30 Small Things You Can Do Today to Support Your Own Mental Health

Take time to try out one or more of these strategies to build and strengthen your mental health and wellness. After all, the journey of strong mental health is made up of a million steps. 

By Vickie Echols, Teacher Trainer | May 03, 2021
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Teachers: we all know that the way we feel, both mentally and physically, can have an enormous effect on our relationships with students and coworkers, as well as how we navigate the day. I had a teaching partner who asked me every morning, “How are you doing?” Such a simple question but one that we must ask ourselves frequently in order to support our own mental health.

Mental health discussions usually focus on big topics like stress, depression, or anxiety – all important factors to talk about. However, teacher mental health can also include an intentional spotlight on small practices that add up to effectively improving your day, your week and your school year. 

Take time to try out one or more of these strategies to build and strengthen your mental health and wellness. After all, the journey of strong mental health is made up of a million steps.

 Thirty Ideas for Building Health and Wellness

1. Create a calming rest area in your room or somewhere on campus, where you can recharge your batteries. Add a comfort item or photo that brings you calm. 

2. Draw realistic boundaries: leave on time regularly, or at least a few days a week, rather than staying late to finish that one last thing. 

3. Join a club or non-work-related group that expands your options for experiences and your circle of friends, such as knitting, theatre, choir, art, sport, book club. 

4. Join or create a group who meets in the school gym for yoga or aerobics; you can find an instructor for just about anything on YouTube!

5. Take on a personal challenge to connect your brain and body: use the stairs, walk for a mile a day, get seven hours of sleep, or drink eight glasses of water a day.

6. If you are teaching virtually, take a mental break when possible. Add music in the background, keep lotion next to your computer, and install computer programs like Flux or Eye Pro to ease eye strain from excessive computer usage.

7. Add a nice selection of teas (caffeinated and herbal) to your backpack. Take time to breathe as you watch the tea seep into the water. 

8. Check out nearby walking and biking paths. Grab an app with a pedometer for step tracking. Take time to observe the little wonders, stop to smell the roses. 

9. Shoot some basketball hoops or tackle the arcade machines; take along a little person to add giggles.

10. Visit your local low-cost used bookstore for helpful books on mental wellbeing.

11. Watch a cooking class with a friend and try out making delicious and healthy meals for yourselves and/or your families.

12. Take the day off on your birthday, or a floating day if it falls on a weekend. Acknowledge the new year with gratitude by jotting a list of all you are thankful for in the past year. 

13. Share your personal and professional success stories in the school newsletter.

14. Take a five-minute break between subjects with your students, or tag in another colleague to swap out for a quick break to regulate brain and body. 

15. Visit outdoor weekend activities, like farmers markets. Arrange meetups at local healthy events and spend the day deepening a relationship in your community. 

16. Start a garden for fresh home-grown herbs and vegetables. Share them with a neighbor. 

17. Begin a monthly healthy potluck or share favorite recipes for your school cookbook on Pinterest. 

18. If you notice yourself getting frustrated or anxious, arrange for a colleague or admin to cover your class while you take a short tag-out time to regulate.

19. Take your vacation time. 

20. Watch a comedian for laughs; encourage your sense of humor. 

21. Join a recreational sports team or watch a sport together for social joy. 

22. Join or organize swap parties, where you meet up once a month to swap things like home goods and clothing.  Donate unwanted items to the local resale shop. 

23. Consider making some of your meetings a walking meeting, where you take a stroll around the office to accomplish your agenda. 

24. Love on a pet for a super-cute stress-reducer; visit the local pound or pet store if you don’t have one at home.

25. If you’re teaching virtually, design a space where you can stand to work instead of sit. Standing for just 15 minutes per hour can have hugely beneficial effects on your body – brain connection.

26. Display your gratitude to a colleague or parent. Reaching out results in a recharge of good energy. 

27. Phone a counselor, coach or close friend for confidential support for your work or personal life.

28. Write sticky notes to yourself that stick, like “Let it go”, “You’ve got this”, “It will get better.” “There’s always next time,” “Smile, it tricks your brain,” “Breathe”. 

29. Download and start a streak of using a mindfulness app like Headspace, 10% Happier, or Calm. 

30. Watch a movie that makes you feel good. But restrain yourself around the buttered popcorn. 

These are just a few strategies that can put you on the road to prioritizing your mental health and wellness. Experiment and try them out along the way; then when the road gets bumpy, you will feel better equipped to face the inevitable mistakes and issues that come with being human and the daily challenges that face a teacher on a school campus today.