If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know that in the spring and summer of this year, I released three new journals, all of which are focused on self-care habits, gratitude, and happiness for educators of all types. This is something that I want to talk more about, which is why I’m going to publish a few blog posts about these topics so that I can share more of my thoughts about why self-care is important for educators and share ways to make it manageable and achievable while you’re working full-time in a school. In this specific blog post, I’m highlighting some of my favorite self-care activities from my Free Self-Care Challenge for Educators, so please keep reading to get more insight about why I suggest these activities for you.
1. Leave work at work when you go home for the day.
This is one of the most important self-care habits to prioritize, in my opinion. As educators, I know we all find it super hard to let go of our to-do lists and things that need to be done at the end of the day. It seems like we always have a million things on our to-do list — copies to make, emails to send to colleagues or parents, meetings to attend, and so on. However, it’s really important for our mental health and emotional well-being to leave work at school when we go home for the day. When you’re at home, your focus should be on switching your mindset to the things that you need to do at home, first of all, but also on the ways that you can calm down and relax your mind. I think we all agree that we don’t get enough time during the day to give our minds a break and to step away from the challenges and obstacles that we have in our jobs every day, so it’s really important that you do this when you’re at home. Spoiler alert: Your work will still be there waiting for you when you go back tomorrow!
2. Step away from a conflict with students until everyone involved has calmed down.
I think this one is a big deal, and it’s probably really hard for a lot of us. We all have those experiences where we’re in the middle of a lesson, and all of the sudden, some kind of conflict breaks out between students or another kind of distraction comes up, and we have to figure out how to resolve the conflict. Sometimes, unfortunately, the conflict causes escalated feelings, and that makes it hard to deal with in the moment when you and the student(s) involved are feeling really emotional about what just happened. The best thing that you can do when these situations arise is to explain to the student(s) that you are going to let everyone — yourself included — calm down until later in the day or even until the next morning when you come back to school. Then, you can get together with the student(s) to talk about what happened and, if necessary, come up with a plan for disciplinary action. It’s much easier to figure out how a conflict should be resolved fairly when everyone is in a calmer, more rational state of mind, which is why I think that this self-care habit — and it is a self-care habit — is so important.
3. Say no when asked to do something you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do.
Oh man, if I could yell this one from the rooftops, I definitely would! Saying no is something that almost everyone needs to work on, because it’s a huge issue with pretty much every single person everywhere. There are people who are adept at saying no and maintaining their boundaries, but for the majority of us, doing these things is super hard. You’ve got to realize the importance of your own mental health, your boundaries, your sanity, and your energy. For these reasons, it is truly okay for you to say no when your principal asks you to do something that you want to do or that you don’t have time to do, when a colleague asks you to do something, and even when a student asks you to do something. No one is going to protect your time and energy if you don’t, so it’s time to step it up! You can always do the thing you were asked to do at a later time, when it’s more convenient, or the person who asked you can always find someone else who is able. It’s not a burden you need to carry.
4. Do no work at all on the weekends.
Now, I don’t mean that you should avoid doing work every single weekend, because that’s not completely realistic for educators — sometimes it’s unavoidable. This bold statement is probably making you feel a little anxious right now, if you’re a perfectionist or if you have a to-do list that’s a mile long (which, let’s be real: you’re an educator, so of course you do). However, you really shouldn’t be doing work every weekend, if you can avoid it. Make a rule for yourself that on one or two Saturdays or Sundays every month, you won’t do any work, and you will just devote those days self-care time, fun, and relaxation. You can decide how you want to spend your time and energy on those days, but the goal here is to take a full day on the weekend, or even a full weekend (gasp!), to spend time on yourself and to give yourself a break from grading at home while you have Netflix on in the background — in other words, it’s the perfect time to engage in more self-care activities!
5. Give yourself 15 minutes to talk about work at home and then drop it.
If I had to guess, this one is probably a really hard one for a lot of educators. I know that I definitely struggled with this when I was still teaching full-time a few years ago. Just ask my husband! 😉 No matter how hard you find it, though, it’s super important to make sure that you’re letting go of things that happen at work that are upsetting you. It’s totally fine to vent your frustrations and to complain when you need to, but once you get it out of your system, stop talking about it. Allow your brain to move on to other topics of conversation, ask your spouse or your roommate or whoever you live with how their day went, and just let it go. It’s not going to do anyone any favors to keep dwelling, complaining, and venting for a long period of time. (I actually think this is one of the most important self-care activities for anyone, no matter what your profession is, because complaining and venting affects more than just you!)
(Psst! If you’d like more self-care activities to incorporate into your newly formed self-care routine, then be sure to sign up below!)
6. Take a few minutes of class time to tell jokes and/or to share positive stories with your class.
This is one your students will really enjoy! Everybody needs a break from the seriousness of all the learning that happens in your classroom all day long, so show your students that you value the energy and effort that they are putting into their learning by giving them a few minutes to do something silly, like sharing jokes. Not only is it a great way to build your classroom community, but it’s also a great way to remind your students that you’re human, too, and that you value things they enjoy outside of the learning that happens in school. If you’re worried about telling jokes in the classroom, then instead of jokes, you could have your students share positive stories. This will help bring a more uplifting mindset and vibe into your classroom, and it will allow the opportunity for everybody’s spirits to be cheered up by the positivity that’s being shared. This is also a great way to promote kindness in your classroom or in your school, because you can encourage your students to share kind things that they have done for someone else or that they have witnessed happening around them.
That wraps up my most favorite self-care activities for educators, and these are all things I think that every educator should be practicing on a daily basis, if possible, because they will do so much to improve your attitude while you’re at work and to improve your overall mental health. If you have other self-care habits that you practice on a regular basis, then please share them with me in the comments on this post so that I can read them and so that other educators who read this post can see them, as well, and we can keep reading and sharing more self-care tips for educators!
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