The Truth About Self-Care

Take a break, read a book, drink some tea, use essential oils or draw a bath! As educators, we have heard it all, frequently bombarded with suggestions and impractical adages. You deserve it. Put yourself first. You can't pour from an empty cup. And while that is all true, self-care is simply a lot easier to promote than to put into practice. Our roles in education are incredibly demanding and often leave little room for luxuries and indulgences; thus, taking time for ourselves can feel counterintuitive to the level of professional efficacy we desire. So, how do we prioritize ourselves to honor our needs and our time? To help create your wellness checklist, consider the 5-domains of self-care practices: 

What are your physical needs?

  • Rest? 
  • Sleep?
  • Sustenance? 
  • Medical? 
  • Exercise? How do you like to move- dance, swim, walk, or play sports? 

    As an educator, your job requires a lot of energy every day and can be stressful. Take time to check in with your body and focus on your physical self-care practice. 

    How do you care for your mind? 

    • Self-reflection or journaling?
    • Therapy? 
    • Reading? Tip: try reading a non-work-related book!
    • Setting boundaries and saying “no” to extra responsibilities? 

    Being an educator is psychologically demanding. It requires giving a lot of time and attention to your students. Take the time to increase your awareness and tend to your psychological needs. 

    How do you practice connection? 

    • Are you setting healthy boundaries?
    • Have you told someone you appreciate them lately?
    • Have you asked for the support you need?
    • Are you being intentional about time with loved ones and close friends?

    Focusing on the essential relationships in your life is an impactful self-care strategy. 

    Practice and maintain healthy, supportive relationships while taking care of yourself. Being mindful of your needs in close relationships can make a difference.

    What draws you closer to your purpose? 

    • Time outdoors? 
    • Praying/meditation? 
    • Volunteering?

    As an educator, there are so many moments of inspiration, but moments can also feel disheartening. Take time to connect to the things that give your life meaning and inspiration outside of the classroom.

    What helps you feel in tune with your feelings? 

    • Positive affirmations? 
    • A good laugh/cry? 
    • Being in the presence of others who bring you joy?

    While essential, being a daily role model of emotional regulation for children is both challenging and exhausting. This emotional toll underscores the need to make time to focus on our needs as educators.

    Teachers are combating a variety of daily occupational stressors. These can include but are not limited to heavy workloads, large class sizes, lack of support, diversity of tasks required, and the impact of covid over the last two years. With these high demands, educators can experience compassion fatigue - a normal response to the chronic stress of helping others. It is an everyday occupational reality for educators and others in the helping profession. 

    Compassion fatigue can show up physically, behaviorally, and psychologically. It’s essential to be aware of the signs to give yourself the additional time necessary to support your self-care needs. 

     Physical Signs: 
    • Exhaustion 
    • Insomnia 
    • Headaches 
    • Increased susceptibility to illness
    • Somatization

    Behavioral Signs:

    • Increased use of alcohol and drugs 
    • Absenteeism 
    • Anger 
    • Irritability 
    • Impaired ability to make decisions 
    • Problems with personal relationships
    • Compromised ability to be present with kids while teaching

    Psychological Signs: 

    • Emotional Exhaustion 
    • Distancing 
    • Negative Self-Image 
    • Depression 
    • Reduced ability to feel sympathy & empathy
    • Failure to develop & nurture non-work related areas of life
    • Dread of coming to work 
    • Feeling professional helplessness 
    • Resentment

    Self-care is a celebration of the utility of your body and mind - the permission to rest and recharge to nurture your holistic wellness. You don't have to earn this approval - you deserve the love and energy you give. The practice of self-care doesn't always have to encompass lavish spa treatments, epic hikes, and pedicures. Instead, it’s the loving moments you curate that recharge your true self. So, take the time to listen to your body, notice the impact of your job as an educator, and find the self-care that supports the psychological, relational, spiritual, and emotional needs that serve you best. 

    Use this self-care assessment and these reminder cards to help you build a sustainable self-care practice.

    Kim Allen, Slumberkins Director of Education and Special Education Teacher. Heidi Uhrich, NCC, Slumberkins Education Coordinator and School Counselor.

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