This blog post for wellbeing week is written from a very personal perspective. I’m not a wellbeing expert and my thoughts might be in conflict with yours but that’s part of promoting wellbeing – accepting we’re all different but still being able to empathise.
Isn’t it great that wellbeing has become a huge focus within Early Years and education as a whole recently? ‘Wellbeing’ seems to be the latest buzz word which is fantastic for the sector but becomes a worry that the concept is not fully understood. Social media is full of ways settings and schools are supporting the wellbeing of practitioners and teachers. Unfortunately, some come across as tokenistic and make me wonder about the impact on those suffering with anxiety who already feel a sense of incompetence. ‘My name isn’t on the board yet. Why?’, ‘Some staff have lots more than me…what am I doing wrong?’ ‘I did that yesterday but it’s not been mentioned on the board. Perhaps I didn’t do a good enough job.’
I’m one of those people, filled with self-doubt which could be fuelled by tokenistic gestures. Promoting wellbeing is more than this. I don’t want to be completely negative over shout out boards – perhaps they work for some – but certain incentives can increase a sense of anxiety and worthlessness amongst staff, growing into a huge ball of ‘I’m not good enough’.
Anxiety, just like some physical illness are not visible, can be a condition which others may not know you suffer from. It can be successfully hidden by some yet still chip away at confidence and self-esteem. Little things are mulled over and turned into huge problems which wake you at 2am. Anxiety can be fuelled by many factors which can be different for everyone but needs acceptance and normalisation. If you suffer from anxiety, you are still more than capable of being a committed, dedicated member of a team with lots to offer employees, colleagues and children.
Working with children and young people can be a highly pressurised role with massive accountability. Factor in the workload and it’s not a surprise that wellbeing suffers. Understanding the aspects associated with wellbeing and accepting that everyone handles stress in different ways can help us move forwards from a feeling of having to keep anxiety hidden away.
Checking in on colleagues can be just the boost someone needs to know that they are valued. Being alert for signs of anxiety in others – has someone come in unusually quiet that day? Have they not eaten lunch? Perhaps they’re looking tired? Just picking up on simple signs and looking out for others can bring about a positive environment where mental health is safeguarded – staff coming together to protect their own mental health and that of others so that the wellbeing of all is prioritised.
Just knowing that your colleagues ‘have your back’ can be a driving force in feeling safe, protected and valued. It can help us feel like we have some control and that we are in fact good enough. Approaching wellbeing need not be complicated but requires understanding and thought. We need to begin with accepting that we are all different – how we approach situations, the way we handle stress, the impact of a negative comment – what one person can shrug off, another could dwell on for days.
Protecting our own wellbeing is an important life skill which is regularly overlooked as we put the needs of others over our own. We invest a huge part of ourselves in the children and students we work with, emotionally draining in itself. To be the best we can be, we need to be kind to ourselves and others, empowering those around us to feel confident and self-assured…happy with who they are. We need to recognise when our mental health is off and not punish ourselves for that. Find strategies that work for you, whether that’s reading a book, walking, talking things over with a friend or having a piece of cake! What you need to know is that you are a capable human being who is strong, powerful and able to take charge of your wellbeing and positively influence that of others.
Emma is an Early Years Teacher and Masters student from Herefordshire. She writes a regular feature for Teach Early Years magazine and also guest blogs in her spare time. Emma loves picture books and reviews for many publishers.
As well as having a busy work life, Emma is studying for a Masters in Education and has a particular interest in literacy and wellbeing.
Follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaDee77