January Blues and Teacher Wellbeing

Blue Monday - New Year, New Anxiety

The third Monday of January has become known as “Blue Monday” – supposedly the year’s most depressing day. While the science behind Blue Monday may be questionable, the long, cold nights and post-holiday slump combine to make January a mentally-challenging month for many, especially teachers.

Starting a new term brings fresh challenges, be it new classes, revised curricula, or forms to fill out on top of the day-to-day challenges teachers and staff face. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the administrative workload and pressures facing schools and staff today.

On top of that, lack of sunlight exposure can aggravate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, leading to low motivation and mood. As teachers, our mental health impacts on both ourselves and our students – making self-care crucial.

Beating the January Blues: Supporting Staff Wellbeing Post-Holidays

The post-holiday slump leaves many school teachers and education staff emotionally drained and mentally unfocused. School staff face the same seasonal stressors as students – long nights, freezing weather, sickness bugs – but have the added workload pressures of a new school term. It’s hard for teachers to be fully present and patient with students when our tanks run on empty.

Yet students rely on us to remain steady role models, so we plaster on smiles and muddle through January feeling increasingly detached, irritable, and apathetic. The compounding stresses diminish creativity, compassion, and energy levels, which students quickly notice and mirror. It becomes a gloomy cycle of low moods and motivation. The truth is teachers cannot properly support and nurture students’ wellbeing without first taking care of our own needs. From self-care strategies to system-level changes easing burnout risk, prioritising staff mental health is essential for uplifting the entire school’s spirits during the winter period.

Blonde female teacher with head in her hands after a stressful class

Teacher Wellbeing and School Culture

So how can schools support and improve staff wellbeing and motivate the school workforce during January? 

There are small, achievable steps senior leaders and teachers can take to boost their staff wellbeing, manage stress and their own mental health, even on the dreariest of January days:

1. Prioritise Self-Care:


Set a daily 10-minute alarm for enjoying a warm drink while chatting with a colleague or doing gentle stretches. Taking this short break helps teachers mentally and physically recharge.


One way to promote practical support in schools for both teachers’ and pupil wellbeing is to convert unused rooms or building areas into staff-only/ student-only spaces for relaxation, offering comfortable seating, mood lighting, relaxation tools, healthy snacks and beverages.

2. Embrace Comfort


Combat stark school environments by bringing comforting touches like cozy blankets, herbal teas, essential oils and soothing music into staff spaces. Creating a refuge-like staffroom promotes teacher wellness. This can be an excellent way to relax.


It goes without saying that the teaching profession requires a level of professionalism in terms of personal conduct and dress, but encouraging staff to have a relaxed uniform day once a week or a month is one way to boost job satisfaction amongst staff members.

3. Get some sunlight


Despite the shorter darker days, you must get outside into the fresh air and get some natural light to lift your mood. We all know that natural daylight does a great job of raising your serotonin (our body’s feel-good chemical) levels, which are particularly low in winter. “Going outside can increase positive mood and alleviate depression,” says Kathryn A. Roecklein, Ph. Even on cold days, getting outside during lunch or free periods can lift your mood. Wrap up warm and go for a brief walk to clear your head.


Encourage school teachers to create lessons and activities that require gathering natural objects or making observations outdoors so learning incorporates movement. By creating a school culture that encourages small outdoor excursions into staff and students’ regular routines. It not only boosts mood-regulating sunlight exposure but can provide health benefits

from exercising eyes, changing position, breathing fresh air, and enjoying an aesthetically pleasing environment.

4. Seek support


Teachers can confide struggles in trusted colleagues who understand the realities they face or turn to designated mentors, counsellors, employee assistance programmes, or mental health first aiders to discuss job stressors confidentially. Schools could also survey staff on desired support services and policies that foster wellness.

With self-care and social support, teachers can overcome January blues and continue nurturing student growth. The winter won’t last forever – soon the mornings will brighten and signs of spring will lift our spirits.


Schools should hold open conversations with school staff and the deputy headteacher to support and promote wellbeing in the classroom. One way to do this to survey teachers on work factors and how they negatively impact their wellbeing and if staff feel supported or have access to practical support.

