The 6 Essential Elements You Need to Know for Quality Teacher Self-Care
We’ve all heard it. You need to practice self-care. Remember self-care. Self-care is so important.
As teachers, somebody in our life – colleagues, family members, administration – is always talking to us about self-care.
Do we listen? Sometimes.
Should we listen? Absolutely.
Teacher self-care is crucial to avoiding burnout and being in the best possible mental space to teach and support our students. Now more than ever – with pandemic teaching, hybrid teaching, distance learning, and the growing laundry list of pressures put on teachers – now, my fellow teacher, is the time to listen.
And good news, spring break is right around the corner! It’s the perfect time to focus on you, reflect on all that’s happened in the last year, celebrate the wins, and embrace self-care.
What Is Self-Care and Why Do I Need It?
You may be asking yourself why is self-care important? Look, I get it. As teachers, it’s hard to care about ourselves when our passion is taking care of others.
But listen up.
The Alliance for Excellent Education reported that 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years on the job1. And things like high stress and work-life balance are the main reasons teachers are leaving. That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about how we take time for ourselves.
If you think self-care is a selfish concept. Think again...
Self-care is actually about taking care of yourself so you don’t take your frustrations out on others.
Selfishness on the other hand is constantly thinking about your own needs over everyone else’s2.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that it’s time to book a spa trip, stat. And while that’s definitely one way to pamper yourself, self-care is actually much more than that.
According to the National Institute Of Mental Illness (NAMI)3 there are actually 6 elements of self-care:
The best self-care routine is one that addresses each of these elements. So whether you’re practicing self-care in your classroom or making time for yourself during your break, remember to incorporate activities that target each aspect of self-care.
Easy Self-Care Ideas to Get You Started
You may be wondering, where do I start. Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Let’s take a look at some quick and easy self-care activities you can start right away4.
The key to effective physical self-care is thinking about your body as a whole.
One important way to take care of yourself, especially during a break, is to schedule that medical appointment you’ve been putting off. There’s no better act of self-love than making sure your health is a priority.
Another way to nurture your body is by making yourself a delicious healthy meal, and incorporating some form of exercise into your regular schedule.
Now maybe you’re already on top of your healthy food and exercise – great job!
This is the perfect opportunity then to get some extra sleep. Let’s face it, when we're sleep-deprived we’re unable to think clearly and function at our best. Not only that, but poor sleep can lead to depression and anxiety.5
So curl up and get yourself some rest.
Activities that focus on mental stimulation and wellness are a fantastic way to meet this self-care element. One way you can do that is by making time for self-reflection.
You do a lot during the school year, so take the time to reflect on all the great accomplishments and goals you’ve achieved. Grab your journal and celebrate the wins.
Another psychological self-care activity is reading something that’s not related to your work. So put away that classroom management book and grab that dusty book on your shelf that you’ve been dying to read.
Reading is powerful, in fact, a recent study showed that 30 minutes of reading helped lower blood pressure and feelings of stress6.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up your favorite book and get to reading.
Emotional self-care is all about knowing what you are feeling and allowing yourself to validate and honor those feelings.7 Practicing gratitude helps you focus on the positive things in your life and gain control of your emotions.
Sit with your journal and start writing 5 things you are grateful for. You’ll give yourself a boost of good vibes and energy.
Now, I know it may seem counter-intuitive to clean as a form of self-care, but spring cleaning can actually be a cathartic experience. Decluttering your home and making your environment energizing and welcoming not only gives you a sense of pride in a job well done, but makes your home somewhere you actually want to be8. You'll feel free from all the clutter holding you down. So consider using your spring break to do some spring cleaning.
Remember what Marie Kondo taught us – if it doesn't bring you joy, toss it!
You can care for your spiritual self by connecting to what you consider meaningful and holy. Spirituality can be in you, your religious beliefs, in nature, or in others.9 Tend to your spiritual self-care needs by celebrating rituals that are important to you. Rituals can mean a lot of different things. Not only a religious service, but also birthday traditions, family dinners, and even special trips.
Listening to inspiring music or spending time in nature is helpful to connect with your spirit and find inner peace.
Speaking of inner peace – try and begin a daily meditation practice. Sit in silence or listen to a guided meditation. Clear your mind and connect with your body and spirit. It’s amazing what just 5 minutes of intentional breath-work can do.
Let’s face it, sometimes all we need to make us feel better is a session with our closest friends and confidantes. The relationships we have help connect us to ourselves and to other people.
Focus on your social self-care by getting in touch with your closest friends and support systems. Schedule a socially distant picnic gathering at the park, pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or arrange a virtual brunch and catch up.
Trust me, your heart will thank you for it.
What? I’m on my break and I don’t want to think about work! I know, I know...but hear me out. The reality is you will probably spend some time during your break thinking about your return. So what better way to prepare for the rest of the school year than by creating an on-the-job self-care plan to get you through that final stretch until you’re home-free and enjoying summer break.
Think about whether your workspace is set up to make you feel comfortable. Reach out to your teacher besties and form a peer support group that you can lean on.
Take real breaks throughout the day.
And most importantly, do not eat at your desk. Get up, get out, and disconnect from the work while you fuel your body and mind.
Get Your Self-Care Routine Started
Now that you have some ideas to get you started, think about which element you want to dive into first – then make your self-care plan.4 Take a look within and know your triggers so that you can be armed with your self-care activities. Make this your self-care year.
Need a way to earn extra money for an extended self-care trip? Check out 4 Side Hustles an Edupreneur Can Do From Home to get started.
1 Importance of Self-Care as a Teacher
2 Is Self-Care Selfish? Is Taking Care of Yourself Critical or Conceited? https://rcchicago.org/self-care/
3 Why Teacher Self-Care Matters and How to Practice Self-Care in your School. https://www.waterford.org/education/teacher-self-care-activities/
4 Self-Care Guide - Mindpeace https://mindpeacecincinnati.com/wp-content/uploads/SelfCareReportR13.pdf
5 Why is Sleep so Important? How can I incorporate it into My Self-Care? https://thriveworks.com/blog/sleep-important-incorporate-self-care-routine/#:~:text=Simply%20put%2C%20a%20full%20night,reset%20for%20the%20next%20day
6 Benefits of Reading Books: How it can Positively Affect Your Life https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books
7 The Importance of Self-Care https://tristatehospital.org/the-importance-of-self-care/
8 6 Benefits of an Uncluttered Space https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201802/6-benefits-uncluttered-space
9 Take Care of Your Spirit https://www.mhanational.org/take-care-your-spirit