Coping With Depression As A Teacher: Strategies For Getting Through The Day

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Depression is notorious for sapping your energy and leaving you feeling drained, which is especially challenging when you work in education -- you need to be energetic and lively to engage your students. If you are fighting depression as a teacher, here are some daily strategies to help you cope. 

Make Time For Exercise

With a busy schedule, grading, parent conferences, and personal development training, workouts often get brushed under the rug. However, getting even a small amount of activity during your day can help boost your endorphin levels, leaving you feeling more energized for your students. If you can't bring yourself to wake up earlier than you already do, use your lunch time or prep period to do a little yoga in your classroom. You can find free workouts online, and yoga or other meditative exercise can bring down your anxiety levels. 

Use Sick Days When You Need Them

Many teachers only take a day off when they absolutely have to, but taking a day off for your personal mental health when you are struggling with depression can be essential to your wellbeing. Look at your school calendar and choose to take a long weekend during the winter months (in January or March) when depression levels go up and there aren't things like breaks or holidays to look forward to. You can use the day to catch up on your work if staying on top of things is one of the ways you keep stress at bay. An even better idea might be using the day to get some rest, read a book, and visit with your counselor/doctor about the prognosis of your anxiety or depression. 

Remember To Eat, And Eat Right

Back to back class periods, coaching students during lunch and breaks, and coming to work and leaving late can throw off your eating schedule. But dips in your blood sugar can really affect how well you cope with a mood disorder during the day. Forgetting to eat can make a bad mood worse, and small events that normally would not stress you can increase your irritation exponentially. Set an alarm on a digital watch that reminds you to eat a snack throughout the day, and be sure you eat both breakfast and lunch. 

The foods you eat can also affect how you feel during the day. Sugar, specifically, is one you should stay away from. Avoid loading up on caffeinated soda, snacking on sugary treats, or choosing things like muffins, cookies, or even dessert yogurt. These spike your blood sugar, and after a short time, they will leave you feeling more tired and drained, making a bad situation worse. Instead, eat foods that will provide long-term stability for your blood sugar. Snack on almonds, whole grain crackers, or pieces of cheese. Lunch and breakfast should have a good portion of protein and vegetables. If you do have something sweet, keep it small. Nuts can be especially effective in helping you make it through the afternoon "slump" as you get to the finish line. 

Make Time For Treatment

Depression is not uncommon in the teaching profession, especially with new teachers. It's important that if the condition is affecting how well you work that you seek help. Talk to your administration to see if there are school-sponsored resources for you. Talk to other teachers in your subject area during planning sessions about their coping methods. Counseling, especially with a support group, can work wonders for resolving feelings of guilt and anxiety over classroom problems. Finally, do not be afraid to speak with your doctor about medications or lifestyle changes that could be necessary for your mental health.