This post has been written by Classroom Secrets
The festive season is often one of celebration, social engagements, and an opportunity for you to spend time with loved ones; however, this is not always the case. In 2022, nearly half of adults in the UK had at some point experienced a feeling of loneliness. There is a misconception that loneliness means being alone, but some people experience loneliness even when they are amongst their loved ones.
We know that the autumn term is incredibly busy and long for teachers which might mean that putting your own mental health and wellbeing first is not always top of your priority list. This can increase feelings of loneliness and impacts both your physical and mental health. We’ve put together a few suggestions of how you can put your wellbeing first to help you rest or recharge and make you feel more connected with others.
Taking time for yourself
Pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try or one that you haven’t got round to doing for a while. Read one of the books on your to-be-read pile, take a break from social media, including anything work-related, and don’t feel guilty for doing so. Meet up with friends, take time to reconnect with people you’ve not spoken to for a while, or catch up on that ‘must see’ series or those ‘feel good’ films that start to appear in the TV listings. Some studies have found that taking part in and engaging with leisure activities can reduce feelings of stress and fatigue, lower blood pressure and increase your overall feelings of happiness.
Exercising doesn’t require a gym membership it can take many forms. Getting outside in the fresh air, gardening, meeting up with friends and going for a walk, trying out yoga, Pilates or meditation, attending an online exercise class or finding a free video tutorial online and giving it a go. Regular physical activity has also been shown to greatly reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Some people enjoy yoga, other people prefer running. Some people benefit from group classes, others prefer exercising alone. Even if you just schedule a regular short walk into your routine, find what works for you and focus on what you find most enjoyable. A little boost in endorphins can make the world of difference and who knows, you might find your next healthy habit.
This could include joining community groups, checking in on neighbours, volunteering, local interest groups such as choirs, sports teams, walking groups or book clubs. You could also connect with yourself through journaling or listening to podcasts. Volunteering has been proven to be a mood-booster. Find something you really care about and connect with other people who have a similar interest. If getting out is too much right now, explore online communities, there really is something for everyone.
Remember to take it slow and don’t compare yourself to others.
If you've felt lonely for a long time, it might feel overwhelming to start making big changes in your life and routine. Be kind to yourself and take things slowly. Remember what works for others might not work for you – we're all different and that’s ok! Take each day as it comes and what you might not feel able to do today, tomorrow is a new start. There is no rush to try these ideas, just take it one step at a time.
There are lots of resources online that you might find useful if you would like to know more about anything we have suggested. Here are some of our favourites:
Loneliness: a guide for teachers and education staff
Teacher Wellbeing: A Relaxing Christmas and New Year 2021.
Your union website is a good source of information.
The Headspace app is free to join for all teachers and support staff in the UK. There are guided meditations, sleep cast stories, exercises and more for you to try on there too.