Wellness Wednesday

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Mental Health in the Time of COVID

Whether we want to admit it or not, COVID-19 has changed everyone's life in some form or another. Even if it's a small change, it can be difficult to adjust. From heightened anxiety to seemingly perpetual lethargy, we are all experiencing COVID's effects. As educators, we tend to internalize our own feelings in an effort to be present for our students. However, how can we truly be present, if we aren't taking care of ourselves?

Below, we will go through a few ways we can take care of our mental health in the time of COVID.

Control the Controllable

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it's surprising how difficult this can truly be. We cannot control the number of cases we see, whether our students contract the virus or come in contact with someone who has it, or how things will impact us at a campus level or on a personal level. What we can control is what we choose to prioritize, how our time is spent, media (whether it's social media or news media) consumption, and our mindset.

Prioritizing mental health, is always important, but especially during this time. Take the time to list out what you can and cannot control by creating a list in a t chart (blank chart below). Whatever is on the uncontrollable side of the chart, let it go and focus on what can actually be maintained by you.

Set (Reasonable) Expectations...for yourself as well as other

Due to COVID nothing is "business as usual" and we need to make many...MANY adjustments. As educators, we set very high standard...not only for our students but for ourselves as well. Right now, we may need to tweak those expectations. If you aren't feeling 100% how do you think your students, colleague, spouse, or children feel? Now, more than ever, we need to show one another, and ourselves, some grace. This can be easier said than done for self-proclaimed perfectionists however, we cannot operate under the same expectations we once did.

By setting small and attainable goals, we are setting ourselves up for success. Ticking things off our lists does something to us and makes us feel as though we have accomplished something. If you have a big project that is due, break it into smaller chunks and set times/deadlines (soft and hard deadlines). Once you've met a deadline, celebrate that. Anything we get done during this time is a huge accomplishment. The things we need done or others need us to do will get done but making the task more palatable can aide in maintaining a more positive outlook.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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Set Office Hours...also known as BOUNDARIES!!!!

Boundaries are a topic that is constantly brought up because we seem to have a very difficult time with this concept. Educators cannot be all things to everyone all of the time and we need to do a better job of saying "no". We also need to do a better job of unplugging at the end of the day, during lunchtime, and general break time. Often times our down time is still spent working and this adds to our stress. By setting office hours you give parents, students, and colleagues a set time you are available to give them your undivided attention. Before and after that time you should ensure you are not working.

Set a dedicated "late work day" in the event the work wee is a busy one and things begin to pile up. By having a set day and time that's a bit longer than your office hours, you have the opportunity to get more accomplished while still maintaining those boundaries.

Silence group chats! Every person reading this is currently or has been a part of group messages. Group chats can give us a great chuckle but they can also be the cause of stress/anxiety. Make a point to let your group members know what time you will be available and times you aren't...and stick to it.

STOP RESPONDING TO EMAILS at all times. "You have to teach people how to treat you" is one of the best pieces of advice I have received and I think about this often. If we are always available that will become an expectation and the one time an email is not responded to, an issue arises. Don't allow that to happen. Your office hours need to also include response times to emails.

If you, like me, just can't help yourself and you want to clear your inbox at night then draft the responses but don't send them. Either save them and send when you return to the office or schedule the messages to be delivered the next day during office hours.

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Reach Out/Open Communication

Lastly, reach out if you begin to feel overwhelmed or if you feel you need a little extra grace. COVID has changed a lot but it hasn't made any of us mind readers. Have unspoken expectations or having feelings of frustration cannot be addressed if you aren't communicating them.

All of us are a part of a team and it's important we are keeping our team abreast of what's happening. Being a private person, I can appreciate the desire to keep things inside however, your team cannot advocate for you if they don't know what's going on. Nobody at SMS is here for a "gotcha" but it is important that everyone is aware of how you are feeling.

If thoughts of stress and feelings of anxiety don't naturally dissipate by setting boundaries, controlling what can be controlled, and having realistic expectations, it may be time to speak to someone for further assistance.

Marshawn Lynch : Take Care Your BREAD MENTAL BODY
The above clip is from an interview with Marshawn Lynch. He's speaking about retirement from the NFL however, he gives great advice...take care of your mental, your body, and your money/important things (chicken).