I have been in education for 29 years. Whenever anyone asks me how I have lasted so long and been so successful, I tell them my #1 secret: I take care of myself first.
That sounds wrong, doesn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to be in education so that we can take care of our students?
But think about it this way — if you are exhausted, burned out, or sick, how effective can you be in taking care of anyone else? When you are on a plane, one of the safety tips shared by flight attendants is to put your own oxygen mask on yourself before you tend to anyone else’s mask.
So I am telling you to do the same thing. Make a plan for your own self-care first, before you start thinking about the upcoming School year, before you make plans for your own kids, before you start planning for remote learning or hybrid learning or any other kind of learning.
Self-care isn’t about spa visits or long, leisurely soaks in a bubble bath (although both of those sound awesome). It’s more about the day-to-day habits we can implement to take care of our physical and mental health.
We have to make a plan for how we will take care of ourselves first.
I have several posts about self-care on this blog because I think it is SO important. But here are ten basics of self-care to help you get started.
1 – Get enough sleep. For most people, that’s 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night. While that may not happen every single night, that needs to be your goal. Set yourself a bedtime, figure out what time you need to start a “bedtime routine,” and work on getting that necessary sleep every night. You can read more about how to develop an evening routine in this post.
2 – Get up earlier in the morning. Use some of that quiet early morning time to do something for yourself. Maybe you’ll have a quiet devotional time or maybe you’ll work out in some way or maybe you’ll take that time to sip coffee and read. But allow yourself some time just for yourself in the morning before your busy day begins. Here are more tips on developing a morning routine.
3 – Exercise in some way for 30 minutes every day. You can walk, do yoga, go to Cross Fit, work out with a DVD or a streaming service like Beachbody on Demand at home — whatever works for you. But find time every day to move your body. Exercise is actually a form of meditation and gives you more physical energy. Find something you love to do and schedule it!
4 – Eat 6 – 10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Regardless of what else you’re eating, try to add in more healthy, plant-based foods. (I like to think that it helps cancel out any junky stuff I might eat – like Doritos or Goldfish. I know it isn’t true, but it makes me feel better!)
5 – Keep a gratitude journal or use an app like the 5 Minute Journal. Take time to think about five things for which you can be grateful every single day. No matter how badly any day might be, finding some good things in that day will help you keep a positive mindset.
6 – Consider writing in a journal every day. This isn’t necessarily the “dear diary” type of journal, although it can certainly be that if you want it to be. Just write about whatever comes to mind, whatever is bothering you or stressing you out. You will get better clarity on what you can do differently, just from writing about it. It’s the cheapest form of therapy out there!
7 – Find someone you can talk to about school stuff. It might be someone in your family or another Teacher friend. Your school will probably assign you a mentor, and that is awesome, but I also find it helpful to find other people in your school who embody the characteristics you want to have as a teacher. Get to know them and adopt them as “unofficial” mentors.
8 – Read something every day that is just for you. This could be your favorite fiction, People magazine (my guilty pleasure), nonfiction, a devotional book, a self-help book, whatever. Spend some time, even just five minutes, reading something that is not related to education and that helps you connect to other important parts of your life. (Or that helps you just escape for a bit!)
10 – Walk for a few minutes every day. This could be part of your regular workout or it could be a separate time of day. You can listen to music, a podcast, or just enjoy some peace and quiet. You can walk alone or with someone else. Just get outside and walk. The fresh air and exercise will clear your mind and help you get back to whatever you are doing with a better perspective.
Now — will every day be perfect? No way. Will you be busier in certain “seasons” of the school year than others? Of course. But having a plan for self-care makes it more likely that you will get to all (or almost all) of these important tasks every day. You are worth it and you deserve it! Take care of YOU first.
**By the way — this post is part of my new course on Teachable: Calm the Overwhelm of Back to School Planning. Use the coupon STSL for $10 off until July 25!**
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