How I manage my anxiety as an educator

Learn how one teacher copes with stress to create a calm learning space for students. Get tips to manage anxiety so that events in the news or community don’t impact your teaching.

As a teacher with anxiety, I know that it takes effort for me to stay calm. When there’s a stressful event in the news or community, I have to watch how I react. Students tend to look to the adults they know for cues on coping during troubling times. I know that my reactions can affect the anxiety levels of my students.

Here is my advice for other educators who feel like me. 

1. Understand both your triggers and your security blankets.

Everyone has triggers. And everyone has security blankets or comfort strategies. But each of these things might look different for every person. 

Living with anxiety can often mean that you live inside your head a lot. I gain comfort by writing down everything that’s on my mind, whether through journaling or making a checklist. Having a meditative practice like yoga or going on a walk can also help me clear up thoughts in my mind. 

On the flip side, I know that spending a lot of time on social media or watching the news can make me feel panicked. So I try to think about the type and amount of information my mind might be consuming and how it’s making me feel.

2. Check in with yourself regularly.

As teachers, we make decisions every day. Some decisions help students learn in class. Others support them on a more social and emotional level. Experiencing decision fatigue and compassion fatigue is common. We might even find it hard to remain calm and positive for students.

I like to find time during the day to stop, breathe, and reflect before moving on to the next thing. These small moments are not always as frequent as I would like. But I know they make a difference. They free up more of my headspace so I can check in with students and ask them how they’re feeling. When we calm ourselves, we’re better equipped to calm others.

3. Embrace “both/and” thinking while disrupting “either/or” thinking.

Sometimes, when we’re feeling anxious, we think in categories — like it’s either this or that. But I’ve found that using dialectical thinking can help with this. It’s about blending thoughts from our emotional and rational sides. This helps us have a wiser mind that sees truth in both thoughts. For instance, I can look at a situation in two ways:

  • “This situation is not ideal and makes me feel anxious. We’re not going to accomplish anything meaningful with students.” This statement is “either/or” thinking. It has a tone of despair. 

  • “This situation is not ideal and makes me feel anxious, AND I’m going to keep trying to find ways to get things accomplished with students.” This second statement acknowledges the hard aspects of a situation while providing a sense of empowerment. 

Dialectical thinking helps me know that while I may be anxious about an event, I can also embrace it. I can use the moment to teach and learn. It may be a chance to have conversations on important issues like equity or privilege in our society. And it may be a chance for students, teachers, and community members to look at our world in a new way.

I know I can’t extinguish my anxieties. But I can manage them as I teach. I can do my part to be an agent of calm for my students as best as I can.

Learn more

Find out about workplace supports and strategies to help reduce chronic workplace stress. And download the 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness technique to manage stress throughout your day.

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