Essential self-care tips for teachers

Teaching is tough. If you come home from school and feel like it’s all you can do to sign into your Netflix account and press “play,” you’re not alone. Watching bad TV isn’t the only way to unwind after a hard day of teaching. In fact, there may be more beneficial ways to take care of you.

Self-care is the notion that before you can take care of anyone else, especially very deserving children, you need to take care of yourself first. As a teacher swamped with immediate to-do’s in the classroom, the concept of taking time just for you can be hard to wrap your head around. In reality, practicing daily self-care allows you to relax and tune into your most authentic self so that you can greet each moment in the classroom with calm and compassion. Try out the suggestions below; you deserve it!

1. Cook slow, clean foods. Depending on what you’re used to, this might seem more like a chore than a reward, but you won’t believe how calm and light you can feel after eating healthy, homemade foods. Put on a podcast after work and cook some stir-fry. Try making a smoothie in the morning before work or pack a variety of healthy snacks like carrot sticks or fresh fruit to take with you. Taking the time and care to put wholesome things into your body will reward you from the inside out.

2. Meditate. This is another routine that might take some getting used to, but it can benefit you exponentially. Start with sitting for just 5-10 minutes a day with a focus on your breathing. Repeat a mantra like, breathing in, I know I am breathing in; breathing out I know I am breathing out to center your thoughts. Apps like Headspace give you guided meditation options to ease into the practice. You can also check in with yourself throughout the day by taking 3-5 calm, deep breaths and noticing how you’re feeling. Is your heart-rate fast or slow? Do you feel irritated or at ease? Simply taking stock can help you take care.

3. Try some yoga. Like meditation, yoga is an awesome way to check in with how you’re doing and slow down for a bit. It’s also great for toning muscle and building strength and flexibility. Try to fit in a class once a week or check out a quick YouTube tutorial. If you want to create some Zen in your classroom, try yoga with your kids!

4. Journal. A teacher’s mind is often a very busy one. We have a lot to keep track of, keep up with, worry over, and think about. Try writing five things you’re grateful for before bed or fill three whole sheets of paper each morning with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. The act of clearing thoughts from the mind and onto a sheet of paper can be clarifying and cathartic.

5. Accept, forgive, move on. This is the most important teaching advice I’ve ever received. Every teacher–every person–makes mistakes. I used to get so hung up on everything I hadn’t yet mastered in my classroom that I could hardly think straight. If I mismanaged a behavior or taught a poorly designed lesson, I would dwell on it and get angry, taking myself out of the moment and into a negative head space that hurt both myself and my students. Through practicing self-care, I learned that I am my best teacher when I acknowledge my flaws, and love myself in the face of them.

You deserve the same compassion you show your students every day. Take some time this week to take care of you and the whole classroom will benefit.