Real self-care ideas for teachers and educators

We all know it’s important to take care of ourselves. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is a phrase that frequently pops up on Instagram and Pinterest, reminding us all of the importance of self-care. 

While there’s definitely wisdom in the words, the whole notion of self-care has really skyrocketed in recent years. It’s become trendy (and a bit commercial honestly) to find ways to practice more self-care. We are living in a time of “you do you” and “treat yo’self,” yet not everyone embraces these notions as ways to tackle serious challenges like stress and anxiety. As this article points out, self-care is more than just salt baths and chocolate cake. It’s also about taking care of your entire self—often doing things that are hard or that we don’t want to do. 

So what does this look like for teachers? There’s no doubt this is one of the most challenging years to be an educator. Reports show that many are even leaving the profession in record numbers. As much as chocolate, wine, and massages are nice, they aren’t necessarily the self-care teachers need right now. So for this story, we talked to educators around the country about how they tackle self care. Here’s a summary of some of their best ideas …

Schedule time on your calendar for something you love—every week. 

This is one you can put into place right away. Best of all, you get to decide what is good for you. Try to think of something that can truly contribute to your own self-care. Perhaps it’s reading or enjoying a podcast that inspires you. Mark time off on your calendar and set a reminder. Then really honor yourself by not skipping it or putting it off. Yes, even on the night that it feels like you have a million things to do. 

Perhaps you enjoy reading or listening to a podcast. Mark time off on your calendar and set a reminder.

Cut back on the elaborate or time-consuming lesson plans. 

What’s a reasonable amount of time each day or week to spend on prep or lesson plans? Are you spending two or three times the amount? If so, find ways to cut back. Many teachers feel like they’re doing two jobs right now, serving both in-person and virtual students, so naturally, there’s going to be more prep time involved. But set limits for yourself, even if that means being a little less prepared overall. 

Many teachers feel like they’re doing two jobs right now, serving both in-person and virtual students, so naturally, there’s going to be more prep time, and stress, involved.

Voice your concerns openly and honestly with your admin. 

If you’re hitting a wall day after day and it’s just too much, then have a real talk with your admin. Educators admit they often skip this step because they don’t think there are possible solutions. But don’t suffer in silence. It’s important to bring up real concerns and challenges. Maybe there’s not an immediate answer, but stress and anxiety shouldn’t be ignored. 

Don’t let that one parent, family, or person consistently ruin your day or week.

If your day or week is often severely impacted by just one or two people, then it’s time to do something about it. Maybe you need to get your admin involved. Perhaps it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk with the parent or co-worker that you’re having a conflict with. It feels daunting to tackle challenges like this, but this is a great self-care example of something tough that really can benefit you in the long run. 

Having a heart-to-heart talk with a parent or co-worker that you’re having a conflict with can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

Don’t sacrifice the things most important to you. 

What’s most important to you? Is it family time? Working out? Having time to watch your favorite shows? Whatever it is, don’t let it get lost in the shuffle. You might even enact the technique of the first tip by putting it on your calendar to make time for it. But don’t lose sight of those things that are important to you. 

What’s most important to you? Is it family time? Working out? Having time to watch your favorite shows? Whatever it is, don’t let it get lost in the shuffle.

Tackle the hard stuff because deep down you know it matters. 

This is a good reminder that self-care isn’t always fun or even enjoyable. Yet, it matters to our health and well-being. For instance, meditation has been shown time and time again to be effective for stress and anxiety. Eating well and exercise contributes to feeling good. And getting enough sleep is absolutely essential. None of these are easy to find the time, effort, or willpower to do. They’re important, though. Tackling the hard stuff really does matter. 

Meditation has been shown time and time again to be effective for stress and anxiety.

Find what calms you, and then do it! 

Everyone has stress or challenges throughout the day or week. You likely know what works for you when you need to calm down or relax. Or maybe you don’t—maybe you’ve been trying to find out what that is for you, and you’re still on the lookout. Either way, it’s worth taking the time to figure it out. Journaling, working out, sleeping on it—all can be coping mechanisms that are positive ways to deal with conflict and preserve self-care for yourself. So find out what works for you. Many of us will ignore or avoid, but there are much better ways to cope. 

It’s time to lose the image of a bubble bath or glass of wine being forms of self-care. Sure, those are nice and enjoyable, but they only scratch the surface. Educators are doing so much for all of us right now—the kids, parents, and our communities—so don’t forget to do a few things for yourself, too. 

Don't forget to be kind to yourself!

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