You've probably heard the saying, “self-care isn't selfish,” right? Guess what? It's true, especially for teachers! Teaching, if you let it, can consume your every waking hour. Let's face it, there is always something to do! Allowing it to consume your life can put you on the fast track to professional (and personal) burnout. It’s so important to take care of yourself so that you can find the greatest amount of joy in your life and make the greatest impact on your students. Happy teacher=happy students! These self care tips for teachers will help you take care of yourself and be the best teacher you can be.
Why Self Care Is Important
First off, it is important to understand why self care is important and have a positive mindset around it. Self care doesn't have to be something over-the-top or expensive like going sky-diving or getting weekly spa treatments (even though that would be amazing!) Self care should be things that help ease your stress, make you feel good, and that you can do for YOU. Permission to take care of and spoil yourself…granted!
Self care helps clear your mind, relieve your stress, and re-energize. By taking small steps each day to take care of yourself, you will see the benefits in every area of your life both at school and at home. Your energy, patience, productivity, happiness, and joy will all be positively impacted!
Schedule In Self Care
Just like you plan your lessons at school and write important events and dates down on the family calendar, you need to schedule in your self care, too! Writing it down or putting it in your digital calendar will hold you accountable to actually doing it. Think of it as a daily meeting with yourself! You wouldn't skip a staff meeting at work so don't skip a meeting with yourself either.
Communicate this schedule with your family so they are on board. If you choose to get in a little self care before everyone wakes up, let your spouse know so they can help the kids if they wake up early. Want to take a walk after school? Let your family know so they know when to expect you at home. You can even invite a coworker or friend to join you and help them get in their self care, too! Is your self care time in the evening before bed? Let your family in on that routine so they don't bother you while you are binging your latest novel series.
Self Care Tips For Teachers
You might be thinking, “but I don't know how to do self care? What should I do?” I've got you covered with 8 self care tips for teachers! Read on and enjoy!
#1: Set boundaries.
Just because you’re in a helping profession doesn’t mean you have to be available every minute of every day, especially with parents. Set office hours like college professors do and communicate to them, “I will be available for 45 minutes before school starts and 45 minutes after the last bell every day.” Whatever you want that schedule to look like, set it in stone and let them know. Assure parents that their concerns and questions are very important to you and that you will do your best to respond in a timely manner. One of the most important self care tips for teachers is to protect your time.
#2: Stay on top of things.
Everyone talks about organization and it's time-saving capabilities, but it’s the honest truth. Being organized and on top of things brings consistency to your systems and routines and makes your workload more manageable. Stay as organized as you can on a daily basis. Cleaning up tiny issues every day is a lot less stressful than cleaning up a huge mess of issues once a week (or, as teachers are likely to do, on the weekend when they’re supposed to be resting and recharging)! Staying on top of things and using your planning time wisely takes discipline but pays off big time. So when that Friday bell rings and other teachers are still getting cleaned up and prepped for next week, you'll be out the door to enjoy your weekend!
#3: Prioritize (and put everything on your calendar).
Prioritizing is an essential self care tip for teachers. Think deeply about your priorities and block out sections of your calendar for the work (and play) you need to get done. For instance, if your mental health desperately depends on you hitting the cycling class every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 pm, block it out! If you have a family dinner every Sunday night, block it out! If you’re working on your masters and need study time, block it out! Of course things will always come up that require flexibility but do your best to put into writing the commitments that are most important to you and communicate them to your loved ones.
#4: Develop a support network.
Truth bomb…teaching is hard! Sometimes people outside of the profession just don’t get it. Develop a support network of colleagues you can vent to and brainstorm with. One of the best self care tips for teachers is to spend time outside of school with your teacher friends. It is not only relaxing, but they just “get it!” Treat yourself to chips & salsa after school on a Friday or coffee on a Saturday morning.
Tap into other teachers’ experiences to help you navigate workplace issues. Get the support you need to preserve your personal sanity. Keep your work life separate from your personal life as much as you can. You’ll find that you enjoy your down time much more.
#5: Keep your social media private.
Many of us enjoy our social media as a way to unwind and veg out. The last thing we want is a Facebook message from a parent, colleague, or professional society to pop up right in the middle of the latest hilarious cat video or interrupt your quest for the funniest teacher meme. Set up a classroom Facebook page for classroom news and updates. Reserve your personal Facebook page for friends and family only. Do this for Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
#6: Stay healthy.
Take care of your body! A healthy you is a happy you, so make sure you take care of your health. You only get one body to live in, so treat it like royalty!
- Sleep-Do a brain dump before bed to clear your mind and ease your nerves for what you might forget by morning.
- Exercise-Make it work for you by getting a 20-30 minute workout in or break it down into 10 minute increments throughout the day.
- Eat well- Stock up on easy to pack lunches and simple dinner recipes. If you don't mind leftovers, make enough at dinner so you can take a serving for lunch the next day. 2-for-1? I think, yes! Check out these healthy lunch ideas for teachers, too!
- Stay home if you're sick- Yes, even though it sometimes feels like preparing for a sub is more work than going to school sick, don’t do it! When you are under the weather, listen to your body and rest! This is where that organization will come in and make being away from school a lot less stressful.
#7: Feed outside interests.
Don’t forget about who you are as an individual and what you love! What fuels your soul? What hobbies do you love? Stay connected to these things, even if you can only devote 15 minutes a week to them. Sneak in a quick watercolor, read a couple of chapters of that book, take a quick spin on your bike, paint your nails, walk the dog. While you’re doing it, try your best not to let a single thought about work creep in.
#8: Nurture primary relationships.
Although your job as an educator is super important, remember that at the end of the day it is still…a job. The truth is, it’s the people that love you and care about your well-being that give life its true meaning. Don’t let your work become so all consuming that it pushes your family and friends to the back-burner. There will always be more work, but those moments with your family and friends, you don't get those back. Be present in everything you do.
As teachers, we work hard. Every. Single. Day. It’s essential that we set boundaries and make priorities that allow us to take care of ourselves. Time to rest and replenish, time to do the things we love with the people we love. In the long run, taking care of ourselves makes us more balanced, well-rounded people, and gives us more energy to do the work we love. A teacher that fills their cup first has so much more to pour into the cups of their little learners.