I am an educator, and I write for educators, so of course I know how important self-care is for teachers. I also know why it is so hard to do.
Maybe you aren’t interested in painting your nails and you can’t afford a massage.
Maybe you cringe at the term “self-care”, because it sounds indulgent and impractical.
Maybe you’re frustrated because your moments of peace aren’t re-charging you, they are just pauses that are far too short.
You know you, and the advice about self-care doesn’t work unless it is tailored to you.
Here are some tips you might actually try:
5. Saying “No”
Because you’re an educator and you love your job, it is very very easy to say “yes” to too many things. You have enough to do already. You can practice radical self-care simply by saying no when you want to.
Maybe you don’t need to be on that committee, or tutor that neighbor who needs help, or join that club. If that extra activity enriches and engages you in a good way, then of course, carry on.
However, you already are in one of the most challenging and emotionally draining jobs that there are. If your gut reaction to an extra activity isn’t a resounding yes, then its a no.
Make like Elsa, and Let it Go.
4. Feel Without Judgement
We can get so used to giving advice and instruction that we start to hear it in our own heads.
Still, there is a place and time for simply listening and accepting your feelings, without judgement. As you replay the course of the day or you journal or blog, let yourself feel your feelings as they are. There may be a time for evaluation and redirection later, but heaping shame or judgement upon yourself isn’t helpful.
There is a technique with mindfulness that I find incredibly helpful. When you are trying to clear your mind and thoughts keep popping in (to-do’s, frustrations, anxieties, etc) simply acknowledge them like a boat passing on a river.
You are on the riverbank, and you see the boat, but you do not need to get on it.
You don’t need to steer the boat, ride the boat, or even like the boat.
You simply acknowledge that it is there, and let it pass.
Sometimes, this is the best thing we can do for our feelings, and for other’s feelings: listen and acknowledge without judgement.
3. Creating something- Join your students!
Its easy to forget how valuable it is to create something.
We assign our students creative writing, artistic, musical and intellectually stimulating tasks all the time. We know the value in them. And yet, we often are not able- or not willing to engage with them!
Depending on the age and need-level of your students, you may need to do your craft, or your dance or your journaling at a different time, but it is still valuable. I remember taking my students outside to write poetry, and simply joining them in the task made our poetry unit something I looked forward to as well.
And the research is clear: everyone can be creative, and every mind benefits from it!
2. Try the 10-Minute Trick:
Sometimes what you really need is to kick your own butt.
Sometimes self-care becomes mindless self-soothing, aka procrastination. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and work on some tasks at hand- cleaning, grading, planning, etc.
After 10 minutes, you’ll know what to do, because you’ll either be feeling better and more energized by getting some things accomplished, or it will be clear that you truly do need to disengage for a while. If you’re feeling stressed and anxious even while you’re getting things done, its probably time to evaluate.
In that case, you may need help- an assistant to help with grading, support from an administrator, some time to connect with friends or simply a nap! Never doubt the restorative powers of sleep and a good meal!
1. BE rather than THINK:
If this sounds hokey to you, then we understand each other. However, all this means is that it is helpful when your to-do list is a mile long to find something that you can fully immerse yourself in which will stop your spinning thoughts for a bit.
Is it fishing? Exercise that exhausts you? Cooking? Talking to a friend? Clipping coupons, cleaning out a closet, petting your cat and watching HGTV?
Once you’ve decided whether you need to reflect or comfort yourself, then do what works for you. If you have a huge pile of grading and an inbox full of parent questions, you probably need to kick your own butt a bit, then indulge in some comfort practices. Or maybe, you spend some time journaling or talking with a colleague to help reflect on what might help organize your next week a bit better.
The bottom line, I believe, is that we need to listen to and trust ourselves. Step back when you see yourself spinning into unhelpful behaviors and ask yourself what you need.
You are an educator! You cannot pour from an empty cup.