Taking care of yourself is a valid goal on its own, and it helps you support the people you love. – National Alliance on Mental Illness
As an educator, your profession involves teaching children or teens, supporting your school and parent community, and basically giving it your all! Sometimes embodying your role as an educator can make you lose perspective of the most important person you need to take care of: YOU! We all know that we can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves, right? This is the first rule of SELF CARE. Self-care boosts cognitive brain function, releases stress, boosts productivity, and allows you to give more to others (see this nice summary of the importance of self-care).
First, write down or say out loud three strategies that help you rest, restore, and rejuvenate. Read the sentence starters and fill in the blanks. Pick any one strategy, but be specific. For instance, maybe it’s exercise or physical activity? Maybe it’s a warm bath or getting a massage? Maybe it’s being creative in some shape or form?
I feel rested when I ____get at least 7 hours of sleep a night__________________________.
I feel restored when I ___write in my journal _______________________________________.
I feel rejuvenated when I __ go for a quick run every morning __________________________.
Next, think about the excuses that get in the way of you taking YOU time. Below, explore five excuses you might hear yourself say … and learn how to address them.
But I don’t have time! When we’re busy and have a lot to do, time proves to be a precious commodity. We tend to say “no” to things simply because we don’t have time. But do we? My friend, who is a high school teacher, said she really enjoys getting out for a walk every day, but couldn’t find the time in her overpacked day. Yet, just like with other responsibilities, sometimes you have to not only find the time, but schedule the time — commit to it! Even if it’s a short amount of time. Put an appointment on the calendar with yourself for YOU time … and don’t cancel it! Even if it means getting up a teensy bit earlier, or going to bed a little bit later (as long as you’re not depriving yourself from sleep), it’s worth it!
I have too much to do! Being an educator is intense. Among lesson planning, teaching, grading, and taking care of your own family and obligations, there is a lot to do. When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to use single-track, negative thinking and not look rationally at the big picture. Have this conversation with yourself:
“Do you have a lot to do?”
“Yes, tons! I’m overwhelmed.”
“I know you’re busy and feel stressed, but can you find time for you?”
“Good! What will you do for YOU time, and when?”
Okay play along with me — see how you can continue the conversation with yourself!
It seems so selfish to take time for myself. Wait a minute … your needs are not as important as the needs of others? Not true! Taking time for yourself is just as important as taking time for others. You are not a doormat to be stepped on and worn out. Think about it this way: it is selfish to NOT take time for yourself!
I’ll relax later, when I have time off. Similar to the first point, this excuse sums up the “procrastination effect,” in which you think that at some magical moment in time down the road, you can finally take time to rest, restore, and rejuvenate. A study of full time American workers by the U.S. Travel Association found that 55% of workers do not use the full amount of their allotted vacation time. There’s no need to wait until your next vacation to take a break. You could take time for yourself every day! Why wait until a vacation to take YOU time, when you can do it daily?
Next, revisit the strategies you identified above on what helps you rest, restore, and rejuvenate. As you reread them, ask yourself: How can I address any excuses that might come to mind? How can I commit to at least one of those strategies? And commit to it. Because, only YOU can make your YOU time a reality.