Healthy Teachers, Healthy Schools: Resources for Teacher Self-Care

Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.

As we have written in a recent article, it is important to attend to the mental health needs of students in K-12 settings in the US and beyond. With the effects of COVID-19, increased stressors in and out of the classroom and with the proliferation of mass shootings, being aware of mental health challenges in the lives of youth is a top priority. As such, we should also be paying the utmost attention to the mental health of teachers. Because when our nation’s teachers are not healthy our schools are not healthy. Educators by virtue of their job description are givers and keep giving at the expense of their own health. There has been growing and much needed conversation about teacher self-care. In light of this great need, we are including some resources below for teachers to practice self-care.


Ryan Raphael for NPR

Mental Health America has important information in regard to teacher self-care on their website. A recent 2022 article states “According to several studies and reports, teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in the country. The American Federation of Teachers’ 2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey found that 61 percent of teachers said their jobs were always or often stressful—more than double the rate of non-teaching working adults—and 58 percent said they had poor mental health due to stress levels. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and since then, the transition to online learning, debates over reopening, and individual safety concerns are making teachers’ mental health worse.



Mental Health America offers this advice for teachers
“If you’re feeling tired and disengaged, there’s a good chance it’s related to trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and/or “battle fatigue.” Teachers are often focused on taking care of and supporting others, but without prioritizing your wellbeing, those stress levels won’t lift. Your mental health isn’t only important to you—teacher wellness is also linked to stability in schools and student achievement.” The article goes on to offer six tips for teachers to take care of their mental health:

1. Set boundaries early on – and hold them.
2. Focus on what you can control.
3. Move your body.
4. Stay in touch with friends and family.
5. Keep up with self-care.
6. Maintain Reasonable expectations.

Resources for Teacher Self-care
The 3 R’s for Teacher Self-Care: Reflect. Release. Recharge.
Don’t Forget the Adults: How Schools and Districts Can Support Educator Mental Health
Teachers’ Mental Health Has Suffered in the Pandemic. Here’s How Districts Can Help
We Need to Do More for Teachers Who are Exhausted, Stressed and Burned Out
15 Mental Health Tips For Teachers-Teach Thought
Teachers Are Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis, Too
10 Teacher Mental Health Tips You Can Put Into Practice Today
America’s Teachers Are Facing a Mental Health Crisis, Too

We are open to feedback and discussion. If you see any typos or grammatical errors please feel free to email the author and editor at the address below:

Dr. David Childs
childsd1@nku.edu 

10 Comments

  1. I think that this article was spot on. Teachers do not get enough credit and focus with their mental health. If we do not give teachers what they need how do, we expect them to be able to mold the minds of young children? I think that since Covid the burn out has been increasingly worse for teachers, having to do in person and online for children. Worrying about the kids at home and if they are getting what they need. Then worrying about the kids in the classroom as well. It’s like they were expected to be 2 teachers in one. Mental health is extremely important for everyone- but especially for those who are in the classrooms.

  2. I think this is a wonderful article! Knowing that 61 percent of teachers thought their jobs were stressful before the pandemic is saddening to read as they teach the next generation of scholars, entrepreneurs, CEOs, etc. Their job should not be more stressful than any other profession, as stated “because when our nation’s teachers are not healthy, our schools are not healthy” things trickle down. I have seen more teachers switch careers in the last 2-3 years than in years before the pandemic. The six steps mentioned are an excellent way for teachers to start reaching better mental health, as they are just as important as the students.

  3. I like how this article talked about how we need to work to get rid of the stigma around mental health. I think many people do not talk about mental health because they feel embarrassed, but if we talked about it more, there would be more people who would speak up and talk about it. I also like how it mentioned that sometimes, stress can keep you from being productive or doing your job because it can lead to a decline in your physical health as well.

  4. I really enjoyed this article as well as anything else that shines an appreciative light on teachers. As a society, we’ve always held teachers to a near unattainable standard that we don’t hold those with other professions to. We do this, still in many ways, all while paying them a ridiculously low wage for the amount of work they do helping and educating our future generations. Teaching is something you definitely have to have passion for in order to stick with it and even then, with all the added stressors of school shootings and the pandemic, it can be very difficult to continue going and trying to be better for your students. This article serves as an important reminder for teachers everywhere to slow down, take a breath, and remind themselves that they’re human too and deserve time to put themselves first.

