Books, articles, products, advice and opinions on supporting your mental health are just EVERYWHERE. It is enough to make you feel guilty for feeling stressed, anxious or low!
As educators we are really good at seeing the importance of supporting the mental health of our pupils and our colleagues, whilst being completely cavalier about our own mental health. I think the self-talk that delivers this must go something like this – “I know this stuff, so I am determined to be there for everyone who needs me. I am a resilient professional and just need to get on doing the best job I can. So I will be just fine!”
In response, this humble addition to the published mountain is designed to be for you. Yes YOU!
You can do any of it alone, with family and friends or even with your class(es). Or you can ignore it and enjoy the smugness of your own self-determination. (That’s always good for your short-term wellbeing, but beware of the long-term consequences.)
Here they are: 10 things you can do for 10 minutes or less to support your mental health.
1. And breathe!
When things get stressful or challenging: STOP. Take a few moments to take four slow, deep breaths: slowly in and slowly out. You will feel your shoulders drop and become aware of the stress impacts in your body. You are on your way up.
2. Doodle or colour
Important not to use this one as a strategy to escape from the boredom of meetings, tempting though it might be. The point here is to get absorbed in the creativity of the moment so that you recharge your capacity to think.
3. Identify or indulge in creativity
Do you have an established creative outlet that brings you joy? If not, take 10 minutes to thought-storm options you would like to explore; but if you do, then spend 10 minutes contributing to it. If it is writing – try a stream of consciousness. If it is gardening - weed, dead-head, rake, plant or simply stroll in that garden. Or it could be a small contribution to your next project in any creative pursuit - origami, stone-painting, letter-writing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, woodwork. I know – it is only 10 minutes. But every little action moves your project forward and reminds you of your interests and beautiful creativity.
4. Look at the view
I mean it. But really look! In a way you don’t usually look. From a different window, from a new angle or searching for a specific filter (light, colour, shape, structure…). You could even get up close and personal to tree bark. I’ve never met a bark I didn’t like.
We rarely spend time, with our eyes closed, listening intently to every sound around us – inner sounds (neck creaks, heartbeats, breathing…) and outer sounds (rain, wind, birdsong, leaves in the wind, trees creaking, distant voices, engines...).
6. Body roam
While we are talking about closing eyes – take a couple of deep breaths in and out and then take your focus on a journey around every part of your body. As you roam, tighten and then release the muscles in each area of focus and you will gradually free all the stress traps and feel refreshed. Notice your heat and coolness too. And end with another couple of deep breaths. Voila!
Stretch, dance, walk, go up and down the stairs, skip, hula-hoop, run, star jump, bounce… Just move and shift the energy.
…as if no-one is listening. We should all sing more.
9. Laugh out loud
Go on. Do it! It starts off feeling false and then you end up laughing at yourself. Just a giggle will get you started. There are whole day workshops on this stuff.
10. Give yourself a head massage
In 2020 German psychologists found that a ten-minute head massage helps the body to tap into its parasympathetic, resting state. Had to end with a bit of bona-fide science!
However you do it, take time for yourself – you deserve and need it, each and every day. So recharge in 10 minutes or less any time in any day.