Making Time for Self-Care: The Care and Feeding of a Teacher

Taking care of ourselves is not as easy as it sounds. Here are some simple tips for teacher self-care. 

Taking care of ourselves is not as easy as it sounds. Here are some simple tips for teacher self-care. 

11 Self-Care Tips for Teachers

1. Use Your Sick/Personal Days

A mental health day is a justifiable sick day. Better to have a mental health day than to be sick for days because you wore yourself out. Look at the calendar and see when your longest stretches are without a break (no Monday off or other holiday). Make a note of possible days you would want to take off to give yourself a break and tentatively put them on your calendar.  Maybe plan a long weekend or take a random Wednesday off (my favorite).

2. No. Say it. Often.

NO is a powerful word. Don't be afraid to use it. You can always change your mind and say yes later (on rare occasions), but it's really hard to go back on a yes.

3. Do Not Disturb

Put a sign on your classroom door when you are working on planning or grading. You'll have less interruptions and have more focused work time.

Do not disturb your heart as well. Don't listen to negativity. Have a standard answer when others try to gossip or say negative things around you. (It gets into your heart and leaves you feeling disturbed and unfocused.) For example: "I'm really committed to being positive this year. Can we talk about something else?" or "I can hear how upset you are. I want to be supportive and helpful. What are you hoping to accomplish by telling me this?"

4. Delegate

Ask for help. Delegate tasks to your students and to volunteers. Delegate at home as well. Decide what your most important tasks are and keep those for yourself. Delegate as much of the rest as you can.

5. Find Support

Find a support group of teachers you like and admire. Or start one. Can you say group text? How about a private Facebook group? Monthly happy hour or pot luck?

6. Don't bring work home. Seriously!

Stay a little later one day a week if you have to, but do not take work home. You deserve a break and your family and friends deserve to have you be fully present.

7. Life Plan

Who do you want to be as a person and as a teacher? What do you want your life to look like? Write it out and refer to it often. When you review it each week think, how does your life right now exemplify this? How does it not? What needs to change? Take the time for a Power Hour at the end of each week. Schedule it. Review your week- accomplishments and failures. Make a plan for moving forward.

8. Schedule Everything

teaching joyfully and having a great personal life
teaching joyfully and having a great personal life

Schedule regular time for grading and entering grades online. Don't forget to schedule your planning time and time for calls or emails to parents. Use every minute of your day. Schedule it all.  Then, you won't feel guilty when you take a much deserved break.

9. Have Lunch with Your Colleagues

Sustenance is essential. In addition, you need a mental break. Agree to talk about anything but school. If you eat with others, you'll make better meals for yourself.  Perhaps you can each bring a healthy meal to share or do pot luck once a month. Or, enlist a room parent to pick up food for you and your team once a month. Give them your order and money after school the day before and have them deliver right before lunch the next day. Yay!

10. Set Boundaries and Walk Away

Know when to walk away from the work. Set a timer if you have to in order to pack it in at a decent hour. Set firm boundaries between home and work. Hold to them. At a minimum, keep your weekends free of work. You need the break and will be a much better teacher for it. What time are you wanting to be home after school? Try not to take anything work related home. I know it's hard. I'll have some suggestions on that in another post.

11. Schedule Your Fun

Make plans for your weekends and evenings even if it is just to chill out and read a book. Put it on the calendar. You'll be more likely to work less in your "at home time" if you have plans on the calendar you are looking forward to.

So, get busy. Make time today to write out your plan to take care of YOU, so you can be joyful in your teaching and your personal life.

Teach joyfully,

Lisa

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