Practical steps to improve your mental health and well-being

Teachers and school leaders have been the unsung heroes of the pandemic. Despite constantly shifting goal posts, you have unfailingly prioritised the well-being of pupils and staff.

We know this has been at great personal cost for many of you. Four in ten teachers and school leaders (43 per cent) recently told us they had experienced all components associated with burnout. As far back as October, Education Support’s research found an overwhelming 89 per cent of senior leaders described themselves as ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed.’

The cost of an unwell education workforce is too high, and as we strive to move forward and recover from the impact of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that this summer you make time to make your mental health and well-being a priority.

Of course, the popular term ‘self-care’ may leave many of us rolling our eyes. We recognise that as school leaders, you work within a system that is often not conducive to good mental health. Having to make difficult workplace decisions, implementing national policy –plus the unprecedented pressure of the pandemic –have impacted on everyone and it has been easy to feel little has been within our control as individuals.

We understand that any advice we give exists within this challenging context.

Despite this, you can still make a positive impact on how you feel, moment to moment.

Here are Education Support’s practical tips to help you look after your well-being over the summer break:

  1. Make a well-being action plan

Plan what you are going to do to look after yourself during the summer. Consider your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

  1. Start your day well

Start your day calmly with meditation, being in nature or breathing exercises. Just a few minutes can make a real difference. Be careful of your tech and news consumption! Be kind to yourself and eat well to help both your mind and body.

  1. Use the circle of control, influence and concern tool

This handy tool can help when you consider the work or personal challenges you might be facing and how you might respond to them.

  1. Give yourself worry time

Give yourself dedicated time to acknowledge and process your worries. Put a boundary around this worry time so you do not focus on your worries all day, every day.

  1. What are your well-being non-negotiables?

What are the actions that are important to you, that you will do you will do no matter what. These actions should keep you balanced and help you feel good. It could be regular exercise, time to enjoy a hobby or a simple routine that helps you organise your time.

Share these with your colleagues, friends and family so it becomes widely understand that you keep this routine.

  1. Do a weekly well-being check up

Check in with your mental health. Ask yourself how you’re feeling mentally and physically?  Are you looking after your well-being in terms of exercise, nutrition, sleep? How are your thoughts making you feel?

  1. Take a moment

Use a simple technique like STOPP to take a moment and ground yourself.

  • Stop! – just pause for a moment
  • Take a breath
  • Observe your thoughts and feelings
  • Pull back – get some perspective. See the bigger picture. Your thoughts are thoughts, not statements of fact.
  • Practice what works – what is the best thing to do right now?

In addition to the small changes which can make a big impact to how you feel, you might also want to consider Education Support’s services for head teachers. These present a dedicated space to prioritise your mental health and well-being.

They can offer limited free spaces for school leaders to take part in four sessions of peer support in a small group, led by a qualified facilitator. After using the service, 95% of head teachers said they felt less anxious and 100% felt more supported.

Remember self-care is not indulgence! It is an essential part of being the best school leader you can possibly be.

Find out more about Education Support’s head teacher peer support service here: 

You can find out more about Education Support here and all NAHT members can access a dedicated, confidential counselling and support helpline on 0800 9174055 provided by Education Support.  Open 24/7, it is staffed by qualified counsellors and offers you emotional and practical support.