Teacher self care is so important! As much as we love what we do, the days can wear the strongest of us down. I have been worn down often myself.
For a while, what kept me going was candy, coffee, and going out with friends. Then, I added being a mom to my list. It is the best thing I have ever done, yet it adds a whole new meaning to the word tired. I’m so out of my mind tired at times that I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up on my sleep.
After becoming a mom, candy and coffee no longer worked, and going out with friends was next to impossible. I have “friend dates” scheduled way in advance on my calendar, because like me, many of my friends have young children, and finding a time where we can meet is next to impossible. As a new mom, I found myself becoming more and more stressed, and the stress made me tired, and the tiredness made me…more stressed. There simply were not enough hours in the day to get it all done.
In my search to find more hours in the day, my sister encouraged me to do something crazy. We signed up for a half-marathon. I’d been a runner for years, back before children and teaching and life convinced me that I didn’t have the time for a luxury like being healthy. I barely had time to pack lunches, do laundry, and catch up on Netflix, so why would I have ever thought I would have time to train for a race this long? I was surely out of my mind. It turns out, however, that it was the best thing I have done for myself in years. Here’s why:
1. Teaching is stressful.
Some days are amazing, and others make you want to cry. Some parents are wonderful, helping you each step of the way and really partnering with you. Others, well…they let you be the teacher, the parent, and the scapegoat when everything goes wrong. It is on those days that we need to practice teacher self care the most.
Exercise is a great way to think things through, be irritated and let it go, and release the tension of the day. I struggle with anxiety, and I really need to clear my mind after a hard day. I might look crazy sometimes as I run, because I have imaginary conversations while doing it. (You know, the things you wanted to say or write in that email, but you couldn’t, because you knew it would be BAD later!) I also do this in my car, but since the wonderful invention of Bluetooth, I look like I am now talking to a person that actually exists. 🙂
2. Being healthy is a great immune booster.
Teachers are susceptible to every virus that enters the building. I had a school year where I had the stomach flu, the respiratory flu, pink eye, numerous colds, strep throat, and a strep skin infection all in the same year. No kidding! I thought I would never feel human again. However, now that I run regularly, I don’t get sick very often. It’s not like I’m not around less germs. Kids are kids, so that is not going to change, but I am lucky to be healthier all around.
3. Being healthy makes me feel better about myself.
Feeling strong makes you feel proud of yourself. It makes you stand taller, walk more confidently, and just all-around feel good about what you can accomplish. Boring 4 hour-long meeting about things that have nothing to do with me? No problem! I have run with blisters on my feet and pain all over for longer than that! Never-ending pile of papers to grade? Got this! I once ran a race straight uphill for miles. Parent belittling everything I do and complaining that I am no good? Nope. I am good enough, and I prove it to myself all the time!
4. Running helps me keep my calm and make better choices.
That kid who knows just what to do to get under your skin can’t bother you when you have a more calm state of mind. Those meetings where people are bickering and no one can agree are less painful when you have trained your mind to tune out the negative thoughts. Those doughnuts in the teachers’ lounge are less tempting when I am respecting my health.
5. I am a positive role model for my students.
Practicing teacher self care isn’t just for me. I think it’s so important to show students that I prioritize my health.
Each year, I lay out my goals for my students so they know what I want to accomplish in my personal life. It helps them see me as a real person, but it also encourages them to achieve something for themselves. I keep them up to date on my training, tell them about my races, and tell them when I’m scared or unsure. I want them to understand that even if I am scared, I’m not giving up, and even if it is hard, I’ll make it. They show up at my races and cheer me on, and this is so huge for me when I’m struggling. They always seem to find a spot where I’m exhausted and think I can’t go on. (They surely don’t know this!) When I see them, I’ll never give up, because I want them to see me struggle and overcome.
It’s not always easy to keep motivated, but I try to remind myself that if I’m not taking good care of myself, I’m not as able to take good care of others. So, back to the original subject: Am I still tired? Running is exhausting, but it is also energizing. I find myself reading to my son at night without struggling to stay awake, and I am less prone to crave an afternoon coffee. So, am I still tired? Much less than I used to be when I was not making time to run. And since that first race? I’ve run countless half-marathons and 10ks, and even braved a marathon or two. 😉
What to you do to practice teacher self care?