Teacher self-care is one of the current buzz phrases floating around in the teaching profession, though the concept is nothing new.
As individuals in positions of service, educators often put others’ needs ahead of their own.
While admirable, this setup can eventually lead to…
- Unbearable stress
- Irrational jealousy
…just to name a few unappealing traits.
Because of this, it’s especially important that teachers take necessary time for themselves.
This article is all about you and your core, which = teacher self-care.
We get into all the actions you should have in your teacher self-care toolkit.
Regularly practice a few, and watch your mental state transform!
I’m sure there’s something here for you!
Before we dig into it…
Here are the teacher self-care actions in a nutshell…
Psst…Number 9 is my favorite teacher self-care hack!
- Learn to Say “NO” More Often.
- Make a Commitment to Yourself.
- Define Your Boundaries.
- Shorten Your To-Do-List.
- Enjoy Your Lunch Break.
- Eat Healthy.
- Choose Your Surroundings Wisely.
- Let Others Have the Glory.
- Set the Tone Early in the Morning.
- Know Your Tolerance Levels.
- Focus on the Things That Make You Happy.
What’s the Big Deal With Teacher Self-Care Anyway?
Here’s my humble opinion…
In our society, women are socialized to put everyone else’s needs and problems ahead of their own.
As a gal who grew up in the Deep South, that mentality was definitely (and still is) prevalent.
Observing that mentality in action on a regular basis affects the way one thinks, behaves and views the world in general.
School teachers, whom we all know are majority-female, are indirectly groomed as such – to take care of others to the point of self-neglect.
Of course we’ve got to supervise and teach children, but there is often a pattern of unnecessarily putting EVERYONE ELSE’s needs before our own.
And we deal with it.
Because of fear…
Fear of being labeled selfish, uncaring, unnurturing, mean, cold, unpassionate, etc.
Blah, blah, blah….
To add to that, some of us have a serious case of just wanting to feel needed.
That’s fine, but like anything in life, balance is key!
It’s Okay to Put Yourself First – Really.
I grew up in a pretty traditional household.
Though my mom worked outside the home, she did the majority of the cooking and cleaning.
My dad mowed the grass, washed the cars… you know, he did all those traditional male things.
Yes, I grew up in a home of traditional gender roles.
My mom worked all day and still came home to cooking and washing clothes.
Here’s what was interesting…
During my growing years, for my mom’s birthday and on Mother’s Day, she always requested to be left alone (not in a bad way though).
There were other days she did this, too.
She’d spend just about the whole day to herself, without the shenanigans of us kids.
At first, I didn’t understand why she’d leave us hangin’ like that, but the older I got, the more I understood.
She needed “me time”.
And those days were gifts to herself.
Now I know why she seemed to float with everything she did!
She always seemed put together, unbothered, relaxed, and just mellow.
It’s because she made time for herself – unapologetically.
As educators, we’ve got to embrace that same mindset if we plan to be in the teaching game for the long run.
It’s essential to do so!
Teacher self-care is about taking care of your core so that you in turn have more to give to your students.
Easier said than done, right?
Actions to Adopt as Part of Your Teacher Self-Care Routine
Here are some lovely ideas you might want to give a try…
Learn to Say “NO” More Often.
Sometimes we believe that the more we do, the more honorable we become in the eyes of others.
This is no different in the teaching profession. In fact, it might be a tad worse.
To make matters worse, those who appear to juggle 15 million things at once get the accolades for hard work and dedication.
Less is more.
There isn’t enough time in the day to impress everyone and be mentally balanced.
Pick your side.
While it’s nice to be involved in your school community, it takes just that –a community – to keep things going.
You can’t and shouldn’t attempt to pile up your calendar for the sake of appearing “involved”.
So say no, and don’t feel guilty about it!
Make a Commitment to Yourself.
Devote daily, weekly, and/or monthly time to teacher self-care.
To get the most benefits, you’ve got to be consistent.
Mark it in your calendar if you have to.
It doesn’t matter if it’s with your family, solo, or with your furry friends ❤️, just make that time to focus on you and the things you love.
Those bursts of energy and joy are very-much needed.
Define Your Boundaries.
I know, it’s tempting.
You get home from a long day at work and tell yourself that you’ll just peek at your school email.
That quickly turns into a rabbit hole – never-ending and just more consumption of school-related stuff.
Set some boundaries.
After a certain area, disconnect from work.
It’s hard because there’s limited time during the school day and yet you have an endless stream of grading, parent emails, report card comments, planning, etc.
If you just have to work at home, strictly allot some time to those tasks, and then call it quits for the day.
Angry parent write you an email at 7 p.m.?
Ok. That’s fine. They’ll hear from you in the morning.
Principal has a quick question about that one student.
He or she can wait, too.
After work hours, you manage your schedule, others don’t.
I understand if there’s an emergency, but let’s be honest…
School emergencies worth contacting you at home aren’t happening every day.
After a while, others will recognize your limits and come to respect them.
But you’ve got to be consistent and do your best to maintain those boundaries.
Shorten Your To-Do-List.
I don’t know about you, but my to-do-list quickly takes on a mind of its own if I let it.
This and that is a priority… even if it really isn’t.
There’s always a rationale to include something that’s not quite necessary.
Cut the unnecessary stuff out, and focus instead on 3 main things per day.
You could even do 3 personal things and 3 professional tasks.
Prioritize the most important items of the day, focus on those 3 things, and when it’s done, enjoy the rest of your day.
