Why self-care is a must for educators
Friday, February 14, 2020
Teaching is hard work. Period. Being in a supportive role to students who are managing the impacts of trauma and teaching social-emotional learning can be challenging and can result in compassion fatigue (aka vicarious trauma). Self-care is vital.
Having a proactive self-care routine helps prevent burnout and taking out our exhaustion on students and colleagues. Self-care is more than bubble baths, long walks to the park, and buying luxurious items. For educators, it begins with a positive school climate and integrates with our proactive and deliberate practices aimed to keep supporting mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
The quote, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” is real; as educators, we make between 600-1,500 decisions a day and pour hours into our students’ minds. When we are healthy, we can be our best self for our students. My top four self-care pillars are rest, rake care of your body, set boundaries, and do more of what you love.
It’s OK to take breaks. In fact, regular breaks help us check-in or reset. We can schedule a five-minute break after class or a five-minute mindful break during class with students. Breaks can serve as moments for deep reflection or pause so that we can act with kindness when faced with challenging behaviors.
Often, I like to take mindful breaks with students 1-2 times within a class period. I like using Calm.com (free subscription for educators), Smiling Mind, and GoNoodle with students. As the students reset, I take the opportunity to do so as well.
Take care of your body
What we feed our bodies ultimately impacts our well-being, so we should nourish our bodies with fruits and vegetables regularly. You can use Pinterest or follow a few sites to support mindful eating habits, such as Mindful Life and Eating Well. Both provide great ideas for quick and nutritious meal ideas.
To ensure I am getting enough water, I carry a water bottle with me and challenge myself to fill it at least five times throughout the course of a school day.
Exercise leads to overall well-being, too. This might mean waking up a bit earlier to go to the gym, taking a walk around the track during lunch, or scheduling squats and planks during planning. Perhaps consider joining a dance club (many gyms have educator discounts) or saving up to get home workout equipment. Two great apps to support the journey of wellness are “Stop, Breathe, and Think” and the Self-Help for Anxiety Management app.
Say “no” to things that don’t fill you up. We love our school communities and our students, but don’t feel bad if you have to say “no” to an extra obligation.
Fill up the time investing in your professional growth. For example, listen to an education podcast. One of my favorites is “Teaching Keating” with Weston and Molly Kieschnick. You can also invest in a professional membership with an organization that offers free webinars like the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) or the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Create a PLC on a focus topic with uplifting colleagues. Most importantly, decide which days you will leave work at school.
Do more of what you love
Mary Engelbreit says it best, “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion; being alive is a special occasion.”
What excites and lights you up? Plan an activity to look forward to — maybe a special dinner with friends or family, tickets to a concert on a school night, or a vacation. Try to read a good book just for you, nothing educational related. Spend time on therapeutic hobbies at least twice during the school week.
Don’t wait until holiday season, parent conferences, or stressful moments to enact self-care. Make self-care a practice rather than a once a week occasion. When we are at our best, we can support our students with the very best.
Teaching is beautifully complex, and being a teacher is the most noble thing a person can do. You are a highly valuable commodity, so treat yourself like the rock star that you are.
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