As educators, parents, partners, and friends we often put the needs of others before our own. For many, it’s human nature to nurture and provide for others more than we do for ourselves. Unfortunately, that selflessness can often lead to stress, exhaustion, and burnout that can affect all aspects of our lives. Self-care is vital to keep our minds and bodies in a positive and productive space.
A common misconception with self-care is that it is self-indulgent or selfish, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Self-care means giving yourself the same amount of love and attention that you give others, allowing you to be the best version of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you can’t care for yourself, how can you care for others?
With all of the stressors stemming from the pandemic and how it’s uprooted our day-to-day, it’s even more important than ever to focus on self-care. Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas.
Get Your ZZZZZs
The benefits of a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours for adults) are endless (CDC, 2017). According to experts, sleep reduces stress, improves concentration and productivity, increases mood, supports a healthy immune system, and more (Leech, 2022). Practicing proper sleep hygiene is an important component of self-care. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends). Find ways to unwind before bed that do not include screen time. Some ideas include meditating, taking a hot bath, drinking decaf tea, or reading a book in bed. More rest will help you conquer the day in your classrooms and at home.
Move More Often
The health benefits of physical activity are undeniable. Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety and release endorphins, giving you periodic bursts of energy throughout the day. It can also improve your cardiovascular health and prevent illness. Former kindergarten teacher and Peloton instructor Jess Sims says we should all aim to “exercise less and move more” (Konstantinovsky, 2022). What this means is that you don’t have to kill it doing high intensity workouts every day. Instead, focus on moving for at least 30 minutes each day. This can be in the form of walking your dog, stretching, or doing a low impact yoga class. Need more motivation? Read Jess’s tips here.
When you have a lot of commitments, deadlines, and people demanding your attention, it can be hard to know which end is up. One way to reduce your stress level is by being more organized. In fact, becoming more organized can benefit your health, helping you feel happier and more relaxed (Herbert, 2022). Don’t know where to start? A few episodes of the above Netflix organizational shows will help inspire you to clear the clutter from your life, home, classroom, or workspace. In addition, maintaining a planner or calendar will help you prioritize and track what you need to do each day, reducing stress and helping you manage your time. In charge of a big family? Apps like Cozi can help you manage everyone’s schedule (even the family dog).
As teachers we are in front of screens, a lot! This is why it’s so important that when we’re not working to remember to unplug and unwind. Put down your phone, stop scrolling social media, and focus your attention on something else. Cooking, doing a puzzle, talking to a friend, or reading a book can transport us to a different space, giving our minds the break they deserve. You can also configure your phone to turn off notifications and remind you when it’s time to turn in for the night.
Saying no to the things we don’t want to do, but feel obligated to do can be exhausting and stressful. In the book, The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship—and Still Say No, author William Ury suggests the dilemma we encounter in saying “no” “often stems from an internal struggle between plugging into our own sense of power and a simultaneous desire to cater to, or foster, a relationship” (Ury, 2008). We are often already stretched too thin, so when someone asks us to devote more of our precious time and energy, it can lead to irritability and stress. Take a pause the next time someone asks you to put more on your plate. You can ask for time to decide. Need help putting this idea into practice? In episode 10 of the Advancing Women Podcast, Dr. Kimberly DeSimone discusses The Art and Agony of Saying NO! where she outlines the practical steps to decline effectively and confidently those unpaid, unappreciated projects that don’t move the needle in terms of your goals.
It’s Your Turn to Take Care of YOU
While making time for yourself can be difficult, it’s imperative for our overall health. Whether it’s reading the chapter you’ve been putting off, going for a walk around the block or scheduling the spa gift card you’ve been holding onto, make yourself a priority. You deserve it.
CDC. (2017, March 2). CDC – how much sleep do I need? – sleep and sleep disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
Herbert, J. (n.d.). 5 surprising benefits of being organized. SelectHealth. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://selecthealth.org/blog/2021/01/5-surprising-benefits-of-being-organized
Konstantinovsky, M. (2022, January 10). Peloton’s Jess Sims shares the pinterest fitness phrase she hates & the one that actually motivates her. InStyle. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.instyle.com/beauty/health-fitness/peloton-jess-sims-workout-motivation-tips
Leech, J. (2022, January 6). 10 top benefits of getting more sleep. Healthline. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important
Ury, W. (2008). The power of a positive no: How to say no and still get to yes. Bantam.