Mental Health for Educators

By |2021-01-07T08:20:08-07:00January 19th, 2021|

Sparkchasers Episode 19 | Show Notes

Managing the Madwoman in the Attic


Today’s episode is important because we’re going to be talking about some stuff that often gets pushed to the back for educators and that’s our mental well-being. Especially during this school year, we need to bring mental health to the front of the line. Not just for ourselves, but for our students as well.

But before we get into that, I want to remind you that our Arts Integration Bootcamp has just started and there’s still time left to join us. This is a FREE month-long, action-oriented plan to help you kick start creativity in your classroom. Each week, you’ll receive free training on a new strategy, a single task you can use in your lesson planning, and a community of others for support and encouragement. By the end of the month, you’ll walk away with an actionable plan for integrating a creative strategy into your classroom or school. Everything culminates with the enrollment opening for our 2021 Arts Integration Certification program. So if you’re curious about the process and want to participate, head over to here for all the details.

Something a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’ve lived with depression since I was in college. For about half of my life, I’ve gone to therapy, learned invaluable skills for coping with negative self-talk, and have occasionally taken medication when needed. Over the past 6 months, I’ve had so many educators tell me they have had to seek help for mental exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. And what distresses me most is how they talk about it – as if they are ashamed they needed support.

Friend – if this is you or if this is someone you teach or someone you love please know: there is nothing shameful about working on our mental well-being. In fact, it’s one of the greatest gifts you could give or receive. Today, I’m going to share an idea I’ve learned that has helped me and I hope will also support you in this journey.

Who is Your Madwoman?

In the book Jane Eyre, main character Edwin Rochester has a first wife who has been locked in the attic because she has been declared insane. She is literally the madwoman in the attic. But what’s interesting is that this is really a metaphor for the voice or person we all have living in our minds. The voice we hear when things go wrong, or we make a mistake, or even when we’re just trying to decide what to do. 

  • Consider what your madwoman sounds like
  • When does your madwoman get most vocal?
  • How do you feel when the madwoman begins to take over?
  • Talk about this with a trusted friend or family member. What does their madwoman sound like?

The Importance of Naming 

One of the best ways to work with your madwoman is to name it and give it “legs”. This might seem counterintuitive. After all…do you really want to make your madwoman seem more real? But I have found that making your madwoman a character of sorts gives you the ability to decide and control your reaction to their often negative voice. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to name your madwoman. This is where the arts can help. You may want to draw the colors or outline of what the madwoman sounds like. Or, you may want to create a movement or gesture to help remind yourself what you’re thinking isn’t helpful right now. 

These techniques tie into the social-emotional competencies we work on as well. So often, we think SEL is just for our students. But we can access these ideas, too. 

  1. Give your madwoman a name. By simply making that voice in your head a character – which happens when you name something – you immediately lessen its power over you.
  2. If you can’t name your madwoman, use art to show what that voice looks or feels like. This is an incredibly freeing action. Take away the pressure of words and instead, simply use color, line, texture, and form to show what this voice feels or sounds like. This is an excellent tool for students as well.
  3. Describe the feels. What kind of voice do you hear when those nagging thoughts creep in? Is it shrill, angry, disgusted? Is it soft but worried? Try using similes to describe your voice. “My madwoman is angry like the character in Inside Out.”

Action vs. Reaction

Now that you are aware there’s another voice inside you that might not always be there for your greatest good, you get to decide whether or not to respond. If you listen to that voice, you can consider whether to react on impulse or to take strategic action.

  • Action is deliberate. You can acknowledge the voice’s concerns or process and then either move forward or decide to take over the driving for now.
  • Reaction is primal. You give up control when you react which can make you feel even worse. When we listen to the voice and react out of fear, worry, or anger, we lose the ability to slow down and allow time and space to provide perspective.

So there’s a quick way to begin loosening the grip of anxiety, worry, and fear this year. Identify your madwoman, name it and describe it however you can, and then decide what kind of action you will take. Just these 3 steps can make a powerful difference in your days. There is so much more on this topic we could cover – and we will in future episodes. But for now, try starting with this process and see if these steps are helpful.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about this topic.  Remember, you can use the ask me anything button to share with me your ideas and what’s bubbling to the surface for you. And if you are enjoying the show and know someone who could benefit from our discussions, please share the podcast with them. Together, we can chase the spark of our ideas and make a brighter future for everyone. I’ll see you soon.

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