Self-care tips for teachers

It’s a conundrum that most teachers face at some point: how to take care of themselves during a busy day-to-day career working with students and enlightening young minds. Self-care is an important topic for many people in the present day, and teachers especially need to be aware that taking time for themselves isn’t selfish – in fact, it’s a necessity to avoid burnout and exhaustion. But in the moment, it can feel impossible to carve out any time for yourself, especially if you’re feeling drained at the end of a long school day.

Putting your students and their well-being first comes from a good place; however, if you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s more likely that you won’t be at your best when it comes to teaching. Here are a few ways that teachers can focus on self-care – both for themselves and the good of their classes.

How can teachers make self-care a habit?

It’s common behaviour to accept certain events as once-in-a-while treats, rather than something to make time for on a regular basis. Certainly, many people would consider self-care to be more of the former than the latter. But this is where teachers need to flip the script and start thinking of self-care as a regular habit rather than something to “indulge” in every once in a while. Doing little things to take care of your own mental, physical, and emotional well-being need to be a frequent occurrence built into your everyday schedule.

An easy way to get started is to assess your daily routine and figure out what time of day would work best for your little self-care rituals. If you’re a morning person, it might be worth your time to set your alarm for a little earlier in order to have enough time to ramp up into the day with some exercise or meditation. If you prefer to stay up later, make some time after marking papers and making dinner to read a good book or take a bath. You can even put aside some time during the day, whether it’s at lunch hour or recess, to recharge by listening to music or a podcast. The important part is to keep focused on making the time to take care of yourself and telling yourself it isn’t selfish – it’s a necessary part of your day, and a good habit to keep.

How can teachers change their schedule for self-care?

Now that you’ve determined when the best time for your self-care is, it’s time to put it into practice by working it into your daily schedule. As mentioned, once you’ve got a sense of what time of day is good with your workload, you need to start scheduling out that time for yourself – whether it’s by blocking off meeting time digitally or setting an alarm on your smartphone. This is also where you should practice saying “no” to certain requests or demands that don’t fit your schedule. It’s typical for teachers to overload themselves out of self-sacrifice, but this will absolutely lead to burnout. Setting boundaries for your own time and putting them into practice will help inform others (and yourself) that you’re serious about having time to yourself.

Streamlining your schedule is also important, because it allows you to focus on just a few things rather than spreading yourself too thin. Try to pare your schedule down to the necessities and include time for your self-care routine as well – after all, it needs to be a daily necessity as well.

How can teachers tap into their self-care network?

At the end (or beginning) of a long day teaching, it can be tempting to close yourself off and spend time alone. While this form of self-care can work for people, it’s also worth using your down time to tap into your network of friends – and we’re not just talking about scrolling endlessly through social media. Instead, connect with people through phone calls or coffee dates, or find projects and hobbies that you can do in partnership with others. Getting some face time with loved ones is perfect to help balance out days spent in the classroom and evenings spent marking papers.

Don’t discount the power of volunteering, as well – making time to do some good in your community can be a mood-booster with lasting positive effects. Consider helping out at an animal shelter to get the extra stress-busting power of being around animals, or putting aside a weekend morning to help clean up a local park.

How can teachers know what works for self-care?

Every teacher’s version of self-care is different. If sweating it out in a gym class, practicing meditation, or taking a long bath isn’t your idea of self-care, don’t bother forcing yourself to do it – you’ll just end up more stressed out than before. Take stock of what you really enjoy doing in your spare time, and what helps you wind down and de-stress. Self-care doesn’t have to be journaling or doing yoga or sitting in a quiet room – even if it’s something loud and messy and exciting, if it nourishes your soul, it’s worth making time for.

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