Mental health diary: the reality of working from home as a teacher during coronavirus

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This Mental Health Awareness Week, Stylist is sharing mental health diaries from key workers on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus. Here, a teacher shares a glimpse into a day in her life.

I’m a 29-year-old secondary school teacher in Bristol. I’ve been working full time from home and have been teaching ‘live’ classes online. I have been on a key workers support rota, so have been in school once to support key workers’ kids, but so many teachers volunteered to do this that I haven’t been in again since! I am due to go in (voluntarily) over the half-term holiday.

I’ve gotten into the swing of things now, but the inconsistent messages from the government about returning to school are definitely a source of stress as it’s almost impossible to know what to plan. I was diagnosed with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder around eight years ago but it’s very much under control now and, although it can come in waves, I am very well educated on how to deal with difficult times and have an amazing support network. My mental health has been better than I expected during lockdown, but the uncertainty of what is to come is definitely taking its toll.

7am: My alarm goes off and although I had a pretty rubbish night’s sleep last night (I have to finish planning a lesson for first thing this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it). I knew I should have just carried on working at the end of the day to avoid this.

I end up snoozing until 7.20am at which point my husband brings me a cup of tea and we sit in bed and listen to the news. It’s as it has been for as long as I can remember now – more coronavirus updates and no signs of being able to see family any time soon.

bed
"I end up scrolling on my phone for no reason even though I know I need to just get out of bed."

I reply to a few messages and, after checking a Facebook notification, end up scrolling on my phone for no reason even though I know I need to just get out of bed. I was planning on doing yoga before starting work but my snoozing and sitting in bed for too long mean that is no longer a possibility. I will try and do a lunch session instead, or maybe squeeze it in after work.

For now, it’s time to get on with my work. I’m not feeling too bad mentally today, apart from feeling guilty about yoga.

1pm: My lessons have gone well this morning which puts me in a good mood. I am actually amazed at how grateful the students have been after each lesson. So many of them say thank you, which is not normal when we are in school as the majority of them are often more concerned with being teenagers and getting off to their next lesson. 

This noticeable change makes me sad as I know that they are all lonely at home and are therefore more grateful for the contact time with me - although of course, it is nice to know that they actually enjoy my lessons too. Strangely, I have felt more needed as a teacher than ever during this strange time. I know they are really missing their friends.

I’m still feeling guilty that I haven’t done yoga. It’s one of my goals to complete a 30-day course, but it’s looking like the 30-day timeline might extend to more like 60 at the moment.

I’m going to make myself some lunch but I know I need to be careful about what I do when I eat. When it’s been nice outside, my husband and I have been lucky enough to sit in our garden but since it’s been colder, I usually eat while watching an episode of something, which can be a slippery slope to wanting to watch more! 

I decide to finish watching Kinky Boots which I started last night as there’s only 20 minutes left, and manage to get back to my work.

6pm: I go for a run before eating. It’s my husband’s turn to cook tonight. I am planning on doing yoga when I get back. The run is tough – I am so much less active than normal during lockdown.

As a teacher, I’m usually on my feet all day and I cycle to and from work, as well as doing circuits and yoga once a week. This means that today I generally feel a lot more sluggish and heavy-boned as I try to navigate myself around Bristol’s unforgiving hilly roads.

When I get back I decide that I am too tired for yoga and have a bath instead. I feel a bit rubbish about this, but I’m pleased that I managed to get out of the house (which definitely isn’t a given every day). Yoga will have to wait until tomorrow.

10pm: In bed, my husband listens to a podcast, which I don’t mind at first but ends up irritating me as he falls asleep almost instantly, while I sometimes struggle to drift off. This means I’m left listening to someone talking, seemingly louder and louder, and the source of the noise is on his side of the bed.

I get out of bed reluctantly and in a bit of a huff, switch it off, unbeknownst to him. It takes me a while to switch my brain off; I’m thinking about what I need to do tomorrow.

It’s my mum’s 60th birthday this month and I start thinking about how I wish we could see her in person. It makes me sad because I know how excited she was to see us all, and I’m missing both my parents desperately. I’m even considering travelling up to the midlands just to go on a walk with my mum that day.

I set my alarm in the hope that I will have the motivation to do yoga in the morning.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on mental health charity Mind’s website or see the NHS’ list of mental health helplines here

Illustration: May van Millingen

Other images: Unsplash

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