Self-Care Strategies for Teachers
Phew! Teaching is hard work! Self-care strategies for teachers are of the utmost importance. There’s planning, classroom management, creating curricula, grading, professional development, mentoring – well, I guess I don’t have to tell you how much we cram into our days because you already know. Add in family, hobbies, just trying to have a life and suddenly, BAM, you’ve filled up all 24 hours of the day and still have more to do. You haven’t even slept yet – YIKES! – and then you get asked to sit on the school improvement planning committee…listen, I get it. The good news is after I enrolled in Advancement Courses and took a class on self-care strategies for teachers, I felt so much better. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned along the way.
I know that we all became teachers because deep down we want to make the world a better place and that we’re super dedicated people who want to do all of the things, but the reality is that we just can’t. Say it with me – we just can’t do everything. It’s impossible (and that’s ok). The harshest fact of all is, we won’t be able to do anything if we don’t start practicing some serious self-care. Teachers are caregivers, and the importance of self-care for caregivers of all types cannot be stressed enough.
You may be asking, “What is self-care?” The generally accepted self-care definition is anything that we do purposefully to take care of our own physical, mental, spiritual, and/or emotional health. What keeps you healthy? What makes you feel good? Where do you find your joy? The answers to those questions are your personal self-care activities.
Let’s start with a self-care assessment. This might be a good time to start a self-care journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use one of the composition notebooks you purchased in case a student couldn’t buy one for himself or herself. Now, take self-care notes to think about the questions I asked you above.
Do you have specific things you do to stay healthy? It doesn’t have to be something huge, like a two-hour daily workout (though that might work for some of you). When I was in the classroom, I had a ritual which I believe helped to keep away potential illnesses – every day before I left, I would quickly wipe down all of the desk and common surfaces with antibacterial wipes. It took only a few minutes, but I believe it kept me much healthier than I would otherwise have been.
How about what you do to make yourself feel good? I know you spend your days making others feel good, but what about you? When was the last time you did something just because it made you feel good? It’s not selfish to do things that make you feel good. You spend your whole lives caring for others. You must remember to take care of yourself, too. I like to take a few minutes every day to read my horoscope and a daily devotion. It helps to keep my spiritual center.
Lastly, where do you find your joy? What makes you feel that deep down satisfaction, that true success? Do you have goals to help you reach that success and have you made time to work towards those goals? I have written before about creating a vision board so that your goals are right in front of you. Seeing them inspires you to work towards them. One self-care idea for you might be to create your own vision board.
Leave work at work
Sometimes I swear that the tote bag industry is financially supported by teachers. We fill up those giant sacks with papers to grade and plan books and so on, intending to get to all of it when we get home. We drag it to the car then into the house, where our lives intercede, and that bag stares at us from the corner all night, creating untold amounts of teacher guilt. Please stop doing this to yourself. The world will not crumble if your students get their essays back next week instead of tomorrow. I promise. Leave work at work.
Even if it’s only for a few minutes every day, take the time to go outdoors. There is something wonderfully peaceful about standing in the open and breathing fresh air. The body craves sunlight – make sure it gets some every day (but remember to wear sunscreen, please).
Drink Plenty of Water
Did you know that dehydration is a huge contributor to daytime tiredness? Though the numbers vary from person to person, health care experts generally recommend that you drink 64 ounces of water per day. That’s a half gallon every day for optimum hydration. This can be tricky for teachers, as we all know you probably only have one potty break a day, if that. Try substituting in water for that afternoon cup of coffee. Once your body is properly hydrated, you might even find that you no longer need the caffeine boost.
Take Time for You
Though teachers tend to be social creatures, people so to speak, we all need some time to ourselves, too. Make sure that you spend that time doing something that makes you feel good or brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be a large chunk of time, though that would be great. Five minutes sprinkled here and there throughout the day can have just as many benefits and will likely be much easier to fit into your schedule. As I mentioned earlier, I take time daily to read my horoscope and a devotion, both of which are on apps. Some people meditate; others do mindful breathing or a few yoga poses. Do what works for you, but please take the time to do it daily.
One of the hardest self-help skills for teachers seems to be pampering ourselves. We give and give and give. The thought of squandering time and/or money on ourselves seems almost sacrilegious. However, you must take care of yourself. Pampering yourself can actually pay out many times over because when you feel good, you are more able to make others feel good.
Mindfulness just means focusing your mind on what is happening in the present. There are many paths to mindfulness, meditation being one of the most popular. There are numerous types of meditation, many of which take no longer than a few moments with practice. Mindfulness for teachers is especially important. In the classroom, being focused on the present, instead of worrying about that grading you haven’t done or how long the staff meeting will be, allows you to put your full attention on your students. Kids will feel that focus and blossom under it.
I know you’ve heard this one a million times, but are you listening? It’s important. A healthy body is necessary to function in life. You don’t have to love working out to get the exercise your body needs. Take a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away from the door. Run around with your kids. Walk all the aisles of the store. Do whatever makes you happy, as long as you get moving.
Listen to podcasts.
I have learned so much in the past few years by listening to podcasts. All you have to do is download and listen. What you hear could change your life. Here's your first look at my new podcast that I'll be launching very soon. Check back here weekly for edisodes that inspire the inner go-getter in you.
Avoid toxic colleagues.
You know how when someone smiles at you, your first instinct is to smile back? Unfortunately, the opposite holds true as well. Toxic colleagues spread that negativity. Every school has them – the teachers who spend all of their time complaining: about the kids, about the administration; about other teachers. These people will suck the joy right out of you. Practice positive self-care strategies and stay away. Don’t get caught in that trap.
It costs you nothing to be kind, but you will reap riches in return. Smile at all of the students in the hallway. Wish them a good morning; compliment them where appropriate; thank them for attending and for their work before they leave. Soften your voice and try to listen more than you speak on most days. None of these suggestions will increase your workload; you might even find that they lighten that load. When you are kind to others, it inspires them to be kind to you and to those around them. Kindness begets kindness, and all of the positivity will make everyone feel better.
Too often we are our own worst critics. We say things to ourselves that we would never consider saying to another person. That stops now. You are intelligent. You are beautiful. You are capable. You are unique and amazing. You are enough. Make it your mantra and say it until you believe it. You deserve that.
Still wondering how to implement self-care skills into your routine? I’ve created this self-care skills checklist which you can download here. Once you have created some personal development plan ideas for your self-care, do your education friends a favor by teaching self-care skills to your colleagues. You can even teach these strategies to your students with self-care activities for youth and self-help skills activities for toddlers.
Searching for a deeper self-care strategy plan?
Did you know that an amazing website called Advancement Courses offers 200+ course on 17 different subject areas covering both foundational topics and emerging trends (such as self-care strategies for teachers) in the K-12 education, with focus on developing practical tools to use in your classroom immediately? It's so important that we make sure to fill our professional development hours with valuable professional development. I've used Advancement courses because they are designed to be more engaging, meaningful, and enjoyable – they give real feedback and application in today's K-12 classroom. Your professional development needs are so important to me that I've partnered with Advancement Courses to give you 20% off any course when using my code : MORRIS20 at checkout.
As the popular saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Fill your cup up with self-care to be the best you possible. It’s important, friends.
Please – take care of you.
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