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)
Work is Medicine
A True Commitment to Work, Getting a Job… and Life
Teacher shows how Simple ‘common sense’ Tools can support Staff and Students
My life has changed exponentially due to what I have focused on and how I then live. The more I have understood my qualities and how I uniquely express them the more my life has expanded is about that. Much of who I was before Universal Medicine was holding back what I am here truly to bring. This exhausted me and caused me to shutdown and withdraw from life. Appreciating my qualities built a foundation of feeling positive about myself.
It is so very true that when we value ourselves and bring more of our expression out we then have more of a solid foundation that supports us with a steadiness in our days. I have held back in my expression and was exhausted by the day, now I am expressing much more and in this I have more energy, vitality and feel much more solid.
Rachel, what a great lesson you learnt by listening to your form teacher, your body, and with the Gentle Breath Meditation.
Mary, I have come to understand that starting with the Gentle Breath Mediation, my body is my greatest teacher. Having begun to listen to it more, the signals and messages come over loud and clear and it is up to me whether I ignore or listen to what is being communicated.
Teachers are crucial to society and their health and wellbeing needs to become a priority both for them and others if we are to turn around the exodus of teachers who can no longer cope with the ever growing demands on their time and energy because of the overwhelming environment so many are increasingly working in with ever increasing targets and often increasingly challenging behaviour etc. Inspiring role models like yourself are very much needed but also a general recognition that we are unable to truly care for others unless we commit to taking loving care of ourselves.
‘I am not on the sidelines of life any more.’ So true Rachel when we are caught up in constantly trying to prove our worth it is impossible to feel in the flow of life because we are in a constant battle with ourselves and everyone else. The more I commit to taking care of me and not trying to fix everyone around me the more energy is available to be of true service both in my work and community.
Rachel, this is what I can feel with myself, that it is the worrying and anxiety and not feeling good enough that makes me tired, if I work feeling confident in myself and not doubting what I bring then I can more than easily cope with everything that is before me and with the hours I am working; ‘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.’
When one has the opportunity to work with teachers there is so obviously such a need for care and nurturing to be introduced… they hold our future in their hands
My hat goes off to my colleagues. Their propensity to work hard and with such dedication are off the charts, but often they do this at the expense of themselves and their well-being. With teachers leaving the profession and burnout at such an all-time high, (in the UK) introducing care and nurturing is urgently needed.
‘It was like a constant bombardment from the outside and a withering away on the inside.’ Which is exactly why connecting to ourselves and honouring our innermost as our foundation is so vital for our health and wellbeing – regardless of what our chosen profession or responsibilities are.
It is incredible to feel just how liberating it is to hold steady as we move through our day, when we live in connection to who we are within. And what’s more is that this honoring relationship becomes the foundation of all our relationships be it with others, work and life in general.
It can be said that for many professions there is a daily struggle to keep up with all the demands. These demands can feel crushing and oppressive if we let them dictate the rhythm of our days, how we care for ourselves, how we relate to each other.
And how we care for ourselves can turn this around when we do so in a consistent and positive way. I have found the struggle in work and in life to reduce with a more vital and well body.
Considering the perilous state of teachers in general in the uk ( over 30% on some form of medication) then this information is crucial to the continuation of education as long as we stick to the form it is in now.
The form it is in now is seriously to the detriment of staff and pupils. In the UK staff are leaving in their droves… (approx. 38 thousand last academic year and the same number if not slightly higher in the last 2 previous years). The demand and toll on the body and metal health of teachers is being pushed to the max. If we are to remain in the profession and support the kids in our care, then wellbeing and ways of supporting ourselves needs to be urgently looked at.
” 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!” Beautiful to read Rachel. Committing to ourselves first, then we can commit to others – and to life. If we do things half-heartedly – that will also be the return. Great to share your experience – thankyou.
Thank you for the deep care you obviously have for all teachers as well as yourself. There is such an enormous expectation on teachers to have all the answers and you have shared that letting go of those expectations and bringing a focus to self-care makes an enormous difference to your physical and psychological wellbeing. You could easily have kept this to yourself.
Rachel you are a blessing to the teaching community. What you share here is so relatable to not only the teaching community but the grander community on a whole, shows that through simple daily choices and to then stop and consider how we move, eat, sleep and care for ourselves can have a huge impact on our health, and wellbeing could truly move mountains for many today and demonstrates that even through simple tasks and routines we can bring consistency and love back through the commitment of our choices.
Lovely to read how your commitment to self care at the deepest level has given space for a quiet and strong knowing of yourself.
