Teaching is an incredibly rewarding profession, but it often requires you to place the needs of others before your own. However, much like the advice parents get on airplanes to put on their oxygen masks first, taking care of yourself will help you take care of others more effectively. In this blog, we’re focusing on self-care for teachers and providing some helpful habits to improve physical, mental, and emotional health.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is the act of protecting your personal well-being by doing things that boost your health and happiness, especially during times of stress. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve broken this broad topic down into three categories that each focus on a different aspect of health.
- Physical Self-Care: Actions that benefit your physical health.
- Mental Self-Care: Actions that improve your mental health.
- Emotional Self-Care: Actions that promote emotional wellness.
Depending on how you cope with stress, you may want to adopt self-care habits in all three of these categories or just the one(s) that affect you the most.
Importance of Self-Care for Teachers
Between the heavy workloads, never-ending student needs, and standard demands of daily life, teachers take on a lot of stress. Over time, this culminating stress can seriously impact their health. For example, some teachers may begin to experience headaches, anxiety, sleep issues, or even physical sickness due to school-related stress.
We understand that it can be challenging to prioritize yourself when your to-do list is a mile long, but taking time for your own well-being shouldn’t be at the bottom of the list. Adopting self-care habits can help you manage your stress and prevent burnout so that you can feel your best while serving your students each day.
Self-Care Tips for Teachers
Now that you have a better idea of what self-care is and why it’s so important for teachers, let’s look at some simple self-care habits that you can incorporate into your routine.
Physical Self-Care for Teachers
Here are a few ways that you can reduce stress by supporting your physical health.
1) Get Enough Rest
Not getting a sufficient amount of sleep will put you on the fast track to feeling burnt out. So, be sure to get a solid 7–9 hours of sleep each night to give your body the rest it needs. We recommend establishing a bedtime and a relaxing nightly routine to help you unwind.
2) Move Your Body
Whether you take a yoga class, go for a daily walk or bike ride, play tennis, or just do some simple morning stretches, taking the time to move your body relieves stress and improves your mood. While it can be hard to prioritize physical activity when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, the key is to find an activity that you actually enjoy and start slowly!
3) Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
Do you find yourself often working through lunch or just scarfing down a cereal bar for breakfast? Then you probably feel burnt out because you’re constantly running on fumes and not being properly nourished. With everything that’s on your plate (pun intended), it’s absolutely essential that you fuel your body with nutritious foods and drink plenty of water. If you’re too pressed for time, meal planning, delivery services, and subscription boxes can make mealtime less stressful.
4) Take Time Off for Sickness
Too many teachers choose to power through when they are feeling ill instead of taking the day off to rest. While it may not always be convenient, don’t hesitate to use your sick time. We suggest being proactive by establishing a plan for when you aren’t available to teach so you can fully focus on getting better if/when sickness strikes.
Mental Self-Care for Teachers
Now let’s look at some effective strategies to boost mental health.
5) Establish Boundaries
A teacher’s job is never done, and for that reason, it can be way too easy to keep working well after the school day is over. To avoid falling into this pattern, set firm boundaries to honor your time and energy, such as when to stop working for the day, not taking work home with you, and saying “no” when possible.
6) Give Yourself a Break
Feeling drained mentally? Take a mental health day! Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it should be treated as such. So don’t feel bad about taking some “sick time” for your psyche. If a day of doing nothing on the couch, gardening, or going to the beach is what you need to refresh your mind, then make it happen.
7) Go Outside
Spending time outdoors is proven to have positive effects on mental health. So, even if you’d rather just curl up on the couch, go spend some time in the sunshine. Walk the dog. Take your kids to the park. Lay down in the grass. Read a book or eat dinner on your porch. Even just a few minutes of fresh air can make a big mental impact.
8) Remember Your “Why”
It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of why you became a teacher when you’re in the trenches. Taking the time to reflect on why you do what you do and what makes your job so worthwhile can give you strength during particularly difficult times.
Emotional Self-Care for Teachers
Finally, consider these self-care habits to improve emotional health.
9) Spend Time with Others
When you feel tired and stressed out, socializing can seem like a chore. But spending time with others can help you feel less alone in your feelings. So, fit some time into your schedule to catch up with friends and family. You might even want to join a club or organization to make some new connections.
10) Talk It Out
While it’s not always easy to open up about your emotions with others, we want to encourage you to speak with a trusted person(s) when you’re feeling upset. It could be a colleague, partner, friend, family member, or a therapist. No good will come from holding your feelings inside. Find someone who will listen and encourage you, even if they can’t entirely relate.
11) Do Something You Enjoy
Does school stress have you feeling down in the dumps? Set aside time to do something that you enjoy, whether it be baking, watching sports, or simply putting together a puzzle at your kitchen table. Learning something new can also be a great way to take your mind off work and meet new people.
12) Be Kind to Yourself
Teachers wear a lot of hats, and even the most experienced ones can’t do it all. If you feel like you’re struggling to stay afloat, make sure to keep realistic expectations and give yourself grace when you make mistakes. Remember, pushing back deadlines, putting goals on hold, and dropping low-priority tasks doesn’t equate to failure. Do what you have to do to take care of yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.
While a bit cliché, the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” certainly holds true. That’s why self-care for teachers is so crucial. By taking the time to fill your own cup, you’ll be able to pour into your work better. Try implementing some of the self-care habits from above and see how your overall well-being improves.