May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as educators we know all too well how important it is to maintain a healthy mind! The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In order to be the best we can be for our families, students and colleagues, we need to take care of ourselves. Teacher burn-out is real. I hope these tips are helpful to having a long career supporting our youngest learners:
- Be mindful of those teachable moments – don’t get caught up in the “I have to do ______________” mentality.
- Smile and laugh – research shows that smiling and laughing actually changes your brain chemistry providing endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress.
- Stay away from drama – whether it is workplace or your students’ parents drama, walk away from gossip or hearsay as it can and will bring you down.
- Go to the source if you are upset or concerned about something that you can’t let go.
- Place most of your emphasis on your home and family/friends – not your work. Setting boundaries between personal and professional will make it easier to let work stay at work.
- Prioritize your to-do list: what do YOU want to do? What can parent volunteers do? What can your students do with you? What doesn’t really need to be done?
- Sleep – you can conquer the world with 8 hours of sleep a night!
- Exercise – exercise also releases endorphins which improve mood and reduce stress.
- Spend time with people who make you feel good and you want to see again. Let others go…
- Enjoy your students – if you really listen, you can find humor, sincerity, honesty, passion, unconditional love, balance and living in the moment in their conversations. We can learn a lot from our students!
A few statistics about mental health:
- 1 in 4 adults lives with a diagnosable mental illness in a given year.
- Nationally, 13% of young people between the ages of 8 and 15 suffer from at least one mental health disorder.
- The most common mental health concerns among American adolescents are depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD, and substance abuse.
- In California, 17% of adolescents need help for emotional or mental health problems.
As early childhood educators, we have an extremely influential role in providing our youngest learners with the lifelong skills to being mentally healthy. Intentionally teaching social and emotional skills is the first step; understanding and acknowledging feelings and emotions is a necessity in order to maintain a healthy outlook. Take the time to be healthy for your students and continue to provide them with opportunities to learn the social and emotional skills necessary to be healthy and happy adults.
Information taken from Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement