Jessica Joan on self care for teachers during lockdown

As a teacher, I’m not used to being sat on my arse in front of a computer all day!

I’m usually on my feet, jumping around like a performing monkey to get 6-year-old children excited about adjectives. Transitioning from that to working at home and starting up my coaching business to support stressed out teachers has been difficult to say the least. It’s much harder to get that much energy and enthusiasm when you’re sat at a desk in front of a laptop all day!

I found that because I hadn’t got my usual school routine, I wasn’t taking breaks, and I was actually working longer hours than I would have done before – going against everything I was teaching my clients about. My home- and work-life was getting blurred - I was sorting out washing in between work tasks and emailing while watching a movie with my boyfriend of an evening. A great example of a poor work/life balance on my part.

I’ve felt sluggish, I’ve had back ache, I’ve had a tense neck and shoulders, I’ve had tension headaches, I’ve felt irritable… just to name a few. When I’m feeling like this, it’s very easy for me to eat because that’s an ingrained habit I’ve had for years and years to make myself feel better (because I didn’t know any other way at the time), which it does for a very short period of time… But I quickly go back to feeling pretty shitty again. And so the cycle of emotional eating continues until the root cause of why I’m feeling this way is addressed – something that I teach my clients as part of my Happy Teacher course.

I’ve had to change and adapt my routine to suit me and my needs while working from home so that my physical and emotional wellbeing is taken care of, so I can continue to show up as the best version of myself for my clients and my partner, for my family and my friends.

So, here are my wellbeing tips to support teachers who are working from home…

1) Go for a walk to start your workday and finish your workday

This mini “commute” will your get mind ready for work mode and then home mode, separating your work-life from your home-life.

The morning walk ‘to work’ gets your body moving, blood pumping, heart beating with oxygen flowing round your body, increasing your energy levels ready to start your workday on a high! The evening walk ‘back home’ allows you to release any tension or stress from your workday; breathing in some fresh air to calm your mind and body down, helping you to relax and enjoy your evening ahead.

2) Have a clear working space.

Try not to mix home-life and work-life as your mind and body won’t know whether it’s coming or going. For example, refrain from working in your bed – I have been guilty of this! Work and home get blurred and your mind doesn’t know whether it should wind down for sleep or be active for work! By having a clear working space, your brain knows that it’s time to work now.

If your working space is a place you use during your ‘home life’, for example your dining table, tidy or pack away your work things so they don’t infringe upon your home life. Seeing your work stuff can actually bring on stress without even realising it, so try to put it away so that it can’t be seen and allow yourself to enjoy being in home-mode.

EXTRA TIP: If you haven’t already done so, invest in a laptop stand so that your screen is at eye level when you’re sat up properly in your chair. This avoids slouching and getting back ache, neck ache and shoulder ache.

3) Set an alarm to ensure you have a break.

Even if it’s just for 5 mins to ring a loved one or to make a nice cuppa, our brains benefit from taking a break – it means we come back to the task more focused and refreshed. Aim for 3 breaks a day like you would in school; a morning, lunch and afternoon break.

You can also get out of your working space by going into a different room to really feel like you’ve had some time out – why not wrap up warm and make the most of the natural sunlight with a cuppa outside, enjoying the crisp fresh air!

4) Set clear boundaries on how long you want to work each day.

Decide what time you want to start working and what time you want to stop and stick to it! Some days you may want to work longer hours, some days shorter. Plan for it and make sure to include some time for yourself one evening to do whatever brings you joy.

EXTRA TIP: Invest in some blue-light blocking glasses to ease eye and head tension from looking at a screen all day. I bought mine cheap off Amazon and they have really helped with my headaches.

5) Positive Reminders in your workspace

Put a post-it note or a piece of paper with a positive statement in your workspace to remind yourself of how brilliant you’re doing for those times when you’re finding it tough!

Panel member Jessica Joan is a Primary school teacher and a Health and Wellness coach for teachers.