As an educator, how do we ensure we best prepare ourselves to support our students?
Because teaching is such an intensive job, educators can greatly benefit from learning about and practicing self-care. Unfortunately, teachers may worry that taking care of themselves can lead to self-absorption and distract them from their students. However, despite the misleading title, self-care isn’t at all about selfishness.
In fact, practicing self-care can be in the best interest of everyone in your classroom. Self-care is all about taking care of your health and making sure that you have everything you need to thrive as a teacher. Without taking care of yourself, you won’t have the energy to help your students.
Self-care can keep you at the top of your game and ready to handle any challenges that come up during your teaching career. Read on to discover what self-care is, why it’s important for educators, and how to bring it into your daily life as well as into your school.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is an important component of a teacher’s mental health, but there are misconceptions about what it is. It’s common for educators to dismiss the self-care movement as “selfish” or “superficial.” But for teachers, self-care is so much more than breakfast in bed or treating yourself to a spa day. It’s about taking care of your health so that you’re prepared to be the best teacher you can be for yourself and your students.
The definition of self-care is any action that you use to improve your health and well-being. According to the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI), there are six elements to self-care:
Addressing any of these six elements is important to address when wanting to holistically care for ourselves in every aspect possible.
How do you even self-care?
Because every person’s schedule and specific needs are different, practicing self-care can look different for everyone. A list of self-care activities for teachers could include the following ideas:
- Because teaching can be socially overwhelming, make sure to plan at least 10 or 20 minutes a day where you can take a break and decompress by yourself.
- Without a sense of compassion for yourself, you can’t practice positive self-care. If you struggle with low confidence levels, find ways to work on and improve your self-image.
- Bring a self-care “emergency pack” to school with things you enjoy so you can de-stress during your break if needed.
- Learning to recognize and process your emotions can lead to healthy self-care habits. Keep a journal and write in it to work through difficult teaching days when you feel overwhelmed.
- Social support is an important factor in self-care, so find a way to connect with loved ones at least once a day. This could be having dinner with your family, calling a friend, or relaxing with your significant other.
Classroom Self-Care Activities
Now that you understand how self-care can help your mental health as a teacher, you may also want to use group self-care activities in class. Student stress is just as prevalent and damaging for children as it can be for educators. Practicing self-care activities can help students learn how to manage and cope with challenging situations.
Here are a few self-care activities that you can use with your students to teach them the importance of caring for their mental, emotional, and physical health:
1. Personal reflection activities can teach students how to process their emotions. Try journaling or having group discussions about how your students are feeling about a certain topic and what that means to them.
2. Meditation is a mindfulness practice that can help students focus on the present.
3. Use these emotion cards to help children recognize their own feelings.
4. Self-care can also involve connecting with people we care about. Make kindness postcards as a class for your students to send to a loved one.
5. Use mental health check-in questions to keep tabs on how your students are doing.
6. Doing get-to-know-you activities as a class can help students bond with their classmates and feel less alone.
7. Give a printable list of self-care activities to families as a way to help children and caregivers learn self-care together.
8. Help your students write a self-compassionate letter.
9. Say a few positive affirmations as a class, like “I believe in my goals and dreams.”
10. School can sometimes be overwhelming for students, too. Plan a quiet time for reading or doing homework into your class schedule so students have time to decompress.
11. Do a little yoga to unwind and practice mindfulness together.