Oh boy. The topic of self-care importance for teachers gets me going. Show of hands how many times you’ve heard any of the following statements:
- “You need to take care of yourself”
- “Fill your own cup first.”
- “Leave your school bag at school.”
- … or my personal favorite…
- “You should lower your stress level.”
All these bits of self-care advice are 100% correct, but they all get my blood pressure boiling. You see, I suffer from anxiety just like the next person. And the more you talk about it, you realize you’re not alone. I used to think it was just me, but the more vulnerable I am, the more I realize that it’s not a stigma.
Anxiety to me isn’t always crippling. But it definitely impacts my day to day decisions, sleep quality, and sometimes relationships. My personality is that of a “fixer” so I go into over-drive and try to solve all the problems at one time. I’m sure you’re not going to be shocked at all to learn how ineffective that is.
Here are some things that I’ve done to settle my anxiety so I can function. I owe it to my students to be the best teacher I can be. I owe it to my family to be a calm sounding board for a whole bunch of teenagers. I owe it to my husband to be a contributing partner in our marriage. But put all that aside. I owe it to myself to be happy and emotionally healthy.
Let’s start at school. There are some things that you can change about your productivity at school to lessen your stress and lighten your load. Here are some ideas for self-care for teachers.
Self-Care Strategies For Teachers: Batch Working
You love it or you hate it. It’s like a healthier version of multi-tasking. It’s working ahead on a lot of similar tasks at one time. In my case, it’s doing three weeks to a month of lesson plans at one time.
Sounds crazy? Hear me out. Let’s look at your whole group reading plans. Chances are, your reading units are more than a week long. For me, the flow is easier to see when you’re looking at the whole picture. You’ll be able to see how week one builds into week two, and so on. I also find that once I’m “in the groove” of reading lesson planning, it’s easier to just keep going.
Think about it in terms of time. To start planning for a subject, you need to shift your focus, gather all the things you need – teacher manuals, calendars, manipulatives etc. Time adds up, and this can add 5-10 minutes to your day! Instead, while you have everything for one subject out, keep going!
This takes a lot of working ahead, of course, but think about it this way. If you have three works of reading lesson plans done, at the end of week one of your unit, you’re going to be able to either work ahead, or LEAVE THAT SCHOOL BAG right where it is, and go home to enjoy your weekend.
Resources For Teachers: Clubs and Podcasts
There are some really quality teacher programs out there that help with productivity and teacher self-care.
The 40 Hour Teacher Work Week
Angela Watson helps teachers avoid teacher overwhelm with her productivity tips. She helps you work smarter, not harder, and you really can cut down the hours you work in the classroom, but it doesn’t impact your teaching performance, in fact, it improves it! Check out her club here.
The Self-Care Haven Podcast
My friend, Marissa has a podcast that helps you add actionable steps to your day to put yourself first. Podcasts are great for the car, or on your daily walk. (Which I should probably go do since it’s been a while!)
Teacher Resource Memberships
Did you know that you can join teacher clubs and memberships? I know a ton of teachers who purchase resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, but you can save time and money by joining memberships that offer downloadable resources at a discount.
You can join the waitlist for my teaching membership called Literacy Stations Made Easy. Your literacy station activities will be done for you with this library of independent reading station resources. I open this membership twice a year, but you can join the waitlist here to be the first notified!
All these things helped me IN the classroom, but personal self-care was just as important. But quite often, adding “one more thing” to my list of things to do just added more stress. But these are the things that helped me:
I’m a huge West Wing fan. Elizabeth Moss’ character, Zoe Bartlett says, “The help helps.” Find someone to talk to. If you don’t click with the first person, try another. It helps to find someone that can also deliver constructive feedback that kicks your behind in gear too. During a very trying time in my life, I had weekly appointments with my therapist. Now, I might see her twice a year for “maintenance” if things get a little too busy for me.
Wine And Bubbles
Pour yourself a large glass of wine and get in the tub! This is when I catch up on podcasts or audio books. My family also knows that this is NOT the time to disturb me.
Cut Back On A Few Things
I have to put my phone down. My husband, Eric calls our phones “hand rectangles” because they’re mostly appendages. I’m happier and more present when I put it down and focus on what is right in front of me.
Watch the coffee and alcohol. I get too jittery if I have too much caffeine, and I’ll get some major headaches if I drink too much. (I can’t hang anymore!)
And Hydrate, People!
I feel so run down when I’m dehydrated. I love the other health aspects that drinking water offers, but I can always tell when I’m not staying hydrated. So drink that water!
Self-care for teachers shouldn’t be that hard. Give yourself permission to love on yourself a little this month!