Monday, December 4, 2017

7 Tips for Teachers with Anxiety


If you're a teacher with an anxiety disorder, you're not alone. After I shared that I am a teacher with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I had over a hundred teachers comment or message me that they too had an anxiety disorder. I am not a mental health professional-- I'm just a teacher who's been through it. These tips are what helped me personally, and I hope you find them helpful too.
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1. See a therapist regularly. If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, you probably know this is something you should be doing, but might not be making the time for. I waited over 5 years after being diagnosed before I started weekly therapy. It's a game changer. I really urge you to go ahead and make that first appointment!

2. Tell your colleagues. Sure, it might not be something you want to pop into your very first conversation, but I do recommend letting colleagues that you work with closely know that you have anxiety. I know I was hesitant to do this because I didn't want to be seen as weak or incompetent. But, for better or worse, my anxiety is part of who I am. Once I shared this with some of my co-teachers, I felt like they were more understanding. This is a very personal decision, but it was a big relief for me once I did decide to share.

3. Say affirmations. Anxiety can make you feel like you're never doing enough. Daily affirmations (affirming words you say to yourself) can help counter this. I recorded some of my favorites on my phone and would listen and repeat them on my way to school every day. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook has a really comprehensive list, and you can also find some of mine here

4. Practice self care. Your anxiety might be telling you that you don't have time to take a break, ever. Chances are, you're working hard all day long at school, coming home, working some more, going to sleep, and then repeating the cycle day after day. Sound familiar? This isn't sustainable. You have to make time for some self care or you're going to burn out, and soon. You can check out some acts of self care here to get you started!

5. Exercise. I'm not an athletic person-- I never played sports as a kid, and I'm really not motivated to go to the gym. But exercise can be really, really helpful in combatting anxiety. For me, I found getting into a regular schedule was critical to making sure I actually exercised. My first year of teaching, I trained for a 15k, and I was surprised by how helpful I found it. I followed a strict running schedule, and it felt really good to be getting faster and stronger, no matter how stressful my day was. Yoga is also so beneficial for anxiety, and something I practice regularly as well.

6. Prioritize sleep. Between lesson planning, paperwork, and you know, your non-teaching commitments, you can find your bedtime creeping later and later. But not getting enough sleep is only going to make you more strung out and anxious the next day. Whatever benefit you might gain from that extra hour of work or two, it's not worth your wellbeing. 

7. Use your sick days. Teaching is already a notoriously hard profession to take a day off from. Having anxiety can make it even harder. I know I've found myself seriously ill, still thinking that I HAVE to go to school because I have an IEP meeting, or they won't be able to find a sub, or I need to provide accommodations for testing. In my second year of teaching, I went to school sick and passed out on the floor. Don't do that to yourself! It's unfortunate that there isn't a better system for allowing teachers to take their sick days guilt-free, but you ARE entitled to them. I made certain rules for myself so that I wouldn't be stuck making the decision at my most anxious. Fever = staying home. Throwing up = staying home. Strep = staying home. Can't speak = staying home. To some, this probably sounds ludicrous, but I KNOW I'm not the only one having trouble using those sick days!

Teaching with anxiety isn't easy, but it is possible. Thank you for the work you're doing, and please remember to take care of yourself!

2 comments:

  1. Awesome post! I never thought to give myself affirmations too. I give it some much to my students, I don't usually say it to myself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Try it! It made a big difference for me!

    ReplyDelete

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