By: Erin Swanson
Teacher Anxiety is On the Rise
With fall approaching and COVID cases rising, teachers face an impossible decision: return to the classroom and risk their own health and that of their students or return to complicated virtual learning that leans heavily on parents. No matter how you swing it, sacrifices will be made. It’s no wonder that teacher anxiety is on the rise.
A May 2020 USA Today poll showed that “1 in 5 U.S. teachers said they were unlikely to go back to school if their classrooms reopened in the fall.” Let’s not forget that nearly one-third of teachers are in a higher risk group at ages 50 or older. Do they take early retirement or risk their safety? Even more, a March 2020 survey from Yale and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) showed that teachers’ top emotions regarding teaching during COVID included fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad.
Teachers, you have always been tasked with a demanding job. Yet, this type of pressure is unprecedented. We have your back. Research shows that mindfulness is one of the most powerful ways to manage anxiety. Let’s explore how you can use this tool.
How Mindfulness Helps Anxiety
The JabuMind App for teachers uses the iRest approach to mindfulness. iRest blends traditional yogic practice with Western psychology and neuroscience. Research shows that iRest promotes better sleep, decreases stress, alleviates symptoms of PTSD, and enhances quality of life for school counselors. Read on for our top 10 tips for teacher anxiety.
10 Tips for Teacher Anxiety
1) Keep a Routine
One thing we can control? How we structure our days. Can you count on sipping a delicious cup of coffee each morning? Can you count on snuggling up with a book each night? Take stock of what you can depend on each day. Our favorite daily habit? A meditation practice. The JabuMind App offers guided meditations, daily check ins, and professional development designed to address teachers’ stressors. All features in the app are currently free to support teachers during this difficult time.
2) Set Boundaries
It’s all too easy to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Teachers are used to stepping up and taking charge. On a daily basis, they carry a heavy load of responsibilities and meet the needs of everyone around them. Yet, the current state of our world and its impact on our lives is too heavy for one person to carry. Release all unnecessary worries, decisions, and responsibilities. Know that what you’re doing is enough. Know that sometimes, you don’t have to do anything at all.
3) Plan for What You Can to Ease Anxiety
My dad once told me, “Always make a plan. Include plans A, B, and C. But know this: usually, things won’t go just as you plan. Don’t hold too tightly to your expectations. Planning is just a tool to be prepared and calm your unease.”
Writing plans down releases them from my mind. When my plans live on paper, the knots and tangles of my mind loosen. Ideas become clearer and more linear on the page.
Make lists of different scenarios your school might face when reopening and how you’ll handle them. Then, put the list aside.
Know that you can return to the list if needed, but it no longer lives inside of you. It’s not trapped in your mind, playing the same track on repeat over and over again. You’ve released it.
4) Stay in the Present to Calm Anxiety
Now that you’ve sorted future “plans” out on paper, you are free to live mindfully in the present moment. You can use the JabuMind App to check in with yourself. You’ll find daily prompts that ask you, “How are you feeling right now?” and “How did you sleep last night?” The app keeps a record of your responses so you can track your mood and sleep over time.
If, in the present moment, you notice your chest feels tight or your breathing is shallow, try one of JabuMind’s “Breathe Now” meditations. They anchor you in your breath and range in length from 1 – 3 minutes. You might also try JabuMind’s “Release Your Day” meditations for a quick reset.
5) Bring Awareness to Spiraling Thoughts
Mindfulness allows you to observe your thoughts rather than be dragged along with them. Imagine two scenarios: you are watching people on a rollercoaster from afar or you are on the rollercoaster yourself.
Mindfulness allows you to be the observer, the watcher. You stand with your feet firmly on the ground as you watch the ride from afar. You notice the twists and turns of the rollercoaster ride, but you’re not swept up by it. The longer you watch it, the more you notice the ride has slowed down, the screaming of its passengers (your thoughts) has quieted.
On the other hand, being mindless means you are on the ride yourself. You’re holding on for dear life as you feel the drop of your heart and lurch of your stomach.
Mindfulness creates a space between you and your thoughts. This space is a safe place within yourself that you can turn to in times of anxiety. Check out JabuMind’s “Stress & Anxiety” meditations to create this space for yourself.
6) Choose Positive Influences
When reflecting on COVID, be thoughtful of who you talk to and what you read. Emotions are contagious, especially when it comes to fear. You might find sources that give you a quick overview of the news, such as The Daily Skimm email newsletter. You’ll stay informed, but remove yourself from emotionally-charged news. When choosing a person to confide in, ask yourself, “Will this person stay calm, empathetic, and matter-of-fact?”
JabuMind offers healthy resources to help you process your difficult emotions. Listen to our global crisis meditations or check out the challenging times meditations on the app.
7) Take Breaks from COVID
Give yourself a break from focusing on COVID. Even in the midst of a crisis, we can still find moments of joy. Take time to rest, laugh, and meditate. Shift your focus to joy. Enjoy the JabuMind App’s meditations on “Joy” to shift your mindset.
8) Practice Gratitude
When we bring gratitude into our days, we shift our mindsets to the positive. We don’t repress or ignore negative emotions; we still acknowledge them and sit with them. Yet, we also don’t allow them to grow. Practicing gratitude allows us to choose which plant we want to water. Do we water negativity by becoming mindlessly wrapped up in our worries? Or do we water positivity by developing gratitude?
Try writing down 3 things you’re grateful for each day or create a nightly tradition of sharing them at the dinner table.
9) Exercise to Release Anxiety
Think about it: when you exercise, you are forced into the present moment. You focus on your breath; you focus on each sensation of your body. Your mind starts to clear. It’s hard to think of anything else when your calves burn from an uphill sprint.
Exercise can also help us reach a goal. The state of your career might feel murky at the moment, but one thing you can achieve? Running a certain number of miles or mastering that tricky yoga pose. Work toward that goal each day. Not only will you live in the present moment during those workouts, but you’ll feel a sense of control and accomplishment.
10) Break the Cycle of Anxiety
Sometimes, you just need something to disrupt the cycle of anxiety. A healthy distraction can go a long way. Feel the emotions, yes. But try your best not to dwell in them. You can turn your attention to the breath or an impromptu kitchen dance party. Here are a few ideas:
- Turn on music and dance
- Host a Zoom game night with friends
- Go on a walk
- Take a bath
- Read a book
- Watch a comedy
- Bake cookies
- Declutter an area of your house
- Cuddle with a pet for an oxytocin boost
- Check out funny quotes and words of inspiration on the JabuMind App
We’re Here to Help
Teachers, we see your anxiety and we’re here to help. Whether it be practicing meditation or dancing around your kitchen, the tools you can lean on are vast. At JabuMind, it’s our job to bring you these tools, listen to you, and lift you up. We hope this article brings you peace and comfort. Thank you for all you do.
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