Taking Care of You: 5 Simple Ways to Implement Daily Self-Care. A letter to my Educator Friends
“I might be starting year 20, but it feels like year one.” This is a constant phrase on repeat right now in my house, as my husband, an educator and administrator of 20 years, attempts to navigate the wild west of a school year that is impacted by more unknowns than knowns. I would bet it’s safe to say, he isn’t alone in feeling this way. I myself, having first worked as a school social worker for a decade, have witnessed first hand how much each of you pour into your students and teams. Meaning that many times, your own needs and emotional health come in last.
I’m a firm believer that healthy educators create healthy, safe spaces for all students every day. I also recognize what a big ask that is, especially now, when for many educators, you are expected to be an expert educator on two fronts, not only for your students, but for your own children as well. In order to help you take a moment to reset, and care for yourself, I would like to suggest five simple ways to implement self care into your daily routine.
Set Your Intentions
In a situation where so much feels out of your control, and even more responsibilities on your plate, it’s important to take the time each day to set your intentions for the day. Determining your list of “must dos” and “can dos” at the start of each day, can in a practical way shrink a never ending to-do list. Spending time creating short term, daily expectations can help to reduce anxiety, and the heavy weight we all feel on our shoulders. This practice can also provide visual feedback of what you accomplish each day, leading to higher feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.
One Hour A Day
Allow yourself one hour a day that is for you alone, and is not related to any task put on you by your profession. Knowing all the constraints and responsibilities placed on educators today, this might seem like a tall task, but it’s an important one. Taking an hour for an activity you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, hanging out with friends or family, watching a show, scrolling through social media, or playing a game, taking time for yourself is essential. If an hour sounds like a lot, in reality it’s only 4% of your day. You are worth the time. You are worth making yourself a priority.
No is a Complete Sentence
Saying no to certain requests or situations, can allow you more space to say YES to the right commitments. The pressures to say yes to every request, to be a team player, are high. Many times we can feel compelled to say yes first, and figure it out later, both personally and professionally. Saying yes all the time, can lead to burn out, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed. Before saying yes, take a moment to ask yourself: “Is this opportunity something I have to do, or is this something I could do, but don’t have to?” Our time and energy is finite. It is important to know what time you can give, and where it's ok to say no. To be unclear is to be unkind, and simply saying to someone “thank you so much for thinking of me, but right now I will need to say no.” can help set a simple boundary. Setting this boundary can help you determine how you will spend your time, and in turn create breathing room in your daily life.
No, I’m not talking about just for your students. In this new world of pandemic teaching (whether it be hybrid, fully remote, or fully in person), you might find yourself sitting or staying in one place for longer periods of time. In a profession where that isn’t the norm, you might find yourself experiencing lower energy or a lower mood. Taking time each day to move helps produce endorphins, which in turn, help to relieve stress and anxiety. Whether it be a walk around the block, a good stretch session, or any type of movement that works for you,, it's important to move daily. Teachers aren’t designed to stay in one place. This one change can help refill your cup, and allow you to feel energized for your next day.
Give Yourself Grace
Above all else, give yourself grace, and then even more grace. Whether you’ve been an educator for 20+ years, or are a few months into year one, this is all new. No one could have predicted a global pandemic, how it would flip the education system on its head, and land it in a very bright spotlight. The work you are doing is nothing short of impressive, and inspiring. The way I’ve personally seen educators in my life totally transform their teaching approach and practice is nothing short of awe inspiring.
The truth is technology will glitch, lessons will feel awkward, activities that take an entire class period in person, might only take five minutes online. None of this means you are failing, all of this means the situation is just this difficult. Allow yourself to acknowledge how hard the situation is, and recognize it’s ok to feel it all. But at the same time, allow yourself to recognize how hard you are working each day to connect with your students, and that alone is more than enough.
Give yourself permission to make you a priority. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s actually a very loving and selfless act. By taking time to implement these strategies, not only are you caring for yourself, but also in turn, caring for your students. You cannot pour from an empty cup. By allowing yourself a chance to recharge, and create space in your own life, you can then continue to do the amazing and selfless work that is teaching in a pandemic.