Managing uncertainty in uncertain times | Education Support
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Dealing with uncertainty - teachers and education staff

Managing uncertainty in uncertain times

Managing the many uncertainties caused by the pandemic can be difficult. Mike Armiger, Independent Education and Mental Health Advisor, provides some practical advice for teachers and education staff to help you to cope more effectively.

Give yourself some credit

Something that teachers and education staff often overlook is giving ourselves some credit. We have accomplished a huge amount already over the last six to ten months during this pandemic. We have had to adapt in ways that we never thought possible. We should take a moment to take stock of the incredible things that we have achieved individually and collectively.

Many of us, including myself, have woken up in the morning and just thought that the day is beyond us.

There is so many things that we have to do, so many hurdles in the way to us achieving the things we want to for the young people we work with. In reality, we have overcome those obstacles time and time again. So it is vital that we take stock to understand how much we've already done and how much we've already adapted.

Dealing with ever-changing guidance

The sense of uncertainty for educators is added to by the ever-changing guidance being issued to schools during the pandemic.  This is causing heightened anxiety and can feel overwhelming.  

So when that guidance is released our reaction is usually to respond and react to the new guidance.  How can we do this? How can we do that? It all feels so impossible!

We cannot eliminate those reactions of course, but there are things we can do to help manage those feelings. I personally have encouraged educators to make a plan when new guidance is released. This may involve having a quick look at it but not expecting that you have interpret it in full immediately and acknowledging that you will need to work collectively within the school community or authority to react and respond effectively.

Another thing that can help is to step away from social media because sometimes when we see other people's anxiety, worries and concerns this can magnify our own negative feelings.

Something to look forward to

Many people I speak with currently feel a lack of hope because of having nothing to look forward to. This is of course something that we are all struggling with. Whether it be a holiday, seeing relatives, a day out, our inability to plan and have something to look forward has a big impact on our sense of wellbeing.

We CAN still make plans and give ourselves something to look forward to.  We have seen a huge uptake in are people discovering or rediscovering aspects of themselves; such as hobbies, movie nights, cooking, playing a game or whatever it may be.

Previously our lives were so busy, we often had little time to do such things. So during the current restrictions we can still have things in our lives that we might look forward to. It is just that they might be on a bit of a smaller scale right now.

Safety and comfort

When we transition from the lighter hours into the darker and colder winters, it is important to try to build safety and comfort within our homes. This is even more important now during the restrictions imposed due to pandemic.  There is a concept in Scandinavia called hygge, this concept of comfort and multi-sensory feelings of safety within our homes. It is about encouraging us to promote senses within our environments. It might be the smell of a candle, it might be putting on some little lights, it might be a lamp, it might be coloured lighting, it might be a blanket, it might be all of those things.

But building that sense of comfort within our homes, especially at the moment, is really crucial because it gives us not only just something to look forward to but it makes us feel safe in our environments. So anything that we can do around that on a multi-sensory level in particular, is a really good idea.

Whatever it is, it does not have to be expensive. It could being cuddling up on the sofa with a blanket, a good book and a warm cup of tea. Whatever it is that makes you feel safe, comfortable and comforted.  Some parents were talking to me about making blanket dens with their children and they all sat and had some hot chocolate with marshmallows. It can be that simple.

Finding joy and hope

It is important for us to find joy and elements of hope. There needs to be a bit more of a lightness to your days and life now. So it might be watching something funny, it might be something hopeful, a silly joke, whatever puts a smile on your face.

Joy can often be found in school as well. You can often get bogged down, especially if you are leader, with the paperwork, planning and all the challenges of daily life. So occasionally, I would go down to a classroom and just spend some time with children and young people. It is joyful to see one of the children rediscover something in terms of their learning, watching a child with an uncontrollable laugh or just their general lack of concern for anything that seems important in the wider world.

Seeing the world through a child's eyes can help us gain perspective and see the world in a different way.

You are not alone

Remember the Education Support helpline is here for you at any time. Please do not wait until you feel overwhelmed. Our support can help you to maintain your equilibrium and keep a sense of balance. So even if things aren't horrendous for you and you're able to cope, it still might be worth giving us a call to just maintain that state.

The very best of luck for the rest of this half term. Take care.

How we can help 

Teachers and education staff, in schools, colleges and universities, who are feeling stressed or anxious during these uncertain times can get confidential emotional support from our free and confidential helpline: 08000 562561.

What can you do?

If you’re in a position to help others in these extraordinary times, please consider making a donation so that we can continue to answer the increasing number of desperate calls and grants applications we are receiving. Thank you so much.