Rachel, amazing to read this article, what a difference simple ways of living can make; like eating lightly, going to bed early and gentle exercise – thus allowing you to feel well at work be able to work in a demanding job, thank you for sharing your experience of teaching and of working full time.
It is so easy to get caught up in the anxiety of what the day demands of us leaving us exhausted and frustrated, as many jobs do especially teaching. It was great how you stepped outside of the burden of the workload and realised how your life could change by taking more loving care of your own needs and using the tools to bring you back to you, what once was a burden and exhausting now becomes a joy and a commitment to life and all that it brings, amazing.
I can see from this piece of writing how there are educational systems in place that do not support the being inside. These systems therefore feel deeply unnatural for our bodies to cope with and the stress can have life-long affects. This is not to say that alternative education is any better, or that we need to scrap education all together because we do need all the trades and skills that education fundamentally provides us as a society. However, and what this piece points out, is that there needs to be an evolution in the way that education is delivered so that the whole person is taken in to account – a whole body intelligence for the education systems of our world – and then perhaps the industries that follow will be more supportive of humanity as a whole and we would not see so many products and devices that mainly serve to numb and distract us away from the love that we all are.
It is so fascinating to see how burn-out can be avoided, what an incredibly vital set of tools for living in everyday life.
So many of us believe that we would be happier in our work if the situations around us in work were different, different job, different staff, different customers. Always waiting for the outside to change before we say we are happy in our jobs. What I’ve been learning in my current job is that waiting around for life to be stable and support me to be happy then I am not making any forward steps to support that to come back to me. As you shared Rachel it starts from caring for and supporting ourselves then the job supports us.
“I wanted to stop the world turning just so I could catch a breather.” I recently started working at the checkout of a supermarket and can totally relate to this feeling. It can be intense and I feel like I need a moment without the intensity, but that is not possible because the intensity does not stop, even not when I am finished working. It is about how I respond to it that makes the whole difference and that will be, for now, the only difference that I can make for myself as we cannot change someone else.
Rachel at a time of burn out being widespread across the teaching community as well as the workplace is quite amazing to appreciate that there is a way to approach teaching that does not lead to burn out but that is supportive and furthermore in doing so what an incredible inspiration to all the children who pass through your classes.
“I stopped putting everyone else before me, which used to be exhausting. Now I have much more energy for others when needed!” This is such an important statement Rachel. Putting everyone else first is very common – especially amongst women, teachers and those in the caring professions. Yet if we go under everyone suffers. It makes far more sense to nurture ourselves first and – as you have shown – to then have the energy to support others in truth.
I know the feeling Rachel of wanting to give much but just feeling too tired to really put the quality in it that I would like to and therefor just making it look good but not really being good. I am learning and truly applying that I first have to commit to myself again in full before I can give outwardly. It is interesting how we can know these things and thinking we are doing it yet it only works when we not just know it in our heads but live it with our whole body in life.
True Susie without these people how will the systems change? For me leaving wasn’t the answer although at one point I was pretty desperate to. By looking after ourselves within the systems we work, it is quite amazing to feel the shift that can occur with how we feel. It makes all the difference to being overwhelmed, or not…loving the job or not. I have noticed that on the days when I really take care of myself, all potential stresses run off like water off a duck’s back…they don’t touch the sides. When I don’t take the same level of care I react to situations, pressure and tension and absorb it all like a wet paper towel, that leave me and the kids hanging.
It’s so true that because of the current state of our education, medical, political and general societal systems, many people who are TRULY good at and love their jobs, who care about the people or students more than ticking boxes set by execs or ministers, are leaving the profession because their style of work just doesn’t fit. However, without these people how will the systems change? We need to support ourselves to feel confident in our true-felt ways of working, and to value the importance of what we do over the retaliation that’s guaranteed to come from those invested in the current systems.
Rachel, this blog is the perfect reminder for me this morning to be willing to look at the things that do not work for me and to be open to realising that there might be something in the way that I am with it that is not supportive. The simplest of answers is to look at taking responsibility for how I am moving and how I am thinking as I know that this has the greatest of impacts on all my other choices thereafter.
Rachel, this is powerful what you have shared, and shows beautifully how we can get caught up in a system or a way of being rather than coming back to a foundation of solidness that we hold within and can bring to the workplace (or home or anywhere for that matter). I too started with the simplicity of the Gentle Breath Meditation, and from here developed my relationship with self and boy did that also transform my life! I still keep working on my relationship with myself for essentially it never ending, but the more I strengthen this, then the more I feel I can handle things in the world in general….baby steps but over time the impact is gigantic!
