For at least a few minutes a day, take care of you

Time and again we hear: Nothing is more important for our students’ success inside our classrooms and schools than well-prepared and experienced staff. But let’s be honest: Even in “normal” times, educators have had to become workaholics.

The stresses of the job and long hours take their toll on educators’ health and well-being. It is no surprise that 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, nor that the exodus of veteran and new educators increased during the pandemic. It is difficult to take care of yourself when your career is taking care of students. But the first step in being your best for your students, is taking care of yourself.

Much has been written about self-care, but as with new year’s resolutions, it is difficult to change old habits. Experts recommend taking baby steps toward your self-care goal and celebrating small accomplishments. But what should we be doing? Who has the best advice on this often-covered topic?

Well, your Advocate writers turned to Oprah Winfrey— the queen of self-care. And what she says makes total sense: “There isn’t a perfect, correct, or best way to do self-care. It’s whatever you need to feel happier or more relaxed.”

FREE mental health apps for educators.

WakingUp is available to you for 3 months when you use the promo code ABUNDANCE. The app is structured around two core principles: Practicing meditation, and learning the theory behind the practice. Available at App Store and Google Play.

HeadSpace for educators offers extensive resources to use in and outside of the classroom. Sign up for free through August 2022 using your school or FEA email.

We asked around FEA to find out what folks turn to when they need a little reprieve, and their responses run the gamut:

  • Exercise was often the first answer. Weightlifting, running, cycling, yoga, barre and hiking all came up. Fitting in 30 minutes of workout time overwhelming? Experts tell us to try setting aside 10 minutes, three days a week just to go outside and walk around the block.
  • Hobbies of all sorts came up. Painting, dancing, woodworking, knitting, crafting, cooking/baking, nature walks and volunteering were mentioned by many. Again, the advice is to find a place where you can focus on something you love to do, and let the rest of the world wait.
  • Rom-coms. Yes, we have a slew of folks who turned to Hallmark and Lifetime movies over the holiday break. Binge-watching other TV series was also on the list.
  • Reading, listening to podcasts (have you listened to FEA’s podcast yet?) and listening to music were favorites.
  • Allowing time just to daydream, perhaps with a cup of tea or something a bit stronger.
  • Meditation for a few minutes can help reset a cluttered mind.
  • Prayer and time for spiritual renewal were also on the list of many folks.
  • Online shopping! (Hopefully in moderation.)
  • Allowing time for long luxurious baths.
  • Chopping onions. Yes, some folks find chopping vegetables mentally relaxing.
  • Make time to go to the doctor, go to a spa, get a deep-tissue massage or get adjusted by chiropractor.

Regardless of the self-care routine you chose, we are reminded that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. Take time to advocate for your well-being. The weight of the world is often on your shoulders, but you will not be your best if you don’t grab some time to take care of yourself. Still thinking, “I don’t have time for this. I have papers to grade”? Stop for a minute and ask yourself how you are feeling at that moment. Likely, you are feeling stressed or exhausted.

Remember, your students need you to be healthy and refreshed. They are counting on you. So give yourself 10 minutes of personal time to capture some joy, time to relax and reset. Make the world wait on you for once.

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