9 Self-Care Strategies plus Lessons from Expert Educators

Teaching is one of the most rewarding yet most challenging, and stressful jobs anyone could undertake. After all, we are the ones responsible for the academic and social development of children. We go above and beyond to create the perfect lessons. We spend our days lesson planning and researching to find the most creative ways to reach and teach our students. Hours are spent finding just the right materials, books, and resources to spark learning and retention. We review data and reports to ensure that we know where students are. There are phone calls and emails to be made. Meetings, we have lots of meetings, and other campus duties. We arrive at school early, stay late, and often work weekends. 

It seems that when we check one thing off our “to do list” we add two or three more things that must be done. The one thing that often gets left off that list is ourselves. In our quest to be the best teacher that ever taught, we forget that in order to give our students the best, we need to be able to give them our best selves, not a burned out, overworked version of ourselves. It’s so important for teachers to take care of themselves so they are happy and healthy and have more to give to their students and to everyone around them. 

Self-Care what is it and why is it important?

Self-care is an intentional activity that helps us take care of our physical, mental  and emotional health. Self-care helps us live a balanced life. Studies show that 40 to 50% of new teachers leave within the first five years on the job. Key reasons for this early departure are stress and lack of work-life balance. This staggering statistic is reason enough that self-care should be a top priority for every campus! 

When we think of self-care, we often think self-indulgent or selfish. Neither of these notions is true, in fact, self-care is anything but selfish, it’s a necessity. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t have the emotional or physical stamina to help our students or contribute to the well-being of our campus as a whole. 

Self-Care Strategies

There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to self-care. The important thing is that we recognize our own needs and do those things that help take the weight off our shoulders, give us peace, balance and real satisfaction. 

Here are some ideas for taking better care of yourself. 

  • Rest – get plenty of sleep, but also give yourself a break during the school day. Ideally, you should actually take the time to eat a healthy lunch and breathe! If that’s just not possible some days, take a few minutes to soak up the sun or just unplug in your classroom. 
  • Keep it simple – focus on concepts and what your students need to know. Don’t overthink lesson plans, make it interesting and fun, but don’t make it complicated for yourself to prepare and deliver.
  • Set boundaries – pick a day or two to work late at school and leave on time the other days. Don’t work your entire weekend, in fact, avoid working on weekends if at all possible. Learn to say NO unless it’s something that you really want to do.  
  • Give yourself grace – you worked hard to present a lesson and it just didn’t go as planned. It’s okay, take a minute to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly and make a game plan for future lessons. Keep a growth mindset and learn from your experiences.
  • Take time off – sometimes you just need a day to regroup, refresh and renew so just do it! Everyone will benefit from a happier you!
  • Exercise – you don’t have to go out and take up marathon training, but a walk around the block is good for the body and mind. Play your favorite sport and take up a new one. 
  • Get creative – haul out that yarn that’s been waiting to become a scarf, pick up your guitar again, paint, draw, write, do whatever makes you happy.
  • Disconnect – turn off your computer, put away your phone, stop scrolling on social media these can drain your emotional battery.
  • Connect – collaborate with colleagues to lighten your load. Spend time with family and friends. 

Self-care isn’t always easy, but it should be a priority for all educators. We can’t do great things for kids if we aren’t our best selves. Even the best teachers take a little time to put themselves first. Take a moment to listen and share self-care lessons from these 2020 Teacher of the Year recipients. 

We can help teachers get the support they need!

Destination Knowledge is proud to support schools who encourage teachers to practice self-care. Our Ripple Effects professional development software provides teachers with personal guidance about their own social-emotional experience and its role in self-care. If you are looking for fresh ways to support teachers and staff on their mental health journey, please contact us for more information. 

Sabrina Valverde is an educator, entrepreneur, educational trainer/consultant, and published author. She is a fiercely passionate advocate for children and has worked in many settings to foster an environment where all children can succeed. Sabrina holds a Master’s of Education in Instructional Leadership and believes that equipping teachers with the best curriculum, resources, and professional development is the cornerstone to student achievement.

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