A Teacher’s Self-Care Guide

10417498_10101256328544704_949313120554144220_n by Shannon Stone

Passionate teachers pour themselves into their work, often at the cost of their own families. They give up Sunday night dinners in order to create engaging lesson plans. They are digging through Pinterest and engaging in Twitter Chats outside of the school day. They have more professional development hours than they know what to do with. But, they keep plugging forward. They expend incredible energy to make a child’s life grand and wonderful. While sharing that passion with others builds a momentum and a power that feels unstoppable, even the passionate run out of steam. March and April feel like trudging in knee deep waters because everyone’s emotions are running high, spring fever is kicking in, and state testing is knocking at the door.  When we think that we can’t possibly do another lesson, or give another pencil, or talk about another fidget spinner, that last day quickly approaches. Then like that, those last busses roll, and sweet freedom sinks in. Sweet freedom to professionally develop on your schedule, to continue engaging with others who have the bug, to finally read that stack of professional books you have been waiting for.

The reminder of summer is to take that passionate flame and ensure it stays lit. Make a list of things that keep you moving. Here are a couple of suggestions to keep your flame fired up.

    1. Even a staycation is a vacation, if done right!  Sit down! Mindfulness comes from being aware of self and that can be difficult when you are consistently bombarded with the demands of deadlines, projects, and life. Summer gives us the opportunity to simply be. Find that space that allows you to let go of the stress. That space could be your couch, nature, or the beach. Try focusing on the moment, and the fact that you don’t have to grade a stack of papers, create lesson plans, or respond to email. You are officially off contract! You are the principal of your own time.
    2. Your superpower is teaching, but your body missed the memo!  For many, stress increases the cortisol levels in our bodies, resulting in unforeseen health issues. Cortisol weakens our bodies ability to fight the rough stuff that we encounter daily. In addition, to increased cortisol, we may not always make the best nutritional decisions. Luckily, summer is a great time to retune the whole system. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables will be amazing.  Blueberries and peas are great options at reducing cortisol levels in your body. Try an essential oil diffuser at home. Essential oils like lavender and tea tree oil are known to help in reducing cortisol in the body.
    3. MOVE!  Sure, you’re clocking 20,000 steps a day through the school year.  Teaching isn’t for the lazy, so continue to embody that goal setting for the summer. Take a walk around the neighborhood, the Big-Four bridge, or one of our many state parks in the area. We all have those fitness friends who are doing boot-camp and CrossFit! Catch up with them this summer, you may spark a new life-long habit. Plus, exercise also helps to squash the cortisol in your system.
    4. Grow your brain! Learn a new skill, engage in PD that you are interested in, meet-up with your tribe (others who share your passion), or read those books that you haven’t had time for. All of these things help to nurture yourself that you have neglected for months.

Hear my call to action: take care of yourself.  You absolutely can not pour from an empty cup!  For me, a beach trip with my tribe, perusing that quaint bookstore and losing myself both in fiction and self-development books will help to lower that cortisol. My exercise routine will be magnificent. I will have time with my family and friends. As July inches closer, that itch for routine will get stronger. The desire to get my space set up and organized will start to seep in. By then, though, my cups will be full. I will be energized and ready to tackle another school year. The passion flame keeps on firing. June, July, and August are time for rejuvenation, the self-care we often sacrifice through the school year. Make the most of the time, squash that cortisol, and love yourself!