Perspectives

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation: Resources to help teachers refuel

By Allan Lee
October 7, 2016

Finding the time, energy, and motivation to refill our gas tanks is not an easy task. It requires us to acknowledge that we have many important personal and professional responsibilities in our lives, and to recognize that self-care is a critical component to well-being. At the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) Health and Wellness Program, we hear about the difficulties teachers face in their classrooms and how it negatively affects their mental health. We hear that teachers don’t have enough time to eat well, exercise regularly, engage in relaxation activities, or even see their physicians. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Many teachers feel challenged when professional responsibilities conflict with personal self-care.

Recognizing and acknowledging

For some people, recognizing and acknowledging that they feel overwhelmed and need some help is the most difficult step. Reflecting on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours is a skill that is not often taught or practiced explicitly. If you feel like you need to check up on your well-being, consider two useful online resources:

  • The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Meter: An online questionnaire to help you reflect on your individual strengths and focus on areas that need support. This questionnaire is a quick way to self-reflect and identify the parts of your life that may need additional exploration;
  • Here to Help’s Screening Self-Tests: An online screening test that assesses different factors that contribute to overall well-being. From social support to self-esteem, this test provides a quick overview of your mental health status.

BCTF members can access these resources through BCTF’s Health and Wellness Program.

Developing regulation

For teachers who identify they need additional support, finding the appropriate regulation tools is the next step in coping with elevated stress. Whether it’s personal or professional stress, it’s important to identify the activities that speak to you. The Health and Wellness Program suggests you try out one of these:

  • The Starling Minds program: A BCTF online program where members can confidentially reflect on their current mental fitness and explore a variety of effective coping strategies. Designed specifically for teachers, this interactive program guides you through situations that you may encounter at school and provides suggestions on how to cope with common stressors. Members can access this free, online program by creating an account with their BCTF member ID (which is not your certificate number);
  • The Mindfulness Training program of the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C.: It’s important to have a range of regulation tools and strategies to draw upon when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Try out formal relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness.

Finding resolution

Seeking a resolution in any situation, whether personal or professional, can be challenging. Finding a healthy resolution requires us to acknowledge our feelings in a transparent way, consider alternative ways of interpreting the problem, and look for innovative strategies to move forward. Health and Wellness encourages you to find a personalized resolution strategy that works for you:

  • Check in with a colleague or friend who may provide you with a fresh perspective on your situation. Consider how to implement their suggestions for a healthy resolution;
  • Self-help resources that address a variety of concerns and challenges are available (for BCTF members) through BCTF’s Health and Wellness Program;
  • Seek professional help in clarifying the situation and developing resolution strategies. Professional counselling services through your district’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) and your extended health benefits are appropriate anytime you are finding it challenging to find a resolution.

Finding recognition, regulation, or resolution is not always easy or simple. It requires active reflection, a desire for change, and taking a risk to try a different way of being. Trying out one of these resources can be a great way to motivate you to make some meaningful changes to your own personal health and wellness.

(This article by Allan Lee was previously published in the May/June issue of the BCTF Teacher Magazine).

Allan Lee is Assistant Director, Health and Wellness, at the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation.

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