Teaching has never been as stressful as it is right now. More keeps being added to our plates and we’re somehow expected to get it all done – correctly and on time! Teacher burnout is a real thing and it can affect our careers, our physical and mental health, and our personal relationships. You know that taking care of yourself is super-important, but adding teacher self-care activities to your already crazy days seems like just ONE MORE THING to do! Who has time?
If you feel like you have no time for self-care, then you REALLY need self-care!
Teachers are givers. This sometimes makes it hard for us to take care of ourselves because we feel selfish, or self-indulgent.
But taking a little time out for teacher self-care every day is a way of taking care of others. Because you’ve got to be in good shape, mentally and physically, to give love and support to your students and family. In doing something good for yourself, you’re also doing something good for them.
teacher self-care ideas at school
Try these quick ideas when you’re at work.
- Clutter can be a cause of stress. Take 10 minutes during a prep period or before you head home to organize and clean off your desk. File what you can, toss anything that you don’t need, and straighten up your “teacher area.” You’ll immediately feel better and it will help the next morning when you walk into your room and see a clean desk. (If work for absent students is causing you stress and piling up on your desk, check out my earlier blog post on ideas for managing it.)
- During lunch, a prep, or whenever you have time without students, take 5 or 10 minutes and shut off the lights in your room and sit with your eyes closed. Take some deep breaths, emptying all the air out of your lungs when you exhale.
- Keep a bottle of water with you all day. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated but sometimes we can get so busy we forget to drink. Buy a water bottle that you love and fill it with water and ice to sip on throughout the day. Or infuse your water with fruit or mint for a tasty, healthy drink.
- Listen to a short guided meditation on your phone or computer. Work really hard at putting aside any intruding thoughts and just focus on the meditation. Your mind will feel clearer and more focused if you make this a habit.
- Keep a “self-care kit” at school. Include anything that relaxes you, or brings you simple joy. Some ideas are chocolate, tea, flavored coffee and/or creamer, a stress ball, a healthy snack like granola or fruit, or a book of inspirational quotes.
- If you’re able to get out of the building for a bit, step outside for a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery. Or plan a route to walk in your building. A 5-minute brisk walk will clear your mind and get your blood flowing.
Self-care ideas at home
- Set boundaries. This may be one of the hardest things to do, but is also very important for your self-care. Emails, Zoom meetings, paperwork … they can consume your life if you let them. Set a time that makes sense for you after which you will not check or answer school emails, do grading or planning, or sit in on a Zoom meeting. If you can stick to this, you’ll be giving yourself permission to do or think about something OTHER than work.
- Take frequent breaks. If you’re doing schoolwork at home, get up and walk around, step outside for some fresh air, get a snack, play with the dog … anything that gets you away from the work for 15 minutes.
- Make time to do something you enjoy at least once a week. Reading, hiking, binging your favorite TV shows, gardening, scrapbooking, coloring, or any activity that relaxes you and is fun.
- Spend time with family and friends. Join a friend for coffee at your favorite coffee shop, bake cookies with your kids, plan a weekly date night with your significant other, or just sit and chat. Those connections are priceless when we’re struggling.
- Keep a gratitude journal. The simple act of writing down 3 things you’re grateful for each day can have a huge impact on your outlook and mood. What you write can be very simple. For example, “I’m grateful for seeing my flowers start to grow in the garden.” It needn’t take more than 5 minutes, but it can really help to put the negatives in perspective. Get a pretty journal with a nice pen and make it part of your routine.
- Get help if you need it. Many of us have trouble asking others for help, but sometimes a professional is needed to help us get our balance back and start to see joy again.
Teacher self-care doesn’t have to be something else that adds stress to our lives. But doing some of these small actions can help so much. Remember, doing something for yourself allows you to give to others and be your best self!
What are some self-care activities that help you maintain balance? Please share!