There is no doubt that these are unprecedented times for the vast majority of us. Since the first drip feeds of news about a new virus spreading around a distant city in China, to the wall-to-wall coverage we currently face containing information and guidance that is closing schools, colleges and businesses, Covid-19 is sending dramatic shockwaves through every sector of society. It is natural that anxiety levels will be running high.
“Keep calm and carry on” may well be our intention but the fact is, pretty much everything in our lives has changed and we face uncertainty about how long our new reality will go on for. With this being the context in which we are all operating we are all going to need to find and maintain strategies to ensure our mental health suffers as little damage as possible.
As Covid-19 is a new virus, much of what faces us is unknown, and this can be a major stress trigger. Being in the frontline as school and college staff are can be an additional stress as many have concerns about working closely with others when they are in a group that is at higher risk of complications from the virus. For others, the burden of decision making when information and guidance is lacking weighs heavily, and for all, concerns about how loved ones will fare should they succumb to the virus are inevitable.
The stress and anxiety felt at the moment can manifest in many ways. For example, you may be feeling distracted and have difficulty concentrating, or your sleep may be disturbed. Some may lose their appetite, while others may find themselves reaching for support in the form of alcohol, caffeine, sugar or other drugs.
What can you do?
- While you need to be up to date with the latest situation, try not to over-consume media reports on the virus. It can be compelling but may be a source of underlying tension. Make sure you source reliable, official information; that will help to combat some of the noise around the current situation.
- If you are feeling isolated and unsupported at work, aim to connect with others in your position perhaps via social media or through your local authority, group or trust. Talking to people who are familiar with the pressures you are facing will help.
- Consciously relax every now and then throughout the day. Notice whether your jaw and teeth are clenched, your shoulders tense, and your breathing shallow. Stop, actively relax your jaw, drop your shoulders, and do some long deep breaths.
- Stretch when you can. This will help to release tension and may even alleviate pain and improve circulation.
- Give yourself the opportunity to unwind at the end of the day so that you have a better chance of a peaceful night.
- Great nutrition is important during times of anxiety. This might be easier said than done in the current context with empty shelves in some shops and lack of time to trawl around looking for ingredients, but being mindful of making good choices whenever possible will serve you well.
- Don’t forget that this is a global pandemic that has affected everyone in one way or another. As you work to ensure that the impact on the lives of others is minimised, remember that you, too, are also affected. Acknowledge any concerns that you have about yourself and your loved ones.
- If you fall into the category of vulnerable people who are likely to be worse affected by the virus, do what you need to do to protect yourself and feel absolutely no guilt about it!
- Write about your experiences. This is an over-used word at present, but these really are unprecedented times and your role as a teacher or lecturer at the heart of the community response to Covid-19 is crucial. What are the challenges you are facing, how are they being approached, what are you learning? As you make notes through this crisis they may well contribute to a powerful historical account of life in 2020.
When the threat of the virus has subsided, the work of rebuilding must begin. We must create our new normal which will almost certainly be different from what we have known. There will be gains and losses, but perhaps we should all be focusing on just what that new normal might look like. What opportunities for change can we harness when we emerge on the other side of Covid-19? We may well be in the midst of too much upheaval right now to consider this, but if the potential for change is there, what should our future in education look like?
Find out more…
- The Life Squared website carries a tremendous amount of free downloadable content aimed at supporting people through life today.
- Education Support is on hand to offer counselling that is available 24/7. Call on 08000 562 561 or visit https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.