We know winter can be a tough time for teachers, who are feeling exhausted from a semester’s work: Add a pandemic on top of that, and suddenly you’re having to juggle hybrid and remote learning adjustments, plus commitments to kids, cats, nightly dinners, and all of the other personal responsibilities in life. How can educators ensure their emotional and social wellbeing are being looked after? It’s everyone’s favorite buzzword with a far deeper meaning: Self-Care!
From the pros at Unruly Splats, here are 4 self-care tips for teachers that will hopefully reduce feelings of stress and burnout, as well as a downloadable checklist to keep you on track.
The word “Self-care” often prompts images of pedicures and facials, and while those are lovely ways to relax for some, there is so much more to self-care than spa treatments. Self-care embodies social, physical, and mental well-being, which encompasses different things for different people. What’s relaxing for one person may be stressful for another! For example, if you’re a highly extroverted person, self-care might mean taking time to socialize with a group of friends over a cup of coffee, while introverts can find solace in just a few minutes of meditation or journaling.
The examples listed don’t sound like what you’d see on a list of spa activities, but that’s the point! Here are some more examples from our Unruly checklist:
If none of the above speak to you, that’s all part of the journey. Take a moment to write out the things that make you happiest or retrace memories where you felt most relaxed. Although you may not be able to jet off to that beach in Florida you went to last year on vacation, you can still find joy through things like looking at pictures from your trip, calling the friend who went with you, or playing some ocean sounds on Spotify.
As teachers, you come to class prepared with carefully planned out activities, so that students can get the most out of their day in school. Treat yourself with the same dedication by mapping out your self-care goals and interests!
Studies have shown that routine is key for creating healthy habits, and planning the routine in advance can help you stay on track. Take a look at your daily schedule and physically write down times for yourself to take a break. In the Unruly self-care tips for teachers checklist, we’ve created a sample time table where you can fill in your daily plans, as well as an inspiration space to help you brainstorm what types of things bring you joy.
Find the time slot that fits for you, and make a plan to fill it with something that will reduce stress levels. It could be at home after work, a quick ten minute break at school, or both! The importance is to carve out the time and stick to it. Treat the break like any other meeting you would have, and it will feel harder to skip.
It’s hard to take time for yourself when there is a classroom full of kids depending on you! Many working professionals feel a sense of guilt when thinking about self-care because it means turning from the expectant eyes around you and looking inward to see what you need to feel better.
That’s a hard hurdle to jump, but start with the basics. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: Self-Care is Not Selfish.
Remember, feelings are contagious! If you are feeling energetic and happy, chances are your students will sense this (yes, even through zoom!) and feed off your positive energy. Being in a stronger mental state allows you to problem solve with more clarity, connect better with your students and peers, and feel confident about the work ahead. That last one is critical: We need teachers more than ever, shining beacons of empathy and the power of inquiry that you are! Take care of yourselves knowing that you’re doing it to benefit both yourself and the students who look up to you.
Which brings us to tip #4:
Teachers face burnout for a number of reasons, but it’s important to remember the reason you got into teaching in the first place.
For our last self-care tip for teachers, we recommend taking some time to become inspired by educators and students at your school or the world at large.
Have you seen Rita Pierson’s awe-inspiring Ted Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion?” Watch this before you head out for the morning and you’re pretty much guaranteed to feel a fire in you!
Maybe it’s as simple as walking down the hall and seeing what your colleagues are doing with their classrooms, or taking a moment to think about a past student you’ve had who showed real growth over the year. In any case, it is important to take time to reflect on the positives of teaching and the power it gives to young minds. Make this fuel for you and your mental health.
We hope these self-care tips for teachers have been useful. Be sure to download our Self-Care checklist and stay healthy in mind and body this season.