Teachers improving their Teacher Mental Health by talking in therapy.

7 Useful Tips for Improving Teacher Mental Health

As much as I love teaching, I can’t lie and say that my teacher mental health has always been where I wanted it to be! Between creating lesson plans to get in all the standards, dealing with student behavioral and educational issues, and handling emergencies that arise out of nowhere, teachers are ridiculously overwhelmed by EVERYTHING! Did I mention the expectations placed on teachers by everyone who isn’t a teacher? These pale in comparison to the expectations we place on ourselves– I promise!

While most of the causes of Teacher Stress are completely out of our control, there are things that we as teachers can do to help ourselves! Here are 7 useful tips (that I have used myself!) to help improve your Teacher Mental Health.

1. Sleep improves Teacher Mental Health

It may be hard to hear this, but getting enough sleep is the first step to improving your teacher mental health! It’s beyond important because sleep: 

Getting plenty of sleep helps improve your teacher mental health
  • regulates your mood (keeping you from being cranky, anxious, depressed, etc…)
  • is essential for making good decisions, learning new information, and remembering important things
  • strengthens your immune system to keep you from getting sick

I can personally attest to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation. When my daughter was a baby, she did not sleep through the night for almost 2 years! Most mornings, I went to school on 2-4 hours of sleep. I was constantly on the verge of tears and did all I could to just survive the day. When she finally slept through the night, my whole world changed! More sleep instantly improved my entire well-being!

So… don’t grade those papers! Shut down your computer. Put away your phone. Relax with some “Sleepy Time” Tea and a good book (or any other way that helps you relax). Then, head to bed and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body will get what it physiologically needs to run well, putting you on the right track towards feeling better.

2. Take time for yourself

“Practicing Self-Care” is a running joke in Teacher Forums and Faculty Workrooms right now- with good reason! Districts tell teachers to “practice self-care”, then promptly scold them for “not working hard enough” to get the job done. It rings false when higher-ups say, “Take time for yourself”, but keep adding more to your plate!

Taking time to hang out with friends will improve your teacher mental health

So, as your teacher friend, I am telling you… it’s not only ok to do things that make you happy- it’s essential to your teacher mental health!

If those papers don’t get graded today because you went to a movie with your friends, it’s not the end of the world!

If lesson plans are only halfway written because you took your family out to dinner after ball practice, the world will still keep turning!

I’m going to say this nice and loud so you really hear it…. YOU ARE A PERSON! Your entire identity does not revolve around school! You don’t have to “deserve” a break or “earn” time to enjoy yourself! Go for a walk, play outside with your kids, have coffee with a friend, or go shopping! Your Teacher Mental Health will thank you!

3. Share your feelings with a Teacher Friend

There’s nothing like talking to a friend who knows how you’re feeling to help you through a tough time. And who “gets it” better than a fellow teacher?

Two teachers venting frustrations to improve their teacher mental health.

If you need to share little things that are bothering you or big problems that you need help with, venting to a trusted teacher friend with a listening ear can be a huge relief!

Whether that friend shares insight, a possible solution, or simply remains silent while you spill, just getting those bottled-up emotions out will make you feel better.

So chat with a teacher friend over coffee during planning. Call up your friend at home after a particularly stressful day. Just talk about it to someone who cares!

If you feel awkward venting to someone at your school, know that I am always here for you! Just email me and say what you need to say, friend. There is no judgment here. Every teacher has most likely had feelings and experiences similar to yours, I promise- you aren’t the only one!

4. Take a Teacher Mental Health Break

I can’t tell you how many times being cooped up in my classroom made me crazy! The human body needs movement and sunlight. In fact, scientific studies have even shown that fresh air and sunshine produce serotonin- the chemical that makes you feel happy! So when you’re really feeling stressed during the school day… take a break!  

A teacher taking a break outside to improve their teacher mental health.

Often times on sunny days, I took my work outside during my planning time. Just sitting in the sun while I worked lifted my mood.

When the weather was gross, I took a walk down the hallway. Looking at cute student work that my teacher friends had hung up in the hallway wasn’t a huge workout, but just getting up and away from my classroom for a few minutes made a difference!

What if you can’t take a break because you have kids with you? Include your students! 

  • Take a fun dance break by playing a song from Just Dance Kids on YouTube!
  • Complete a physical challenge or PE activity on Go Noodle!
  • Play Charades with your Vocabulary words! One student acts out the meaning while everyone else copies their actions while trying to guess the word!
  • Take your kids outside for a “Follow the Leader” style walk. Or better yet, 5-10 minutes on the playground… and you play with them!
  • Stop in the middle of a lesson for some quick jumping jacks, running in place, arm crosses, and touching hands to opposite knees. 

Movement gets your heart rate up and increases blood flow to the brain. The extra oxygen in your brain wakes you up and the increase in your serotonin levels makes you feel happy!

5. Make your classroom a calming oasis!

Do you want to know the first thing I did when I walked into my classroom every single morning? I turned on my lamps and calming music!  

