that you may be suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health disorder.)

Here's my story. I taught middle school for eleven years and then went on to teach first grade. I already had learned about teaching upper grades and was anxious about teaching a primary grade. I had so many questions and scoured the internet the summer before, hoping it would prepare me. I felt like a first year teacher all over again. My first day was the worst. Within 15 minutes I had a student yell, "I'm bored. This is stupid!" Little did I know, I had the most challenging group of students in my first year teaching 1st grade! How was I going to do this? It was a very long year, but I got through it. It wasn't easy--late nights, long days, exhaustion to the point of tears. I felt so alone, because everyone else in the school seemed to have it all together. I'm now in my 6th year of teaching first grade and I'm alive! I survived! And I do love teaching first grade. How did I get here? I had to learn how to take care of myself.

Find others you can talk to and openly share your thoughts. Family and friends may not always understand if they are not in this same profession. There are some great Facebook groups for teachers ("teacher tribes"). They can be a wealth of support and sometimes it helps that you feel somewhat anonymous, being that they are typically closed groups. Click here for a directory of links for your grade, subject, location or special topic.

Consider using relaxation techniques. I, personally, found that listening to ocean sounds every night when I went to bed helped a lot. There are free sounds to listen to on sites like YouTube, Pandora or iTunes. I also learned to take deep breaths, as I tend to tense up easily. Some people find exercise to be relaxing too. Make an appointment with yourself to implement the techniques that work best for you. I even spent the money to get regular massages that year. If I was having a particularly hard day, it was nice to know I already had an appointment coming up and would look forward to it!

Recognize that you may have anxiety or depression. Some teachers automatically think they are just not cut out for teaching, but that is not always the case. Most teachers have a sensitive side to them. They care so much, sometimes too much. That in itself is an overwhelming feeling. When I'm overwhelmed I cry and then get angry that I'm crying. So many emotions! It may be more than the "thing" that is overwhelming you.

Talk to your doctor. Sometimes you just can't do it on your own. Sometimes you don't know who you can talk to because you don't want them to think you aren't cut out for teaching. That in itself makes one anxious! There are supplements that may help. If need be, your doctor may prescribe something. Go in with an open mind when you talk to your physician. Sometimes our bodies and minds can't do it all on their own and need help. Take care to be sensitive to this fact. It is nothing to feel shame over.

If you or someone you know is feeling the "teaching blues", I hope this post gives you the courage to help. I'd love to know how you are doing. Let me know in the comments. In that way you are also letting others who read this know that we are not alone. We don't have to hide behind the smiles here.

 

Take good care,

Melissa

4 Comments on “Teaching with the Blues: How to Cope with Stress, Anxiety and Depression

  1. Amen. I love my job…intensely…but I have anxiety and stress easily. I am in my 5th year of teaching Grade 1 and am now starting to try and find a balance. Some days are sooooo up and some days down. I don’t want parents thinking I am exhausted therefore don’t love my job…sometimes we just need a break….you were spot on. I am thankful for an extremely supportive husband, and for medication that helps me manage because I also can’t imagine not teaching.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I know what you mean about just finding balance after 5 years of first grade. I felt the same way. It is still an uphill battle some days, and as much as I detest writing sub plans I think it’s important to take a mental health day every once in a while.

  2. What a wonderful and open post. I think that the part of many of us that drives us towards the teaching profession – the nurturing, responsible-to-a-fault, put others first (perhaps perfectionist?) can also set us up for this struggle, particularly in a time when demands on teachers, parents, society and even children seem to change so rapidly. It can feel so overwhelming to the most resilient among us. We all really do need to find balance, take care of ourselves, put on the proverbial oxygen mask, so that we can take care of each other. I have been fortunate enough to work half-time for most of my twenty year teaching career. We all have to find our way. Thank you for posting this and opening up the dialog.

    1. Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I hope that this is a positive beginning to needed conversations.

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