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The Importance of Self Care for Teachers & 20 Ways To Help

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Those who don’t teach often romanticize the teaching profession. Shaping young minds, creating the next generation of innovators, and (of course) summers off. 

But teaching children day in and day out is taxing. You’re managing a room full of kids and their big feelings for hours every day. You have to always be on, checking your own emotions and holding space while these kids process so much more than today’s lesson on long division.

It’s rewarding, but also exhausting.

And now you need to take care of you. But how are you supposed to find time in your hectic day for self-care? 

This guide has some simple ideas to help you begin a new self-care routine. It doesn’t take hours — even just five minutes can make a difference in your day. Read on for 20 ways to avoid the teacher burnout and refresh your self-care routine

What is self-care?

Self-care is taking time to work on your own well-being. Self-care practices can focus on physical, mental, or spiritual wellness. Even small things, such as journaling or eating a balanced diet, are examples of self-care.

When you don’t prioritize self-care strategies, it’s easy to burn out. Especially in a high-stress job like teaching. Teachers and nurses are the perfect examples of professions that care so much for others that little time is left to care for themselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Why self-care is essential for teachers

Female teacher sitting in a meeting and smiling.

Teaching takes a lot of energy, both physical and mental. You can’t just lose your cool in the classroom because you’re having a bad day. You have to always be on and in control of the emotions you’re feeling. All while helping a room full of kids regulate their own.

And as a teacher, you’re constantly taking work home. There are papers to grade, lessons to plan and new tech to learn. Plus, the stress of the day often follows you home.

Teachers need a consistent self-care routine. These self-care practices give you a chance to:

  • Recharge
  • Process the day, then leave it behind
  • Clear your mind and be ready for tomorrow 
  • Take care of yourself while also taking care of others

Self-care practices can help you bring your best self into the classroom each day. You, your students, and your family will all benefit from your new care routine. Here are a few of our favorite ways to fit self-care into a busy teacher’s day.

20 Best self-care tips teachers can start on right away

Journal, coffee mug and plate on a cafe table as part of a teacher self-care routine.

1. Journal to collect your thoughts

Journaling is an excellent and easy practice for teachers to implement. Buy a journal that speaks to you and that fits nicely in your bag. Then on those particularly trying days, break it out. 

Put those negative thoughts down on paper instead of leaving them swirling around in your mind. Or write down what you’re grateful for to help bring back the positivity. This can be done on your break, or even during a quiet classroom moment. Use your journal regularly and you’ll begin to feel the difference in your day.

2. Listen to inspirational or interesting podcasts

If you have a 20 minute or more commute, take that time to tune in to your favorite podcast. Get absorbed in a dramatic mystery, or listen to your favorite educators share their stories. Whatever you enjoy, turn it on.

3. Schedule time for reading

Whether you love a good fantasy novel or historical biography, pencil some time into your day for reading. Did you fall out of the reading habit? Try slowing down your social media scroll to open up some time in your day. 

After dinner or before bed, reduce your screen time and pick up a book instead. Or try an audiobook while cooking dinner. Book, kindle, or audio — a good story can soothe your mind.

4. Create a playlist of your favorite songs

Female teacher plans lessons while listening to music with headphones.

It’s amazing how a song can change your entire mood. Create a playlist on your phone or computer to keep your favorites at the ready. Even better, create several so you’re always set with the perfect mix, no matter your mood.

Pop in your earbuds and listen during your free period, on the way home, or while grading papers. Whether a motivating classical composition or fun dance tune, the right music can turn your day around. 

5. Frequently check-in with loved ones

Spending time with supportive and loving family members is a great way to de-stress. Give your mom a call. Catch up with that friend from college over coffee. Binge the latest Netflix show with your partner. 

Spend time with people that know you outside of the classroom. Let down your walls and just be. 

6. Develop connections with fellow teachers

No one will understand your classroom struggles as well as another teacher. It’s important to find colleagues you can share those hard days with. 

Commiserate and brainstorm ways to work through your challenges together. Share a meal and a laugh, and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

7. Get some exercise in

A woman stretches next to a red fence before she starts running.

If you love hitting up the gym, awesome! Make sure to schedule in some gym time a few days a week. It’s a great way to work through stress and clear your mind.

If the thought of a Zumba class makes you shudder, try to get outside for a walk. The fresh air and movement might be exactly what you need to get back on track.

