Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a powerful form of therapy, in which patients learn to analyse their thoughts and behaviours, considering where they may be adding to their own negativity and unhappiness, rather than diffusing it.
CBT is often used to treat people with Anxiety, Depression and a range of other mental health problems; problems that are sadly rife amongst educators. To note one study from this year alone, researchers at Leeds Becket University found that 54% of teachers surveyed described themselves as having poor mental health, and 52% of those people had been referred to a GP because of it.
Let me just say here that the onus should always be on schools and employers overall, to look after the mental health and wellbeing of their staff.
The problem is… this just isn’t happening quickly enough. And in some cases, it isn’t happening at all. When this is the case, people begin to feel powerless, and hopeless; feeling that there is nothing that they can do in the face of all this stress and misery.
CBT Techniques such as the ones below aren’t a ‘cure-all’ for the countless problems faced by the modern teacher… but they can really help, if only because they allow you to regain some control over a bad situation.
**If you are struggling with stress or anxiety, the Samaritans offer help 24 hours a day, seven days a week**
The following tips are from my latest TES article:
1. Getting out of the negative cycle
In certain pressurised situations, when our buttons have been pushed one too many times, even the most calm and measured of professionals can feel that they have little control over their own thoughts, feelings or even actions.
Let’s say, for example, that you are the unwilling victim of an irate parent first thing this morning – and it’s completely OK to be bothered by that. But if you’re still “carrying” this misery, along with gut-churning stomach cramps into the late evening, then it’s likely you’re unconsciously adding fuel to the fire.
Are you continuously replaying the scene in vivid Technicolor? Try to change up the image by adding a pink wig and banana suit into the mix. Flip the negative emotion into something silly and laughable.
Do you loop around negative thoughts, based on how you should have handled things differently, even resorting to insults and name-calling? Consider what you’d say to a friend in this situation and instead, kindly tell it to your inner self.
Have you checked-in on your own verbal and body language? If you’re walking around with slumped shoulders and your eyes down, only looking up to tell anyone who’ll hear about this outrageous encounter, you’re actively turning a small albeit unpleasant moment into a day-long mood.
2. Check your facts
For me, one of the most powerful messages a patient gains through cognitive behaviour therapy is that your thoughts are not facts. Just because something pops into your head, doesn’t mean it’s reliable or true or even helpful. So we need to interrogate our thoughts.
Perhaps your mind is repeatedly telling you that you can’t cope with a looming situation – maybe a second encounter with the irate parent – and as such you’re a “pathetic waste of space”.
Not only is this a long way off from being constructive criticism, is it even accurate? Is there any hard evidence that you can’t cope, other than your thoughts and resulting sensations?
Maybe there’s even more evidence to the contrary, to show that you have coped with this and much worse.
With this in mind, it might be wise to come up with a more realistic, less emotive statement, such as: “It’s okay not to look forward to this – no one would. Whatever happens though, I’ll handle it as best as I can.”