A study by the advocacy group, Alliance for Excellent Education, reports that 40-50% of new teachers leave within their first five years on the job. Many factors contribute to the high dropout rate, a severe lack of work-life balance and the inevitable high stress levels teachers feel on the job, to name a few. Because of this, self-care is extremely important for teachers. However, it’s hard for teachers to take care of themselves when their career is taking care of students.
Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned over the years that can be key to self-care as an educator:
Set healthy boundaries for yourself and stick to them. As an educator, working long work weeks and often weekends comes with the territory. However, it’s easy to let working during non-school hours get out of hand and slip into becoming a workaholic. To prevent this, set boundaries early on in your career for when you will stop working every night and the hours you work on the weekends. If you’re struggling to get all of your work done within these constraints, you may want to look into how you can increase your efficiency when working.
Remind yourself that not everything is on you and no matter how hard you try, you can’t control everything. The sooner you learn this the better. Remind yourself that not everything falls to you, and there are people around you that want to help.
Use exercise as an outlet and stay mentally and physically fit by putting some gym time in. Evidence shows that regular physical activity increases energy and reduces your risk for health problems. It can also be a great outlet for teachers to release energy or frustration they may have pent up from the school day.
Allow yourself to take time off when you feel overwhelmed. As teachers we often feel that teaching is much more than just a job, it is our identity. Sometimes when you don’t feel as if you are doing well in school, it gets attached to how you feel emotionally about yourself. An important part of self-care is managing stress and taking a break when it’s necessary. Whether it’s a 5 minute break or taking a personal day, make sure to spend some time relaxing your brain and body. This way when you come back, you are rejuvenated and ready to teach.
Self-care looks different for every teacher as there is no one way to take care of yourself. For me, self-care is a watching my favorite movie or reading my favorite book. It’s some form of exercising whether it be cycling or running. By taking time for myself to rest and recharge I am able to be my best self.
The idea that there isn’t enough time to be a good teacher and take care of yourself is a myth. So remember to stop and take time to care for yourself so you can can care for your students!