A calm classroom environment can improve teacher mental health.

Fluorescent lights are the worst thing in the world for the rapid depletion of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin make you feel sad, so keep those fluorescent lights off!

Use as much natural light as you can, and grab some lamps to light up the rest of your room. The soft glow of lamps will help you feel much calmer with just the flick of a switch!

Softly playing soothing music also helps set a peaceful mood for your classroom. Only, I didn’t just start the day with my calming music- I kept it playing for the entire day!

While I was teaching? Yes! I kept the volume level down low enough so that I could barely hear the music and was able to speak normally without having to yell to be heard.

When I first started playing music all day, it felt a bit strange. But after a few days, I didn’t even notice it. It just became a part of my calming classroom. And it can easily be a part of your too! Search YouTube for calming music or click here to listen to the music I loved playing in my own classroom!

6. Prioritize your Teacher Mental Health over your Lesson Plan

Every teacher has days where their teacher mental health isn’t in a good place. You know the days where it’s a win just to get out of bed? Yeah, I’ve had those days too, friend. 

A teacher struggling with their teacher mental health.

Whether it’s a fight that morning with your spouse, you aren’t feeling well and couldn’t get a sub, or you’re stressed over schoolwork, you just don’t see how you’re going to make it through the day without crying in the bathroom at least twice.

And that is OK! You are a human being with feelings and real world problems that don’t go away just because you have 25 students who need you (that just adds to our guilt!).

I once worked with a Teacher Friend who told me that every single second counted in the classroom. “It’s wasteful not to spend each second teaching,” she said. While I agree that class time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted, there are ways to keep your students learning on days where all you can do is survive. Give yourself the grace to believe this is ok!

If you mentally, emotionally, or physically can not teach, make the school day easier by pushing that lesson you “have to do” to tomorrow and try these activities instead…

Teacher Mental Health Break Student Activities: 

Student taking a break to read under a tree.
  • Give your students 15 minutes to build with Legos or blocks. After, write a 1-and-a-half-page story using what they built as inspiration.
  • Use Mad Libs to review parts of speech.
  • Take your kids outside to read or write a story inspired by something they see happening outside.
  • Watch Shaun the Sheep on YouTube and have your class make inferences and predictions while watching.
  • Have students each read a different picture book. After, create a mini poster with illustrations and 3 reasons why other students should read their book as well. Then share posters with the class.

You never know when a difficult day will pop up out of nowhere. I always liked to keep a folder of activities (already printed with enough copies for the whole class) so that I was prepared in advance. Let me tell you, this folder was a lifesaver on some pretty awful days!Browse our partner-sponsored Glasses, with a variety of options to suit every taste and budget, available to buy online

Free Emergency Printable Activities for Teachers

If you need quick, easy activities to keep on hand for days that you’re struggling, grab this free packet of Emergency” printable resources! They are there to help you make it through difficult days. I hope they help!

Activities like “Cupcake Creations” and “I Discovered a Strange Plant” require no prep, but still ask students to think critically. You don’t have to feel guilty on those “survival days” because your students will still be learning.

The activities in this free packet can be completed as independent quiet seatwork (if you need students to work on their own), in partners (where students can help each other instead of coming to you for help), or as a whole group (if you need some fun laughter to boost your spirits). You know what you can handle on these “survival days”. Just do what you can to make it through and tomorrow will be better!

7. Reach out to a Mental Health Professional

There’s only so much a good night’s sleep and a day off can cure, friend. If you have tried several suggestions and these things help only in the short term or not at all, please reach out to a professional.

Teacher reaching out to a therapist for professional mental health help.

Therapists and Counselors can offer professional support and strategies that are beyond what a friend can provide.

You are an amazing person who deserves to be happy and enjoy your life!

If you feel that reaching out to a professional Mental Health expert can help you, then don’t wait! It’s better to go ahead and talk to someone than to spend one more minute feeling the way you do right now. ❤️

How are you doing?

It could be just a tough day here and there. It could be that you’re “in a funk” because of your current circumstances. Whatever your situation is, when you’re struggling emotionally, your joy for teaching and your life outside of school suffer. I know because I’ve been there too, friend.

Thankfully, the above tips have helped me out of some difficult times over my 19 years in the classroom. I wanted to share what worked for me in hopes that you might find something that can help you, too.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-year teacher or a veteran of 20 years. You will go through tough times in the classroom. Just know that things usually get better and so many people care for you! ❤️  

Pin These Teacher Mental Health Tips

Whether you struggle during the gray winter months or get overwhelmed any time of the year, save this post to your Teacher Pinterest Boards. I hope you find these tips helpful when you need them most! 

Pinterest Pin Improving Teacher Mental Health

If you ever need me, I’m here for you! Teacher Sparkle always grows when it has other Teacher Sparkle for support and encouragement! ❤️


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I’m the face behind All That Teacher Sparkle! I’m so glad you’re here!

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