Teacher wellbeing and self-care are topics that need to seriously be looked at, discussed and acted upon in the profession. Today teachers are under a lot of pressure; they feel stress and overwhelm and with this there is a feeling of giving up or lack of true commitment to teaching.
Many good teachers who have a great passion and understanding for children end up leaving the system because the system structure breaks them in a way that they no longer feel the same commitment to when they first started teaching.
In the past I found full time primary school teaching overwhelming. I lived exhausted, stressed, devitalised, ill and with a feeling of being unable to cope. I resented any ‘extra’ work that I was asked to do and struggled through the terms only to seek relief and respite in the holidays. I blamed the system, sometimes the head teachers, definitely the government… and even at times the difficult kids and parents! All the teachers found it tough, but that’s teaching, right? I wanted to stop the world turning just so I could catch a breather.
It was like a constant bombardment from the outside and a withering away on the inside. I had lost my commitment to work and it was a challenge getting up in the morning.
After ten years working like this, the turnaround came when I realised that if I continued to live like this my body would simply pack up. I still loved being with the children but I felt like a dried up rag with nothing left of myself to offer. I was fatigued; I knew that if I didn’t stop I could run the risk of becoming ill. I decided to get part time teaching work, which helped to create a gap with the intensity, and look for support.
I began to comprehend the problem wasn’t with teaching but within myself. I wanted to blame everyone for how I was feeling without taking responsibility for my choices and how I was living.
I began to meditate to reconnect to my innermost and from this I started to learn how to deal with the constant noise and chatter in my head. With the support of the Gentle Breath Meditation l also found how to take steps to nurture myself through sleep, eating and gentle exercise rhythms in a more dedicated and deliberate way than I had ever done before.
I had always believed that I was exhausted from the sheer volume of work that needed to be done, but I came to realise that I could handle the amount of hours I was working in a day and that my exhaustion was stemming from an inner battle of anxiety, and from the feeling that I was not enough.
There was an endless need to keep up with my colleagues and to prove my worthiness by doing a good job. I also was emotionally involved with everyone around me, wanting to help them or make them feel better, which added to the constant daily drain.
When I let go of the need to prove myself, or get approval or recognition from others and the need to get involved in other people’s problems, I discovered myself – the strength, love and beauty I have within. It is something that can be lived and I feel is inherent in all of us, to which we can all connect. This was a period in my life of complete metamorphosis and a huge change around – and yet it was so very simple, as I was just returning to a commitment to, and care of, myself. The constant bombardment of life was still there but on the inside there was no withering, just a quiet, strong knowing of myself.
I learned that I wasn’t broken and was already whole. I just needed to re-connect to it.
This inner connection that started from the Gentle Breath Meditation has enabled me to face all the issues I originally wanted to run away from. I have just completed my third year back as a full time primary school teacher and I have loved it! I now feel committed to my job and working full time has actually made me feel more solid, steady and strong in my body: so much so that I have taken a position as Senior Teacher in a local school, which years ago I would have not touched for anything. I feel prepared and ready to deal with the challenges that it will bring.
Working full time to me has been like I am saying YES to the world and honouring that I can bring something to it wholeheartedly – in preference to working part-time, which for me would have been saying NO to the world, I can only handle so much before I feel crushed. It’s the claiming of myself that brings the strength.
The job continues to have the same demands as before, but I have changed within it. I am much more joyful and playful.
I am still learning day to day what it means to self-nurture and really honour myself in a way that I didn’t allow before, such as:
- Being aware of the food I eat and how it makes me feel. I eat light to keep light
- Preparing myself for sleep by winding down and going to bed early
- Allowing myself time to prepare for each day
- Exercising lightly
- Observing my reactions in the day and dealing with issues
- Being more aware of the quality I am in during the day.
I stopped putting everyone else before me, which used to be exhausting. Now I have much more energy for others when needed!
I am so glad that I took the commitment back into full time work as it makes me feel more committed to life and more solid in my body. It’s like the difference between being a substitute on the bench as opposed to being in the team and on the pitch. I am not on the sidelines of life any more.
I now know and value what I can offer the children in my care and I have a lived understanding of teacher wellbeing and self-care. It’s not always perfect of course, and I slip up many times, but there is a strength and grace inside which I can keep coming back to. I truly feel blessed by what I have found and that is me and my commitment to myself, which has resulted in a commitment to work. It’s a pleasure to be taking this me into work!
I have a deep and rich appreciation for the teachings and support of Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon, who have inspired me to make long lasting life changes that I know will stand strong well into the future.
By Rachel Murtagh, B.Ed (Hons)