SIP 13.8 Taking Care of Ourselves First

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

A coffee mug sitting next to a pen, an open notebook and a laptop.We’ve all heard this statement numerous times: “Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.” But the question is: How do we as caring, nurturing people do this without feeling guilt, second thoughts and possibly remorse? It is in our nature as teachers to want to help others, often before meeting our own needs. But the chaotic uncertainty during the pandemic has pushed us to a higher stress level, so it is time to prioritize our self-care before assisting others.

Take a SIP of This: Self-care Ideas

Implementing self-care may look different for different people. For some, it starts with giving ourselves the grace of being OK to say no. This may not be the time to take on additional responsibilities or last-minute tasks.

It is hard to say no, but when you just don’t have the energy to do one more thing, you need to be OK with saying no. Give up the guilt about taking care of yourself or for taking time to spend with people who boost your energy. Be OK with taking things off your plate. For example, that stack of assignments that need to be graded may not get graded for a few extra days. It is OK to tell your students it will take you a few more days to grade their work as you are taking the weekend off from grading or at least ignoring the papers until late Sunday afternoon. Then, block off time in the next week’s calendar to grade those papers so they don’t pile up. Don’t weaken over student-expectation guilt and cheat yourself out of self-care.

Another idea is to decide ahead of time it’s OK to not have to comment on every little piece of the assignment when you’re grading. Give yourself the permission to comment only on Parts X, Y and Z and be OK to let go of commenting on A, B and C.

Think about how you can increase participation in groups that you have common interests with. Collaborate with others virtually when possible. Loneliness and sadness are magnified if we think we must go it alone. Look for new common-interest groups to connect with on social media. We all have time constraints and busy schedules. But taking a few minutes for sharing and mutual support for a peer could make all the difference in their day.

Other ideas include being flexible with your time, patience, workload and family life. Healthy stress-relief ideas include taking time to go for a walk, soaking in a bath, working out, planning your garden, cooking a new recipe, daydreaming, doodling and laughing. Did you know a good belly laugh soothes tension, improves your immune system and mood and burns calories? Laugh and learn from your mistakes. Find and do things that make you smile or bring joy to your life. Know that you can control only what’s controllable, and you are capable of controlling yourself.

Look for time-wasters in your day. For example, if you pop in and out of Instagram five times a day for five minutes apiece, that could equal enough time to get in a workout. Set a timer to limit the amount of time you will spend for a particular project and stick to it. Learning to prioritize your tasks along with balancing your self-care strategies will help you be more productive and do what you value and need. For example, skipping breakfast or lunch or not going to bed at a reasonable time because we “need to get the work done” but missing your self-care breaks often makes us less productive.

Be patient and kind. Smile when your students enter your Teams class meeting; share a corny joke or story you heard. Say thank you to the mail carrier, delivery person or your neighbor. Make someone’s day around you, and you are likely to have the karma rebound back to you. Start a gratitude journal.

Tony Robbins, life and business strategist, reminds us of the 5-5-5 model. Tell yourself five positive affirmations each day – for example, “My students are lucky to have me.” Think of five things you are grateful for today. Then, spend five minutes in meditation each day.

Teachers are needed now more than ever. Take time to care for you. Making your self-care a priority will reinforce the teacher you want to be.

Still thirsty? Take a SIP of this:

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