How are teachers and school staff dealing with mental health struck by the COVID-19 pandemic? Since the outbreak of the virus, some teachers and school staff have reflected on their mental health status.
According to a peer-reviewed article by Frontiers in Psychology, “teachers have accumulated psychological symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic” because of a “great concern for the new unprecedented teaching situation.” The study found that a high percentage of teachers experience anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms based on a sample of 1,633 teachers.
Someone who has experienced some of these psychological symptoms, Centennial High School principal Cynthia Dillon, believes that adjusting “to what is happening at the moment” is one of her strengths. The adversity has helped her become more flexible but, because adjustments require different approaches, Dillon thinks that it can be exhausting at times.
The pandemic has brought “a certain amount of concern for the health and well-being of the people I care about – that list includes my staff and students,” said Dillon. She has found that “getting back to school and back to familiar routines has been a welcome turn of events.”
In addition to acknowledging that feeling lost is “ok,” she believes that mental and physical health has a close correlation, hence it is necessary to focus both on the mind and body.
From a teacher’s perspective, Dunloggin Middle School teacher Heather Sherow believes that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic affected numerous parts of her life including mental health. “I had to redesign all of my lessons to adapt to the online learning environment, which meant many hours of work each weekend and evening,” she explained, causing job-specific stress and anxiety on top of other uncertainties that all people are feeling during this time.
“The biggest impact on my mental health has come from navigating how to best support my students, as they deal with isolation and online learning,” expressed Sherow. When she listens to her students “struggl[ing] with depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness” it “weighs on [her] heart and [she tries her] best to create a safe community space where students can feel connected and supported.”
Along with listening to her students, Sherrow believes that mental health is an important part of her day-to-day life, and she tries to focus on small things that she can control. “I get time away from screens and go for walks, work in my garden, or listen to music,” Sherrow said.
She compares mental health to physical health, as they both require maintenance. Sherrow’s mental health has improved since the implementation of hybrid learning, as she has been able to see her students in person. When Sherrow sees “laughter and presence [it] brings [her] joy,” and she hopes to “continue to make time to practice self-care and take care of my mental and physical health.”
Many teachers and school staff acknowledge their mental health downfalls. Dillon recommends “getting exercise, eating right, maintaining a routine are not only healthy choices to keep your motor running, but also good for [someone’s] mindset. Finding a balance between [one’s] professional and personal life is critical.”
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