Most certainly, the other tasks will be waiting for you the next day… and the next.
Enjoy Your Lunch Break.
I’m guilty of doing the working-lunch thing.
Grading papers, drafting emails, filing paperwork – those are tasks to get done when there’s a spare moment without the students.
Lunch time (when there’s no lunch duty of course), was that perfect time for me.
But then I learned the power of actually enjoying my food and taking that time just to exist or even have a decent lunch with colleagues – even if it were only 15 to 20 minutes.
A working-lunch is fine every now and then, but to make it a habit isn’t doing too much for your teacher self-care.
Done consistently, exercise does wonders not only for our physical form but for our minds.
A teacher self-care routine isn’t complete without some movement.
You’ve got lots of options:
- Bike Riding
Even 30 to 45 minutes on a cardiovascular machine is a good option.
Though I believe the best exercise is done outdoors in beautiful nature (because there’s positive affect that nature has on us), indoor exercise and some movement is better than nothing at all.
Do you believe healthy food is medicine for the body and soul?
I sure do.
When I eat junk, I feel like crap.
Healthy eating makes us feel alive, part of nature, calm, energized, and happier.
A healthy diet is an important element of teacher self-care.
No time for daily cooking?
Try meal planning.
Works like a charm!
Choose Your Surroundings Wisely.
I could write an entire post on this one, but I’ll keep it short.
Avoid toxic people and places.
Though schools are places of learning and collaboration, we know that not all staff have your best interest at heart.
Toxic colleagues are the worst!
And God forbid if your principal is just as bad!
When you can’t control with whom you work, do your best to distance yourself from the negativity.
Who doesn’t love happy hour?
But if it’s a constant negative fest, full of less-than-appealing behavior, then it’s best to avoid those social gatherings.
And you may even have those colleagues who mean well, but they’re always complaining about something – a parent, a student, the principal . . . the wind!
Don’t get sucked into the insanity.
Teacher self-care is about reaching for a level of tranquility that will give you the mental peace you deserve.
Let Others Have the Glory.
Speaking of dealing with toxic folks or people in general…
Do you know the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson?
One of my favorite books, it’s a simple read and a FANTASTIC choice to add to your teacher self-care book list.
I’ve owned a copy of this book since I first started teaching back in 2002.
There’s a chapter in the book called, Let Others Have the Glory.
Essentially, the author states that because of our constant need for attention as human beings, we seek to be the center of it all.
Maybe someone is talking to us, and instead of listening whole-heartedly, we’re really just waiting to interject with our own thoughts.
Or take that annoying coworker . . . the one who always thinks he’s right.
Don’t you just wanna shut him down really fast?
Well, there’s power in just letting it go and simply letting others have the glory.
After a moment, your head will be on to more important, pleasant thoughts.
Set the Tone Early in the Morning.
A few years ago, my husband used to have a ritual of blasting rock music first thing in the morning.
Aww, HECK NAW!
I was like, “Dude, are you serious?!”
That blaring music agitated my spirit so early in the morning, and I just wasn’t having it!
Yes, of course.
Jazz, r & b, soft rock, I can do those.
Anything else turns my morning sour.
Our morning routines really set the stage for the rest of the day.
So make your morning routines compatible to your teacher self-care commitment.
That could mean a healthy breakfast, soft music, a cup of coffee, a favorite show, breakfast with the family etc.
What things help your morning get off to a good start?
Know Your Tolerance Levels + Preferences.
Speaking of music, that heavy music didn’t affect my husband’s morning in a negative way at all.
It actually energized him!
We all have different tolerance levels, and taking care of ourselves the best way we know how means being aware of what makes us tick.
Your stress level for a certain thing may be higher than someone else’s for that same exact thing.
No need to compare yourself to what others are doing for their teacher self-care routines.
I’m not a dog lover- at all.
No matter how much you convince me that your little dog Fido “just wants to play” or “is a good dog”, I’m just not interested.
I don’t hate them; I’m just not a dog person. (Sorry, dog lovers!)
But cats! ❤️
Yes, I’m one of those people.
I love cats, and if there’s a kitten around, my heart melts.
Low-maintenance, unbothered, and independent – just like a cat, that’s me!
That’s my preference, and those furry friends help me with my teacher self-care routine.
Is yours dogs, fish, birds?
Whichever it is, great! Whatever floats your boat and helps you to relax.
On another note, a former colleague of mine used to stay after school with some of his students on Fridays to play soccer.
He and the students looked forward to the game, and parents loved the interactions.
As for me, on Fridays, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time at school with my students; I was exhausted!
But that was me.
This teacher obviously didn’t mind, and in fact, he often talked about how much the game helped him to relax and connect even more with parents and of course the kids.
If you have tolerance for something that is quirky or a no-go for most everyone else, who cares?
If it makes you feel great (and not harming anyone else of course), then do it!
Focus on the Things That Make You Happy.
Overall, teacher self-care is taking time to do those things that make you happy.
Being in a role of service is a great honor, but don’t lose yourself in the process and daily grind.
When you’re happier, you have more to give to others and that includes your students!
Wrapping Up: Teacher Self-Care
In conclusion, feed your body, mind, soul, and spirit by nourishing your core.
Teacher self-care is essential.
Ironically, focusing on yourself allows you to give maximum attention and care to those who need you the most.
WHAT TO READ NEXT:
- An element of teacher self-care is working smarter. Take a look at some of the actions that will get you there.
- Tired of your summer routine? Explore some of these activities on this summer-to-do-list for teachers.