Very powerful sharing Rachel. In a nutshell, we cannot change our environment, its not about that although many environments we work in are extremely challenging and not supportive of us, of our wellbeing and simple appreciation, respect of what we each bring. But when we take the step of being responsible for ourselves, our quality, wellbeing, it is very empowering and rather than been drained we begin to experience a new found sense of motivation, vitality. In my experience it was the building of connection to my essence within and living more and more from there, which is an abundance of love..and in practical ways supporting and caring for my body…
When we take on other people’s ‘stuff’ and get caught up in their emotions we are dragged and pushed in every direction by energies over which we have no control. With the support of the Gentle Breath Meditation we can come back to our inner stillness and allow the world to whirl around while we offer others the opportunity to see that they too can find their inner stillness.
I have quite a few friends who are teachers with all of them at some point feeling overwhelmed by the increasing administrative requirements which have an impact on the time they get to spend with the kids as well as the demands expected of teachers today. I did not have an understanding of just how demanding a teachers role is today before seeing what my friends were doing in their roles. The huge amount of after hours work they put into programming, scheduling, meeting requirements many of which don’t truly support the kids, marking work and the list goes on. Its awesome to hear you share about the shifts you have made and the huge benefit this has had on your life and your enjoyment as a teacher.
The pressures in teaching are enormous without us placing more pressures on ourselves, ‘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.’ It is key to nurture and honour ourselves daily.
Rachel Murtagh is clearly such a sensitive and caring person, what a gift to have her in the classroom, teaching and sharing with children. I am so glad that she found her commitment again, because we will all benefit from it, just by having her there, working away. Rachel’s light touches us all.
This is why we find the ‘grass is never greener on the other side’, “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.” We often think if we have a holiday and only return to find the same thing again, change jobs, partners etc only to find the same thing again in the new relationships. As we are saying here the ‘problem’ is with how we are with ourselves, our quality of living in every moment with ourselves. In particular our movements and our thoughts. It’s amazing to see life change when you shift the focus from the blaming of the outside world for everything to having and taking a bit more responsibility for how you feel. This maybe a huge shift for the world but yet it is the only way, thank you Rachel.
I love what you have said here Ray -and it is indeed powerful what Rachel has shared – when we stop blaming the outside and have a good look at how we are living then this can completely change our lives on all levels. It is the willingness to take real responsibility for how we breath, move and think.
I love this Rachel, it is never the job or the system that is at fault it is our reactions to it and lack of self- care and love that can lead to the burnout or the exhaustion or the lack of commitment. When we say YES to being committed to life everything simplifies and flows beautifully and we are supported endlessly to work in any profession and to be of true service.
Systems that break ‘good’ people down is a familiar story. I’m not saying we need to get rid of systems but more change their flavour. Systems that benefit the system aren’t producing results, systems that are about people bring together a community and the costs are way way less. Whatever you do if the focus is on the person first then this is a solid recipe, if the focus is on anything else then this recipe is for disaster. The disaster may not register straight away on the bottom line but the people in the system will be the carnage.
I love the way Rachel you are looking after yourself; self-caring and loving YOU so that you can care for and love your students and colleagues. I really appreciate the level of responsibility you bring to your teaching. There is no doubt teaching, at any level, can be overwhelming and very stressful; however we do have a choice as to what energy we bring into the classroom.
“It’s the claiming of myself that brings the strength” Such a powerful and deep realisation of what is truly supporting us in our jobs. Connecting with what we bring, claiming it in full and taking care of ourselves in all the process, is pure joy and true service in action.
I am blown away by your commitment to yourself Rachel. I can see from all you have shared that commitment makes life far more joyful – how strange it is that that I have avoided committing to myself and all other aspect of life in full. It is definitely time to change that.
Rachel what really stood out for me in what you share was the fact that it all came back to developing a commitment to self, from here you develop a solid foundation to then step into life with a strength, vitality and loving purpose. It shows how important our connection to self is and that this connection forms the foundation of who we are.
This is the key Jade you have summed it up well. I was waiting for my external environment to change…finding that perfect school so that I could be ‘comfortable’ and manage my job and life It was a slow dawning that no such school existed that matched the picture I had in my head and I realised the only thing I could really change was myself. By making the commitment to myself it was amazing to feel how everything flowed and how much stronger, more loving and vital I became. Building this foundation meant I could deal with school the environment like never before.