Supporting school staff worried about the impact of Covid-19

Written by: Sophie Howells | Published:
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More than half of the calls to the Education Support confidential helpline are currently related to coronavirus. Sophie Howells looks at the concerns of teachers and school leaders

The on-going uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and worries concerning school safety, both now and looking ahead to September, continue to put teacher’s mental health and wellbeing under immense strain.

Just a few weeks ago, in response to a YouGov TeacherTrack survey of 820 teachers and senior leaders, commissioned by Education Support, more than half of primary colleagues (59 per cent) and 49 per cent of secondary colleagues told us they were experiencing higher than usual levels of stress and anxiety during the beginning of this summer term.

Since then, speculation around the government’s plan for school re-openings and safety in schools has increased, heightening existing concerns.

More than half of the calls to our confidential helpline at the moment are related to coronavirus. Behind the headlines, teachers have been struggling to juggle online learning with school rotas. Many have also been trying to home-school their own children.

Anxiety and stress are natural, but how do we manage and control it so that it does not overwhelm us and engulf our lives in an all-consuming way?

Psychotherapist Ben Amponsah worked with Education Support to produce a short video and survival guide (see further information) outlining seven strategies to manage anxiety, based on the work of Dr Jenn Cooper at Glasgow Caledonian University. It is one of a special series of resources aimed at supporting education professionals during and beyond the coronavirus crisis.

Drawing on this work, here are some strategies that seem particularly pertinent at the present time for teachers and school leaders.

Manage your worries


  • Many people find writing the worry or worries down a very useful technique. Doing this makes it concrete and in itself can make the worry or worries much easier to deal with.
  • Allocating worry-time can be helpful. Treat your worries like a tricky piece of work that you take out, look at in detail for an allocated period, and then file away again until the next day.
  • Analyse the evidence: Look at it from all angles and try to problem-solve. Look at what you can realistically do about it.

Manage your information

Managing your information intake will also help you to manage your worries. If you are not doing so already, choose your sources carefully, particularly when there is so much speculation about schools.

As with your worries, limit the time you give to looking at the news and do not watch just before going to bed. It is an easy trap that we all fall into but really try to be disciplined about how much news and information you consume, the outlets you look at, and when you watch. Avoid overload.

Talk to trusted friends, colleagues and family

Keeping in touch continues to be essential. Share your worries, whether related to school re-openings or anything else. Also, be mindful of limiting time talking to those who you find worry you more – or perhaps tell them how it makes you feel. Alternatively, try to talk about something else (that great book you have just finished or a series you are watching).

If you would like to talk your worries through with someone with an independent perspective, do not forget Education Support. Don’t wait for a crisis – whatever you are feeling, our trained counsellors are available to talk to on our confidential helpline 24/7.

Accept uncertainty and normalise distress

It is a completely normal human reaction to feel distressed and sad that your normal life is not possible, and angry and upset that you cannot meet friends and family. It is important to keep reminding ourselves on a frequent basis that uncertainty is always part of the world. Think about what we can control – doing this will help you reduce your worries.

Conclusion

Everything has changed in a very short period of time. Consider any benefits that this time may bring now or, looking to the future, any opportunities to approach things differently.

Many teachers and school leaders have talked about just how important the wellbeing of children and staff will be post-coronavirus. Let’s do all we can now to prioritise our own wellbeing and lead by example, whatever the future brings.

  • Sophie Howells is from Education Support, a UK charity dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the education workforce.

Further information & resources

To find out more, visit www.educationsupport.org.uk/coronavirus and for help or advice on any issue facing those working in education, contact its free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 or visit www.educationsupport.org.uk

To access the short video and survival guide from psychotherapist Ben Amponsah, visit www.educationsupport.org.uk/resources/video/7-strategies-manage-anxiety


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