  5. The first statistic that moved me was the fact that up to 61% pf Teachers viewed their jobs as stressful, and this was all before the pandemic. My ignorance of the teaching field got a check here and I realize that teachers have to deal with a lot of unhealthy kids during a very vulnerable time of day. With the mass shooting becoming so rampant, it is increasingly becoming tough for teachers.
    As Congress and Statesmen debate about what to do to protect these gems, we on our end can come up with ways to help a local teacher. I think presenting them with simple materials about various things they can do can go a long way.

  6. I really enjoyed this article! I feel that it is important for teachers to receive self-care for themselves in such times where covid exists and school shootings are becoming more common. Teachers are working with the future of America daily, so it seems best that they would take time for themselves when it is needed (or even just wanted!). “Because when our nation’s teachers are not healthy our schools are not healthy.” That is such a great way to summarize the need for teachers to receive a few days of peace for themselves, it can be such an overwhelming feeling and task. Personally, as a future educator, I worry about feeling ‘burnt out’ or exhausted after a long day of teaching. The school system expects so much from educators, so to have this article explain that it is okay for teachers to breathe and have a few days is absolutely refreshing!

  7. Couldn’t agree more. Teachers during covid had to completely change and adapt a new teaching style. My wife’s mother is an elementary school teacher who had to adjust to online teaching 5th graders. Making such a drastic adjustment in such a short notice is definitely a huge stressor. I can’t imagine all of the obstacle’s teachers had to jump through to ensure their students had the capabilities to attend the online classes. Even as we are adjusting back to the normal routine of in-person school, covid set a different precedence for students and teachers. I am glad that there are many resources for teachers that pertain to mental health. I believe it will take a few years of studying to see if these resources are enough, after what teachers experienced throughout this pandemic.

  8. This article really focuses on how important it is for educators to take care of themselves. It’s easy to get caught up worrying about a student, a lesson or something else going on at school but we have to ensure we are caring for ourselves. When a teacher is well rested and ready for the day, it makes a difference to the students and can create significant improvements within the class. The picture in the article lists several examples of self-care, including cooking, drawing, cuddling pets or getting a hug. I like these ideas because they are quiet and give you time alone or with someone you care for. I think they’re all great things for teachers to do if they are feeling stressed, ‘battling fatigue’, or on the verge of a burn out.

  9. Healthy Teachers, Healthy Schools: Resources for Teacher Self-Care
    I enjoyed reading this article and agree with that we must pay attention to the mental health of teachers. Healthy teachers do make for a healthy school and unfortunately, I have seen more and more teachers going into early retirement and approaching a “burn out”. I have learned to put “life” first and “teaching” second because when it was the other way around, I was a less effective teacher since I was stressed to the max. As stated in the article, setting boundaries, stay in touch with loves ones and focus on what you can control are great and effective tool and especially maintain reasonable expectations. I believe that we do expect a lot from ourselves, and a lot of times parents believe that we can “fix” their child and add that pressure. There is no shame in reaching out if you need hep and practice self-care.

  10. I think it’s wonderful that there is more thought and focus on mental health in society. This is a great article for teachers and gives them some resources to use or access. I think one of the big stigmas to get past is thinking mental health isn’t something we talk about. It’s ok to not be ok. Mental health is extremely important because if were aren’t healthy mentally then we can’t be healthy physically. Additional stress can have physical effects on the body in ways that can be subtle like disturbance of sleep habits, eating habits, muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue and digestive problems. It’s good to recognize if you’re struggling mentally and asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it just means you’ve experienced things that have changed you in ways that sometimes can’t be described. I personally like the list of things you can do for self-care. I found myself yesterday saying when I left work, “I’m going home. I miss my cat”. That caused a couple of people to giggle, but in all honesty when I got home, I sat down and had some snuggle time with my cat. Find something that works for you that helps you cope in a healthy way. Again, it’s ok to not be ok. If you need help, reach out.

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