Teachers are some of the busiest professionals we meet. We watch them juggle the needs of students, administrators, team members, and family members. They have to manage classroom behavior, be mindful of curriculum requirements, and prep students for testing. With this myriad of responsibilities on their shoulders, it’s not surprising that many teachers suffer from long-term illness and burnout.
“Too often, we do not make time for sufficient self care because we’re too busy taking care of others.”Eleanor Brownn
Classroom technology can help ease some of the burden, but that’s a small part of the puzzle that makes up a healthy environment for teachers. A recent study showed that “workload and a better work/life balance are the main reasons teachers leave or consider leaving the profession within 10 years.” Without active preventative measures, teachers can end up on long-term sick leave. Some teachers decide to leave the field forever.
One way to combat this trend is with teacher self-care. Whether big or small, self-care habits can be impactful and help teachers manage a stressful environment. We searched a collection of articles and gathered a list of ideas below:
Start the day right.
The way we start our day sets the tone. Taking time for yourself in the morning can ease stress and create more peaceful feelings before heading to a high-pressure day of teaching. These activities can take as little as 5–10 minutes, but they make a big difference in how you start your day:
- Meditation—Take a few minutes to focus your mind.
- Mindful breathing—if meditation isn’t your thing, just a few minutes of mindful breathing has been “linked to improved heart, brain, digestive and immune system function, as well as overall stress reduction.”
- Exercise—Make time for exercise that you enjoy, like stretching, walking, running, yoga, playing sports, or a trip to the gym. Exercise is a great way to wake up our minds and bodies, and it relieves stress too!
Keep it up at school.
A good start to the day is important, but it can be challenging to maintain the focus and peace of a morning routine when faced with the pressures of school. Here are some ideas to maintain some focus on your own needs as you care for others:
- Avoid trivial classroom conflicts; if your students can work it out with themselves, let them.
- Prioritize and eliminate—decide what is the best use of your time and eliminate the extras that aren’t necessary and detract from that.
- Keep a small pick-me-up at your desk, like tea, chocolate, nuts, a stress ball.
- Accept that you’re a “teacher in progress”—you don’t have to be perfect. We should all continue growing and learning, and we all make mistakes.
- Learn to say no. This may be one of the hardest, but focusing on priorities and saying no to things that don’t fit those priorities can relieve huge amounts of stress.
End the day on a positive note.
There are a lot of important things that we can try to cram into the end of the day—it’s the last chance to cross items off our to-do list. Make sure some of those to-dos are taking care of you!
- Connect with others—friends, family, loved ones.
- Give yourself time to unwind.
- Get out and enjoy nature—even 20 minutes can impact us. Combine it with a walk or bike ride for a bonus!
- Get more sleep! This can be really difficult, but 2–3 extra hours of sleep each week can greatly improve our health, mood, and stamina.
We’re not saying this is a checklist of items that you need to tackle—we all know another list of things to do is NOT what teachers need. The important thing is to find self-care options that will make a difference for you.
“Don’t just pick whatever sounds easiest, or whatever sounds fun. You want it to be something that’s going to take a weight off your shoulders and give you this real sense of satisfaction.”Angela Watson