The Case for Educator Self-Care
Saying that teaching is tough is a bit of an understatement. Between teaching, creating lesson plans, answering parent emails, grading, and everything else educators work through, teachers are under a substantial amount of stress. While some of these challenges are less under our control, one thing that is under our control is how we address self-care.
Self-care is any deliberate activity aimed to support mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Although it seems like a simple concept, taking care of ourselves is something that can be easily forgotten. This is especially true during the holiday season, during parent conferences, and the back to school rush, just to name a few specific times.
As educators and as humans, taking care of ourselves is critical. It helps reduce stress, improves mood, and promotes a sense of calm. More self-care can even help you be a better teacher. It’s worth taking the time to incorporate more self-care into your life. And most importantly, you deserve it for yourself.
Making Self-Care a Practice
Self-care is best when it’s planned proactively. That means taking the time to schedule important things for yourself and not overcommitting so that you do have time for you.
It’s important to note that self-care isn’t always spa appointments and bubble baths. More often than not, healthy long-term self-care is about setting limits, making positive time for yourself, and encouraging yourself to make good choices. It might mean waking up earlier to go to the gym, spending time reading your favorite book, or saying “no” when asked to lead an extra after school club.
To add more self-care into your life, choose a few activities that you think will help you. Don’t try to do them all. Stick to a few that you know you can commit to. Make a plan for yourself and reassess as you go.
Strategies for Self-Care
Here are 15+ ways you can add self-care into your life:
Treat yourself when you need it. Whether it’s a coffee, a massage, or a shopping trip, treat yourself when you need it. It’s important to find what works for you.
Remember to start fresh every day. As an educator, some days are hard. It’s so important to start every day with a fresh mindset. Not only does it help the students, but it will help you, too.
Connect with uplifting colleagues. Find the teacher friends who will listen to you, encourage you, and lift you up.
Do physical activities you enjoy. Whether it’s a daily workout, a yoga class, or jogging with your dog, find the physical activities you love to do most. Then, make them a routine in your life. Sometimes, this can be hard! Make a schedule and try to stick with it. Even in the times when you don’t feel like doing it in the moment, you will always be thankful later on.
Take a break when you need one. We all need breaks sometimes, in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Whether you need a mental health day or just a few minutes to yourself, take a break when you need it most.
Spend time journaling. If you love writing, journaling can be an excellent strategy to improve self-awareness and help you become more in touch with your everyday emotions. Spend just a few minutes a day writing down how you’re feeling, what happened, and what thoughts are going through your mind. Sometimes, just writing them down can help you think things through.
Use positive self-talk. Positive thinking can have a huge impact on our mental health and well-being. Work to recognize your more negative thoughts. Then, reframe them into more positive ones. Saying phrases like, “Today is going to be a great day,” and “This might be tough, but I can do it,” can help you through tough times.
Go for a walk or spend time outside. Spending time outside can be extremely healing and mindful. On the nice days, make an effort to spend a few extra minutes outside, whether that means reading on the porch or taking a walk around the block. You can even consider spending some time outside with your students when weather allows.
Read a good book (just for you). As educators, many of us are often reading to help choose books for our learners or improve our teaching craft. Instead of focusing on reading for teaching, spend time finding and reading a book just for you.
Plan an activity to look forward to. It’s always nice to have something positive to look forward to. Schedule a special dinner with friends, grab tickets for a concert, or plan your family vacation ahead of time.
Spend time with friends and family. It’s true that spending extra time with family and friends can help you feel happier and more fulfilled. Your time with family and friends matters.
Leave work at school for the night or weekend. As an educator, the work is really never done. There is always more than can be planned or graded. Practice leaving work at school over the night. Even more, leave it for the entire weekend to give you the extra family time you deserve.
Spend less time on social media. While there are many benefits to social media, there are a lot of drawbacks, too. Consider taking a peek in your phone’s setting to see how much time each day you’re really spending on social media. Now, just imagine what else you could be doing with that time for yourself! Make a goal to spend a little less time on social media each day.
Bring healthy snacks and meals. Good nutrition can go a long way in helping you to feel your best. Spend some time over the weekend planning what you could bring during the work week. Try planning to bring in one healthy snack each day, like carrots, nuts, or yogurt. Again, it’s important to find what works for you!
Delete your work email from your phone. Sometimes, self-care is about setting limits. If you notice that your work emails are interfering without life outside of school hours, it’s worth considering deleting it from your home. Your you-time matters and the work can wait.
Be comfortable saying “no” to more obligations. You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to. The next time someone asks you to commit to an extra obligation, really ask yourself if you want to do it or not. Be comfortable saying “no” when you don’t want more added onto your plate.
Give yourself grace. Be kind to yourself! Recognize that you won’t always be perfect and that’s perfectly okay.
If you need some extra reminders, grab this self-care poster for your classroom or the teacher’s room!
What other self-care activities are the most meaningful for you? Share yours!