According to a 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher Survey, more than 75 percent of teachers reported frequent job-related stress. Educators have always experienced stress in their profession, but the pandemic has been a significant factor in increased stress, leading to a greater need for teacher self-care.
The survey also found that nearly one in four teachers were likely to leave their jobs in 2021, compared to one in six, on average, prior to the pandemic. With so many teachers feeling overwhelmed and overworked, it’s critical that educators know some ways to practice self-care that support their well-being and help maintain their energy and happiness. Here are five ideas for teacher self-care to guide you through the final weeks of the school year:
1. Create healthy boundaries between work and your personal needs.
Setting boundaries is key to a healthy work-life balance. As a teacher, this means setting a firm end time for your workday and taking time for yourself throughout the school day. It also means not feeling pressured to take on extra responsibilities at work, such as leading a club or coaching a sport, unless it’s something you’re truly interested in investing your energy in. Boundaries help to separate your work responsibilities from your personal life and allow you to center your time and energy on your personal wellbeing.
2. Get organized.
It can feel impossible to find the time to relax if your life, classroom, or home are in disarray. No one is perfect, and it can be hard to manage everything all the time but implementing effective organization techniques and systems into your life can be life-changing. Helpful organization methods include creating spreadsheets or a Notion to manage your to-do lists, making a cleaning schedule for your home, or adding organizations to your classroom cabinets. All these systems can help you keep your life in order, giving you more mental space and energy to practice self-care and mindfulness.
3. Schedule and commit to time for yourself.
Between bringing papers home to grade, preparing for parent-teacher conferences, and lesson planning, being a teacher means you often have to bring work home with you. While it’s important to set boundaries, there’s no avoiding the occasional need to work overtime; however, when you do have to work extra, you should schedule in extra self-care time, too. Whether that means planning a fun night with family, taking yourself out for a treat, or just going the whole weekend without checking your email, it’s critical that you schedule and commit to your own self-care to recharge after you finish the extra work.
4. Learn when to take a break.
It’s hard to get used to taking breaks when the school day is scheduled for you, and your breaks from teaching are often dedicated to grading, administrative work, or lesson prep. Luckily, there’s no “right” way to take a break, so it can be helpful to find creative strategies to fit self-care time into your day. Trying the when-then sentence strategy is one way to sprinkle more breaks into your day. For example, you might write “When I finish grading these tests, then I will go outside to finish my lunch.”
5. Connect with other educators.
Staying connected with other educators who have similar experiences to you can be beneficial to your well-being. You can schedule regular check-ins with a fellow educator to reflect on professional and personal goals, and make sure you’re staying true to your self-care needs. Additionally, it’s important to celebrate successes and reach out for support when you are experiencing challenges, and connecting with other educators gives you a community where you can do this.
These strategies for teacher self-care can help you get through the final weeks of the semester but are beneficial to implement year-round. Teachers who practice self-care are essential to building a team of motivated educators who feel respected, and a school community focused on the mental health and wellbeing of all.