Suicidal tendencies in teachers and lecturers, though rarely discussed, are rampant globally. In the United Kingdom, the Office of National Statistics revealed an increase in teacher suicide rates, and in 2018, a Texas (United States) middle school teacher committed suicide in his classroom, during school hours.
External pressures such as the economic climate, intrinsic personal challenges, combined with the rigor of the job, can have an adverse effect on the psyche of the educator. The monotony of the profession can however veil the telltale signs of adrenal fatigue, which commonly sets in during the school year. I have found that identifying one’s stress level and being cognisant of the need to recharge through effective measures is key to a long-lasting teaching career.
As a professional, ensuring that I give my best to students, while maintaining a balanced mental acumen is pivotal to their success. Over the years, I learnt a few tricks that helped me revitalise my teacher battery when fatigue began to kick in.
By my second year of teaching, I had decided that only twice a week would I utilise the college staff room for lunch. Although I appreciated that being able to socially connect with peers during lunch time has its own benefits, I favoured using the three other days for my personal upliftment.
My favourites methods of de-stressing are as follows:
1. Cat Nap
One of my favourite quick fixes was being able to have a good 15-minute cat nap during some of my lunch breaks. A quiet space, such as my car or an empty office or classroom worked well for the purpose. I had read about how the great minds of our time, such as Albert Einstein, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and John Kennedy all favoured having the quick shut-eye to revitalise their brain. I usually left my phone timer on to ensure I never drift past my planned time.
2. Breathing Exercise
Breathing exercises easily bring me to a relaxed zone. It has been medically proven to help assume a state of calm in one’s psyche. My four steps to deep breathing are performed as thus :
Sitting in a comfortable chair
Place one hand on one’s belly just below the ribs and the other hand on one’s chest.
Breathing in deeply through the nose, whereby one’s belly pushes one’s hand out. ...
Then breathing out gently through the lips.
3. Imagination/ Visualisation:
When in a quiet place, I close my eyes and imagine that I am in a happy place. The National Institutes for Health recognises the power of "guided imagery" to elicit a relaxation response. Some of the places I think about are being at my favourite holiday spot or recollecting favourable occasions with my loved ones.
4. Eating a quick nutritious snack
How many days per week do you go hungry for a few hours? The answer should be ‘never.’ I normally had a granola bar in my purse for fatigue emergencies.
5. Be the master of your holiday time.
Just say no to the weekend work. As teachers, we benefit from a job with numerous school breaks, which should be used purely for the purpose of recharging and remaining in the optimum state vital to making a difference in our students’ lives.
One can only nurture others when one is fit. The call is for educators to remain true to self and take necessary steps to prevent burnouts.
As we all de-stress differently, finding what works for you is vital to achieving an optimal outcome.
As educators, we resist the need to take time off, but you should never hesitate to consult a physician when it comes to stress.
About the author
Kathy Ogundokun is an international educator and researcher, with vast experience in teaching, curriculum design, teacher training, school quality assurance and special education. Most importantly, she is a married mother of five beautiful, young children. Kathy earned her Doctorate degree in Education Leadership from Trident International University, California, the USA in 2012. She graduated (magna cum laude), with a Master’s in Education, from Touro University, California, USA and a BSc in Economics prior to that. Kathy is licensed in the UK with QTS, in Texas as a School Principal, Teacher in Special Education, ESL and Early Childhood through 4th grade Generalist. In the UAE, she is KHDA approved as a School Principal. Kathy’s has served as an educator in the USA, UK, Egypt and the UAE, with research experience in the UK, US and Canada. She is currently collaborating with a special education expert, on “inclusion” across three different countries. When not working, Kathy enjoys travelling, reading and trying out new eateries.