8. Prioritize yourself with free time

There’s a lot of talk about scheduling this or that in your day. But sometimes you just need some time free of responsibility.

If everything is weighing you down, look at your calendar, choose a day, and clear it. Take care of any pressing matters the day or two before, and then let all of your obligations go. The rest can wait for one day. 

9. Organize your desk at home or school

If clutter is distracting, spend a day organizing and clearing your spaces. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and clear your life of all the mess (or at least get rid of old mail and those papers you never reference anymore). You’ll feel so much better knowing that everything has a place and a purpose.

10. Set small, medium, and large goals for your life

Teachers are great planners. So take some time and plan for your own life goals. Have you been wanting to take a big trip? Buy a new place? Start a new self-care routine? Write it down and plan it out.

No matter how big or small, documenting your plans and goals can give you the power to make them happen. Don’t hold back — no goal is unworthy. And you deserve all of it.

11. Celebrate your classroom wins

A teacher practices numbers with her classroom.

Every day you enter your classroom, you are making a difference. Did a struggling student have a lightbulb moment? Did the small group project take an unexpected and wonderful detour? Did you keep your cool during an especially frustrating parent exchange? Hooray! It’s time to celebrate.

12. Take breaks from social media

Too much social media can make you feel like you’re never doing enough. If you find yourself on a constant social scroll in your free time, pick a day to scale it back. 

There are many apps you can download to help set limits, or go simple and delete the apps off your phone. A social media detox can be a huge boost for your mental health, and free up time for other self-care practices.

13. Practice Mindfulness

Being fully in the moment can help you find joy in the everyday. You and your students are working together to grow their love of learning. Think about all the ways you accomplish that throughout your day. Bring it all back to the moment and you’ll see more of these magical moments in your day.

14. Build your own self-care pack

Keep some of your favorite things handy for those days that are just too much, including:

  • Your journal
  • A beloved book
  • Your favorite snacks and music

Have them ready to go in your bag. And then don’t forget to break them out as needed. 

15. Try new restaurants & new cuisines

A teacher cooks as part of her self-care routine.

Food feeds the soul. If you’re a foodie at heart, take some time to indulge your taste buds. Once a week, or even just once a month, plan an outing to your area’s newest restaurant or schedule a night to recreate your favorite Pad Thai at home. If it brings you joy, it’s worth making time for.

16. Do some relaxing physical maintenance

What brings out your inner Maria (you know — “I feel pretty, oh so pretty!”)? Make the time for it. Get that mani/pedi, schedule a massage, buy something new that fits you just right. If it makes you feel good, do it.

17. Practice self-compassion

Did everything go wrong today? Maybe you lost your cool in class, or you’ve skipped the gym again. You’re human, and it happens. Now it’s time to let that guilt go. 

You can’t be everyone to everybody all the time. You can have off days and take a break. Give yourself space to make mistakes. Take a breather, then come back tomorrow and try it again. 

18. Try meditation

Slowing down is a skill. And just like any other skill, it takes practice. If you can find five minutes in your day, then you can start a new meditation routine. 

There are some great quick meditations online — give it a search on YouTube to find one that speaks to you. Then feel your mind and body calm. Lovely. 

19. Hang out with non-work friends 

Some days you need to let your mind fully leave the classroom. The solution? Gather with some non-work friends and enjoy some conversation that doesn’t revolve around lesson plans and your school’s admin. Give yourself a real break from it all and enjoy your time with friends.

20. Seek outside support if you need it

If your working day is getting harder to get through, schedule time to talk to a professional. Your mental health is important, and sometimes a mani/pedi just isn’t going to cut it. Taking the time to work on your mental health is the best kind of self-care.

Taking teacher self-care into the classroom

A teacher stands at the front of a classroom and points at a map in front of the chalkboard.

It can be hard to learn to take time for yourself. But as you’re working on your own self-care, you can also help your students discover its importance.

Try introducing mindfulness into your classroom. Or add a dance break to the middle of your day. Fun music and physical activity — that’s a win for everyone! And while you help your students with their social-emotional learning, you’re also creating time to take care of yourself.

At Prodigy, we know the important role teachers play in children’s lives, and we are always striving to make your day a little bit easier. We hope this article helps you find the time you need for yourself. Thank you for everything you do! 

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