Self-care is a hot topic right now. And while it’s something we all benefit from, we can easily talk ourselves out of doing it. Or sometimes it can sneakily become one more thing to feel like you “should” put on your to-do list, which then just becomes more stressful. #irony
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Myth: Self-Care Is Selfish
Educators are some of the most selfless people around, constantly putting the needs of their students, colleagues, and families before their own. Oftentimes, self-care can be misconstrued as selfish, particularly when the term is equated with pampering or self-indulgence. It’s like getting an oil change on your car, It has nothing to do with vanity. The car needs this kind of maintenance to increase performance and longevity.
Myth: I Need to Be Productive All of the Time
What does it mean to be productive? Is it working all night long on lesson plans? Is it missing lunch in order to grade and make copies? Is it burning out? It can actually feel uncomfortable for us to slow down because we have become so used to running on full blast all day.
But the truth is, our bodies need rest. Our minds need rest. Tired adults are less tolerant and more irritable in the classroom. It’s harder to teach, remain calm, think collaboratively, or be compassionate in challenging situations.
Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is rest.
Read that again. We’ll wait.
Here are a few types of rest:
- Physical Rest: sleeping, naps, stretching, other relaxation techniques.
- Mental Rest: music, mindfulness practices, meditation, silence.
- Emotional Rest: talking to someone, therapy, practicing gratitude, doing something you enjoy.
- Creative Rest: reading, playing an instrument, painting, coloring, sewing, and dancing.
Myth: I Don’t Have Time to Take Care of Myself
This is a very common sentiment. As educators, we tend to put our students, families, and friends first. We need to put our oxygen mask on first before we can assist others.
Here’s one quick and easy strategy you can use right now as you read this. Let’s start by unclenching your jaw, dropping your shoulders, and taking three of the deepest breaths of the week. Well done.
What’s more useful, five minutes of scrolling on social media or taking some deep breaths?
If you experience difficulty carving out time in your very busy schedule, here are a few ways you can support yourself.
- Name it: Identify the kinds of rest that you feel like you need.
- Schedule it: Put in on the calendar. Or use your phone to set up a reminder. It might be 15 minutes scheduled for “Alone time” or “Taking a walk.”
- Buddy up: Self-care can be social and fun! Sometimes it’s hanging out with friends or loved ones. It does not need to be done in seclusion. A sense of community and connection can be chicken soup for the soul.
Myth: Self-Care Is All on Me
It’s important to see that, while we’ve focused on individual self-care so far, there’s more to the story. Chelsea Prax, program director at the American Federation of Teachers says it well:
“You can’t deep-breathe your way out of a pandemic; you cannot stretch your way out of terrible class sizes; you cannot ‘individual behavior’ your way out of structural problems.”
Collaboratively, we must start to address the systems that have caused much of the stress in the first place. It’s time to start looking at school, administrative, and structural systems in place that are putting strain on our educators. Self-care shouldn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of educators (along with everything else). It’s on all of us to create policies and an environment where students and adults are taken care of.
At the end of the day, making an investment in our personal health and well-being pays dividends long after the bell rings.
- FREE 6-Part Workshop: SEL & Beyond: A Dynamic Introduction to Social and Emotional Learning and Its Core Competencies
- SEL Starts with Adults: Self-Inventory
- Empowering Administrators Through Social and Emotional Learning
- Staying Motivated to Help Motivate Your Students: Utilize the Soft Skills of Career Success
About the Authors
Trisha DiFazio is an education consultant for Teacher Created Materials (TCM) and a former adjunct professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). Trisha was also a contributing author on TCM’s Language Power: Building Language Proficiency series as well as Creating Social Emotional Learning Environments. She is passionate about empowering teachers and students around social and emotional learning as well as Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching. Ms. DiFazio holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lake Forest College with a double concentration in English and Spanish, a Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University, an ESL Endorsement from Dominican University, and International TEFL Certification from the International Teaching Center in Madrid, Spain. As a result of studying with instructors from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), Trisha has experienced firsthand how practicing mindfulness contributes to one’s overall health and sense of well-being.
Allison Roeser is an education consultant, author, and leadership coach. She holds a Master of Health Science (MHS) degree from Johns Hopkins University, Professional Coach Certification (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation, and is an Academy Licensed Trainer (ALT) with the Academy for Coaching Excellence. Ms. Roeser has almost two decades of experience working with leaders in education. She is passionate about child welfare and social change. She is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a program that advocates for foster care youth in San Francisco. Previously, Allison served as Deputy Director at Westat, a research organization where she directed studies focused on health and education. Allison is also co-founder of SEL&Beyond, an organization dedicated to providing SEL professional development and coaching for educators, parents, and students.
For more strategies and tips, follow the authors on Twitter @SELandBeyond, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, check out their book:
Social-Emotional Learning Starts with Us: Empowering Teachers to Support Students