By Marissa Realdine, Stockton University

We have all had hard days. Some days it feels like the entire world is against you, and it would be better to stay in bed. Can you imagine feeling this way every single day? Many teachers and other school employees do. Even when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, they feel that they are failing their students, colleagues, administrators and themselves. This makes them feel discouraged and insecure. They often doubt their ability to be a teacher.

We call this “teacher burnout,” and it is more common than you might think. In the current pandemic, with educators working remotely from their students and perhaps simultaneously homeschooling their own children, the stress is even greater. A 2017 survey by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Badass Teachers Association (BAT) found that a staggering 61% of teachers and other school staff reported feeling stressed. Fifty-eight percent described their mental health as “not good,” a jump of 24 points from 34% in an AFT/BAT 2015 survey. 

Educators cite a variety of possible causes for their symptoms: student behavior or lack of student success, lack of support from parents or administrators, lack of time to prepare lessons or grade student work, little to no budget to buy necessary supplies, and more.

Most teachers and other school staff are so concerned with the success of their students, they often forget to take care of themselves. Not taking proper care of your mind and body can have effects harmful both in and out of the classroom. Below are some activities that any teacher—or anyone who works in a school—can use to practice self-care on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.

Activities that take an hour or less

  •  Take a walk around your neighborhood
  • Reorganize a closet, cabinet, or shelf
  • Write in a journal
  •  Practice your favorite hobby—painting, reading, singing, cooking, etc.
  • Take a bubble bath

Activities on a budget

  • Call a friend or family member to catch up
  • Go to a public library
  • Watch your favorite movie or television show
  • Listen to your favorite music or podcast
  • Go to a park

Activities that can be practiced anywhere at (almost) any time

If you do not have much free time, whether you work another job, have children, or find that you have little time to yourself throughout the day, here is a list of activities for you.

  • Take deep, slow breaths
  • Smile or laugh (you’d be surprised just how good you can feel smiling for no reason)
  • Drink water.
  • Take a moment to admire your surroundings.
  • Stretch.

Activities that should be practiced every day

Here’s a list of activities that everyone should practice every day to take good care of their bodies.

  • Get a full, good night’s sleep.
  •  Eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks.
  • Drink water. (This bears repeating.)
  • Find three good things that happen each day.
  •  Find time to just breathe and let yourself feel whatever you feel, then remember that you have the greatest job in the world!

Activities that come from experienced teachers

Borrowed from conversations with teachers on social media.

  • Exercise.
  • Indulge in your favorite meal or snack.
  • Leave work at work—even when you’re working from your kitchen table—and enjoy your time away from that work.
  • Forgive yourself if you do not achieve everything you wanted to achieve in one day.
  • Have a fulfilling life outside of your career.

Although teaching is one of the hardest jobs, it is the most rewarding. Watching your students grow academically and emotionally is a feeling like no other, but it can take a toll. Remember that it is important to take care of you. Remember that you are doing your best in your situation. Remember that you are the safe space for many of your students. Remember that you are changing the world, one student at a time.

Lastly, remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. For your students to be successful, you must feel confident that you can make them successful. To create a safe and healthy environment for them, we must create a safe and healthy environment for ourselves. Most importantly, remember: self-care is not selfish.

To read more about the self-care activities that inspired this article, visit weareteachers.com/classroom-self-care.

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