I recently took a self-care workshop during my building’s Data Day. As far as professional development goes, it’s considered a pretty “soft” subject – you’re not getting a classroom strategy or tool, or planning vertical alignment with your department. You’re JUST talking about feelings…right? I felt stressed and anxious that day—that MONTH—and really needed the workshop, but continually struggle with the idea that I don’t do self-care right. Isn’t it supposed to look like it does on social media? Thrice-daily yoga, getting nine uninterrupted hours of sleep each night, and drinking my body weight in water while meditating on the joys of teaching? It turns out that my work-life balance is very unPinteresting – I barely have time to think about yoga, let alone practice it.
(…but shout out to those who make it work – your game is strong)
What is self-care and why does it matter for teachers?
Self-care seems self-explanatory, but pause and consider just how many aspects of your life require maintenance and attention. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has resources specifically for caregivers, whose needs are closely aligned with those of educators regardless of their assignment.
How does self-care help my students?
No-brainer. If you’re sharp, you’re modeling healthy habits and being a better advocate for your students. You’re more available and even-tempered.
How do I start?
The workshop I attended used NAMI tools, including a self-care inventory, to help attendees identify strengths, needs, and potential actions in the following areas:
- Workplace or Professional
Create a simple table with these categories. List your strengths in each area, your needs in each area, and a concrete action you can take to make a change (if needed). Create sub-categories if that helps – for example, my “physical” section had an entire sub-category devoted to food. Yum. A co-worker of mine identified time to read (to decompress) as a psychological need, and took the concrete action of finding a comfortable reading chair and lamp to create a cozy reading nest in his home. I identified spending time outdoors as a spiritual need, and took the concrete action of going on a walk after dinner each night. This is important: don’t worry about your self-care routine being social media-worthy perfection. It’s for your health, not an audience.
How can I bring self-care practices to my building?
Advocate for self-care PD. I’ve found that even in casual conversations with coworkers, there is a keen interest in developing sustainable self-care routines in the workplace. Spend some time on your own concrete actions, then bring your newfound expertise to your team.
What self-care routines do you think are necessary for caretakers in general and educators in particular? What have you committed to that already works? Share your insights in the comments!