The Anxious Educator
In a field where students are experiencing higher rates of anxiety and depression, what happens when the educator to these students is also anxious and depressed?
About two years ago, I was that educator. I was in a space both mentally and physically where I felt defeated and sad. Even though not everyone could tell, I regularly had panic attacks in meetings. I was angry, felt highly underutilized, and was depleted of my energy.
I was in an advising capacity where I heard from students all day. I loved this part of my job, but it certainly wasn’t easy. On any given day, I could hear about suicide,stalking, relationship issues, microagressions, and illness.
It was a lot to absorb and as someone that had their own set of issues at the time, it was a lot to manage. Students enjoyed my advising and for that I am grateful, but I think about how much more helpful I could have been if I could have come to terms with what I was experiencing then much earlier. It took me months to accept my mental health concerns and finally seek help from a counselor, but I did it. It took a while to heal through what had become my norm but I was able to move forward because I finally prioritized myself.
I then thought about how many other educators I have heard from that have anxiety and depression and it led me to question how much support educators in the room actually receive. Many experience lack of resources, ineffective management, and burn out on the regular. The conversations become “Oh ya, it’s normal that you work every night and you should be working on the weekends.” This culture is NOT ok.
Educators are humans too. We are not labor horses. We too have lives and should be comfortable setting boundaries and healthy habits for ourselves. We also need help and in order to best serve our students, we must heal and speak up against the normalization of running on fumes. We must be kind enough to ourselves to not just be aware of the support we need, but also to advocate for creating our own spaces of inner happiness.
It’s ok to leave a toxic environment. It’s ok to seek professional help. It’s ok to not feel like you have high energy 24/7. It’s ok if you don’t smile everyday. We are multifaceted human beings and at the end of the day, we deserve to feel emotionally fulfilled. You will thank yourself for that in the long run and inadvertently your students will too.