Paula Azevedo, PhD
Self-Care for Educators
Today, I’m going to talk about self-care. I know that in the past couple of years self-care has become a huge buzzword. But, to be honest some of the more popular takes on self-care such as a spa day or a shopping spree, aren’t really what I would classify as self-care. In this post I’m going to give you eight helpful self-care tips that not only I think will help you, but that I also practice myself.
As we prepare for the new school year in these uncertain times and with perhaps more questions than answers it’s going to be essential that as educators, parents and school leaders we prioritize self-care.
Self-care isn’t a luxury, it doesn’t have to be extravagant or cost money and it definitely isn’t selfish. Self-care is necessary for us to nourish ourselves and replenish our energy in order for us to be able to fully show up for the people we love and our work.
So, here are some ideas on how to mindfully take care of yourself during the school year.
The first self-care tip I have for you may seem really obvious, but it goes overlooked all the time and that is sleep. Be sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you. Everyone is different and can have various sleep patterns. Pay attention to when you feel rested and when you don’t and think back to the night before and how you transitioned into sleep and how many hours you got. Personally, I need a good 7 hours of sleep in order to feel my best, but I have also found that it’s also important to have an evening routine that eases me to sleep. So, about an hour or two before going to bed, turn down the lights around the house, including the screen lights on your personal devices. Avoid beverages, foods and activities that are going to stimulate the brain and body. So, drink herbal tea or water, have a light dinner, and avoid watching or reading things that are going to get you anxious or overthinking.
Second on the list is nutrition. The food and beverages we put into our body is what fuels us for the day. So, just become aware of what you’re eating and drinking throughout the day. It doesn’t mean you have to become obsessed with calorie counting or macro counting, but just pay attention to when you’re eating (notice if you eat when you're not hungry, but rather bored or want a distraction) and what you're eating. Also, during the busy school year I know how easy it is to forget or to skip meals because you’re just too busy. So, be sure to have healthy and easily accessible snacks for yourself (and your students) throughout the day. Oh, and don’t forget to hydrate throughout the day!
Next self-care tip is to move. Be sure to get plenty of exercise throughout the week. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and hit the weightlifting room every day, but be sure that you dedicate time throughout the week where you are spending 20 to 30 minutes doing some kind of physical activity, whether it’s zumba, dancing with your kids, walking the dog, yoga, swimming, whatever brings you joy.
My fourth self-care tip is to have a creative outlet. I have friends who love to knit and sew, others who write beautiful poetry. So find something that you can do either in the evening or weekend that brings you joy and that’s outside of your normal work. This might be a great time to explore something that you’ve always been interested in learning, but never had a chance to do, maybe that painting, baking, or cooking. Hey! This might be time for you to start writing that book that you always wanted to write.
TAKE MOMENTS TO PAUSE
Now many of you are probably wondering how am I going to find the time to sleep, eat right, exercise, and be creative? Great question, which brings me to tip number five, which is to take moments to pause. As parents, educators, school counselors and leaders we have busy personal and professional lives. But it’s really important to just stop doing. Stop running around trying to get everything done. I have news for you, there is always something to do, some new project to start, a stack of papers to grade, emails to respond to. The job is never ending. We just have to accept that our to-do lists will continue to grow and be okay not working 24/7. The world won’t come crashing down if you don’t respond to a parent email immediately, or you input grades the following week. So, be okay with leaving work at work, which leads me into tip number six...
Having clear boundaries and being able to communicate those boundaries is so important. What I mean by boundaries is being able to say "no" and sticking with it. As educators and caregivers it’s really easy to get into a pattern of constantly giving and giving way too much of ourselves. Let me give you an example of a boundary. You can put boundaries around when you’ll read and respond to emails from your colleagues, students and parents. So, maybe you won’t respond to emails after 5PM and on weekends. Be sure to make that clear to your students and their parents when you meet them. Also, you can set up your email so that when you get an email after work hours an automatic email response is sent notifying the person that you’re not available after work hours, but you’ll respond when you return to your desk. Everyone’s boundaries are going to look different because everyone has different commitments and responsibilities. Don’t let anyone tell you what your boundaries should or shouldn’t be. You know what’s best for you.
YOUR SUPPORT TEAM
Next tip is to have a support team. Have a group of people either inside or outside of your workplace that you can lean on when you need help. It’s okay to need help and to ask for it. You don’t always have the answers and for new teachers, especially, you don’t have the depth of experience as some of your colleagues. So, be sure to turn to people that you trust and value their opinions, knowledge and experiences to guide you when you need a little extra support.
INCORPORATE MINDFULNESS PRACTICES
The final tip is to incorporate mindfulness practices in your personal life and even in the classroom. Mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, mindful eating and so much more can really help you remain grounded in your life and work even when things seem a bit chaotic and overwhelming. It’s a practice that reminds us to be present, and aware with compassion for ourselves and others. By the way if you’re interested in starting your own mindfulness practice but don’t know where to start I have a great course that can guide you on starting a mindfulness practice called 30 Days of Mindful Moments. If you want to learn more about it, be sure to read the description below where you’ll find a link to this course.
Also, I want to give you something that I think will help you with your self-care. One of the things I love to do throughout the year is attend day-long retreats. I have found that this is a great way to take care of myself while also deepening my mindfulness practice. But, I know that not everyone has access to retreats, which is why I created a Stay at Home Retreat Guide. In this free retreat package I provide you tips on how to create your own mindfulness retreat, what to include in the retreat, an example and resources to support you. You can grab this free Stay at Home Retreat Guide by visiting my website themeditatingteacher.com where you can also find additional free resources and learn more about my online course and services.
I hope you found this post helpful and that you make self-care a priority this school year. If you like this post be sure to share it with friends and colleagues.