This piece is an excerpt from our 2021 Mental Health Report Guide. Get the full guide here.
Over the past 15 months, teachers and school administrators have been thrust onto the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. What had been a routine, daily walk on the treadmill quickly turned into an all-out run with no ability to adjust the rate of speed or steep incline. Running at full speed on a steep incline for months on end will leave you emotionally and physically exhausted, with visible and hidden injuries — much in the same way we see traumatic events impact crisis response teams and first responders.
As you prepare for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, it is imperative that you — and the millions of educators across the country — take time during the summer to heal and recover from the past year. Having worked extensively with crisis response teams to heal from trauma, I offer you some actionable steps you can take to intentionally and purposefully process the challenges of the past year and recover from the impact.
Sit with yourself to reflect.
Find the time to sit and think about the past year and how you and your loved ones have been impacted. Get away from all the noise and spend time alone with your thoughts.
Be honest with yourself.
Take stock of how you are feeling from an emotional and physical standpoint. Identify areas of impact (emotional, physical, behavioral, and cognitive) for you and those you love that might need to be addressed.
Commit to making your overall health and wellness a priority.
It’s likely you’ve spent the year prioritizing the needs of your students and loved ones over your own. Even if it isn’t coming to a complete stop, the treadmill is slowing down. Now is the time to prioritize your healing and practice preventative care.
Address your needs.
Whether you’re facing physical health or mental health issues, commit to getting the help needed to heal yourself. Take advantage of this time to see any providers or therapists that can support your needs so you can be in top shape when you return to school in the fall.
Relax in your preferred way.
Whether you want to go out for a scenic drive, take a trip, or soak in a warm bath, take some time over the next few months to just relax. These moments of peace will re-energize you and make responsibilities easier to handle.
Work on strengthening your coping and resiliency skills.
Now that any emotional and/or physical issues are being addressed, this is a good time to focus on strengthening your healthy coping skills. This includes strengthening your support system, identifying signs of building stress, and developing effective coping strategies that can serve you well in the next school year.