From this, the schools can make policy changes accordingly, fostering positive relationships between leadership and staff through open communication, providing access to confidential counsellors familiar with teacher stresses, offering opportunities for peer collaboration, building time for self-care into teacher schedules, incentivising the use of school wellness resources, and proactively supply classroom tools and training to prevent burnout.

Secondary Or High School Teacher Sitting In Classroom With Unhappy Male Student After Lesson

Burnout in school staff

Teacher burnout sneaks up slowly, as the initial spark of enthusiasm for the job gets gradually diluted by mounting paperwork, new initiatives, disciplinary issues, and meeting everyone’s needs except our own. It’s easy to ignore the subtle clues of impending burnout from our always-busy colleagues. Yet paying attention can allow for early intervention before toxic stress impacts health.

Symptoms of Burnout:

● Yawning during meetings

● Difficulty managing workload

● Relying on coffee as a constant companion

● Difficulty sleeping in the evening and getting up in the morning

● Having high levels of stress and anxiety

● Feeling and looking drained even after time off

● Forgetting tasks that used to be second nature

● Becoming impatient with student questions

● Withdrawing from social interactions can indicate rising exhaustion.

Reading between the lines and checking in on each other’s workload capacity with empathy allows us as education staff to restore balance through mentorship, dividing duties, or additional resources before teacher stress becomes a problem in the first place. Spotting the early warning signs helps sustain educators’ passion so they can continue nurturing young minds without running on empty.

Here are some tips for teachers to avoid stress and burnout:

1. Set Boundaries:

Be protective of your time by setting clear limits on your availability outside of contract hours. Say no to non-essential extra responsibilities.

2. Take Breaks:

Make sure to take your full lunch break plus short breaks to walk away from your desk, get a drink, or do some deep breathing exercises.

3. Connect With Colleagues:

Build positive relationships with coworkers for support and collaboration. Vent frustrations together or brainstorm solutions rather than isolating.

4. Practise Self-Care:

Eat nutritious meals, exercise, get enough sleep, partake in relaxing hobbies, and do things unrelated to teaching to boost your mood.

5. Set Realistic Expectations:

Be honest with yourself and leadership about what is achievable given available resources and don’t take ownership over systemic issues.

6. Ask For Help

Seek assistance from mentors or the administration rather than struggling alone. Delegate, collaborate with colleagues, or get professional support services if needed.

Black female teacher discussing safeguarding training with a colleague

Promoting a Positive Mental Health in the Classroom

The challenges teachers face come part and parcel with rich rewards in the classroom that make the profession so meaningful. As we weather the seasonal slump in January, supporting and focusing on supporting each other is everything. 

While January brings struggles, utilising available support systems when high levels of stress and anxiety start to affect our mental health, taking care of ourselves and colleagues allows teachers to continue making an invaluable difference. Though this month may feel long and dreary, the days are already growing longer as we move closer to spring and renewed sunshine in the months ahead!


Teacher Wellbeing Index

Education Support is the only UK charity dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and education staff in schools, colleges and universities. Their annual Teacher Wellbeing Index provides an insight into the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and education staff working in the UK. For any headteacher, assistant headteacher or senior leaders it is worthwhile reading the report and its findings to support staff wellbeing in the school community and wider education workforce.

Don’t forget to check out our ‘After The Bell’ podcast, which you can listen to on a weekly basis on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

If you would like any more information, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at info@connex-academy.com or call 01253 543 660. 

About Connex Academy

As a team of educators and learning enthusiasts, we are dedicated to providing flexible self-paced training courses to students wanting to improve their careers in education.

Latest news

Follow Us

Spread the cost

If you would like to spread the cost of your course over six months, you can do so easily through interest free direct debit payments.

We will then contact you to make the first payment upfront and once paid you will be able to begin your course and we will send you a Gocardless link to complete a direct debit mandate for future payments.

Feel free to ask us any questions about the course before proceeding with payment.

Please note we do not need to perform any credit checks and you will only receive your certificate once the balance is paid.