Self-Care Tips for Teachers: Easy Ideas to Improve Your Well-Being
As you know, teaching is an incredibly rewarding—and incredibly demanding—profession. You spend your entire day focusing on the needs of others, many times neglecting your own needs in the process.
The importance of self-care for teachers cannot be overstated. Taking time to meet your needs allows you to better meet the needs of others. We’ve found the best self-care tips for teachers to help you be at your best, both personally and professionally.
The Importance of Self-Care for Teachers
Teachers are tasked with heavy workloads on top of facing a lack of resources and the ever-changing landscape of educational policy. These stressors, in addition to your everyday demands, have a cumulative negative impact on your well-being.
Additionally, teachers working with students who are impacted by trauma may find themselves experiencing “compassion fatigue,” or secondary traumatic stress. Symptoms can include:
- Trouble being productive
Engaging in well-being practices for teachers helps you to minimize the effects of compassion fatigue and, in turn, offer your students the stability and connection that they need.
Managing your stress levels and preventing burnout helps you reach your fullest potential as a teacher and, as a result, your students achieve success.
What is Self-Care?
According to the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute, self-care includes a range of activities that you do to nurture your well-being in four key areas:
- Emotional (the heart) – to love, care for, and be in a relationship with yourself and others.
- Physical (the body) – to live, move, and breathe.
- Psychological (the mind) – to learn, think, and grow.
- Spiritual (the spirit) – to connect with essence, purpose, and meaning.
The first step toward self-care is to take time to evaluate your needs in these four dimensions. Once you’ve established your goals, it will be easier to determine which self-care habits are right for you.
Self-Care Tips for Teachers
Just like no two students are exactly alike, your self-care needs are unique to you. With your goals in mind, think about a few self-care habits that you can realistically incorporate into your daily routine.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of ideas for each dimension to get you started. Remember- every little bit counts!
- Set and maintain boundaries.
Teachers often keep working long after the school day is done. Setting boundaries around your time could mean only checking school emails during school hours, saying no to additional requests, or choosing not to bring work home on certain days.
- Take a mental health day.
Treat your mental health as you would your physical health. Taking a break when you need it will allow you to walk back into your classroom refreshed and ready to give your students your best.
- Get connected with others.
Join a book club, make dinner plans with a friend, or find a walking buddy. Research has shown that positive relationships have a tremendous impact on our well-being.
- Call a friend or family member.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with loved ones who live far away or may be unable to get together face-to-face. A quick phone call to someone you love can be the mood booster you need.
- Write a note to someone you care about.
Even if it’s just a short text, making time to share your appreciation for others is important. Their mental health (and yours) will benefit!
- Recognize what is (and isn’t) in your control.
It’s easy to feel powerless when circumstances become overwhelming. By making a list of what you can and can’t control, you can start to focus your energy on what is in your power to change—and start changing it.
- Take time to laugh.
Thanks to social media, there are countless teacher-comedians and meme accounts if you want a good laugh from teachers just like you. Stream your favorite comedy special or watch your favorite sitcom to add some lightness to your day.
- Take your sick days.
Every teacher has weighed the decision of powering through a day of teaching while feeling unwell or gathering last-minute substitute plans—and the former often wins. Create a plan for your classroom that makes it easy for anyone to take over at a moment’s notice so that you can focus on getting better.
- Get enough sleep.
Implement a nighttime routine to help you let go of the stress of the day. It’s one of the easiest ways to get better sleep.
- Drink more water.
The benefits of drinking water have long been touted—and with good reason. Get a fun water bottle to keep at your desk to help you remember to sip throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly.
Whether it’s taking a walk, joining a yoga class, or learning a new dance style, moving your body is proven to boost your mental health. The key is finding an activity that you enjoy!
- Stretch your body.
Stress can quickly show up in our bodies as muscle tension. Take 10 minutes to stretch and take a few deep breaths.
- Eat well.
Teachers often find themselves doing prep work over their lunch break, leaving little time to eat (if any!). Using meal planning or a meal delivery service can make it easier to be intentional about your nutrition.
- Practice deep breathing.
Taking deep breaths has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, lower your heart rate, and more. There are many resources to help get you started with stress-reducing breathing techniques.
- Learn a new skill.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a new language or pick up hand lettering. No matter what it is, challenging yourself to learn something new is a good way to elevate your confidence!
- Listen to a podcast.
There are countless options for podcasts nowadays, ranging from educational topics to entertainment. Choose one that piques your interest and listen to it on your commute or your daily run.
- Try meditation.
Meditation is a great way to clear the mental chatter of the day. Some apps, like Headspace, offer a free subscription for teachers to access their vast library of resources.
- Pursue professional development.
Take time to evaluate your professional goals and consider how you might take steps to reach them. You may decide to take courses for a new certification or attend an educational lecture at a local college.
- Exercise gratitude.
By recognizing the positive things in your life and the effect they have on you, you can improve your mental well-being. There are many ways to start practicing gratitude daily.
- Use positive affirmations.
Whether you’re writing them in a journal or saying them out loud, positive affirmations are known to reduce stress and improve problem-solving. Words matter!
- Reconnect with nature.
Spending time outside has been proven to have positive effects on your well-being. Taking a walk, having a picnic, or simply pausing for a few minutes in the sunshine before you drive home can make a world of difference.
- Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a proven therapeutic technique that helps you alleviate stress by focusing on the present. Get started practicing mindfulness with these easy, free apps.
- Take time to reconnect with your purpose.
It can be difficult to remember why you became a teacher when you are feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. Taking time to reconnect with your purpose will help you remember what’s important and prioritize your time accordingly.
There are many resources you can use to discover more teacher self-care activities. You can customize your own teacher’s self-care checklist or use this fun self-care bingo sheet in the classroom or at home!
Practicing self-care for educators can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Incorporating a few of the self-care habits described above can be impactful for your well-being.
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