Since the pandemic, teachers everywhere have been facing challenging times. My colleagues and I are right there with you. Burned out, stressed out, and needing practical self-care activities for teachers.
As educators, we’re dealing with big changes and need a way to process the accompanying big feelings. Compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, struggling to find a healthy work-life balance. And all of the negative thoughts that come with the teaching territory.
Teachers need self-care strategies to help improve our emotional and mental health. From positive affirmations to mindfulness practices, adding simple self-care to your daily routine is a great way to refill your empty cup. These school-year self-care tips will help you manage teacher stress all year long.
Importance of Self-Care Activities for Teachers
Are you dealing with struggling students, unsupportive administrators, and time-wasting professional development that could have been an email? It’s no shock that you are counting the minutes to the end of the school day. Sadly, only some schools building are supportive work environments.
Starting a Self-Care Plan
Navigating lesson plans, interventions, and a growing list of special education needs. Seemingly alone. Being a teacher in these hard times can quickly become overwhelming.
The first step of teacher self-care is acknowledging what you deserve through your own informal self-care plan. You can’t pour from an empty cup. So give yourself grace and permission to schedule time for yourself. And your self-care needs.
Kick off your morning with self-care practices
For many of us educators, we burn the candle at both ends. Staying up late grading papers and rising early to tackle household challenges. Or vice versa. In the morning, use these self-care practices for teachers to start your day with a boost.
1. Take your vitamins
Whether it’s B12, Vitamin D, or your favorite multivitamin, take your vitamins every morning. Give yourself the energy boost you need to make it throughout the day.
2. Have a cup of tea or a warm drink
Hot water with lemon, a cup of tea, or black coffee. Starting the day off with a warm drink can wake up your system. Limit the sugar and caffeine.
3. Embrace a healthy diet
Like we tell our students, it is essential to eat a healthy breakfast. Consider decreasing the carb-heavy options. Start your day with protein, fruit, or nutritious shakes and smoothies.
Mindfulness activities can combat negative thoughts and bring you back to a grounded state of peace. Whether a scripture or affirmation, reclaim your thoughts with powerful words.
5. Rotate your music playlists
6. Listen to a podcast
Our thoughts can often turn negative as we approach our school building. Instead of letting those thoughts overtake your mood, choose an educational or mindfulness podcast to keep your mind healthy.
7. Speak positive
Affirmations for work Despite the challenges, we love our profession and impacting lives. There is power in our words. Speaking life and positivity over ourselves can remind us of the joys we first found in education.
8. Stretch or workout
It can be tough to drag yourself out of bed daily. A morning started with yoga stretching or a cardio workout will produce much-needed endorphins.
9. Incorporate mindfulness practices
Learning to block out the negative and replace it with the positive takes work. Your building social work or individuals in your community network may have ideas.
10. Speak life over your students
Write a positive message on the board sending high expectations and good vibes out to your scholars. Speak words of encouragement and give reminders that, even when it’s tough, they have greatness in them.
11. Visit your mindfulness jar
12. Release your expectations
Give yourself (and your lessons) permission to go with the flow. Not everything will go according to plan, and that’s OK. Letting go of the need for perfection can leave you feeling more relaxed and happier in the long run.
School day self-care activities for teachers
During the school day, continue to grow your new self-care routine. Schedule specific activities, and they will be regular healthy habits before long. It can be tricky at first, but taking good care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for your students.
1. Play calm music
Keep some soft instrumental music in the background of your classroom. Online you can find jazz or instrumental playlists of many of your favorite tunes – from R&B to Gospel to classical. It’ll soothe you and your students.
2. Hang fairy lights
Harsh classroom lighting can lead to headaches. Dim your classroom lights and turn on your fairy lights. It will provide a calm environment for you and your students.
3. Place a sun lamp on your desk
Being inside all day can throw off your energy and circadian rhythms. A sun lamp on your desk can boost your mood and balance your rhythm. Let the Sun shine in!
4. Schedule recess or reading time with another class/teacher friend
Getting some fresh air is good for your emotional health. Scheduling time with a teacher friend, it’s nice to have someone that understands the importance of giving students time away from their desks.
5. Schedule therapy dog visits
Many schools are embracing therapy dogs. A visit from a therapy dog is for more than just the students. It can boost your mood as well. Go ahead and pet Lassie.
6.Maintain a balanced diet
As good as those donuts look in the staff lounge, just say “no, “Sis. That temporary sugar rush isn’t worth the midday crash. Snack on some almonds or healthy fruit snacks instead.
7. Drink your water
Drinking water needs to be a part of your daily routine. A classroom mini fridge can keep your personal water bottles icy cold. Or keep a case behind your desk if you prefer room temperature. Challenge yourself to come up with new ways to increase your water intake.
8. Go to the bathroom
Too many teachers suffer from bladder issues. Work with a nearby teacher to cover each other’s bathroom breaks. Your bladder will thank you.
9. Take a walk on the school grounds
If you can’t get outside for a walk around the block, take a few laps around the school building. A short burst of physical activity will boost your endorphins to help you finish your day.
10. Practice deep breathing
When the day gets stressful, taking some deep breaths can be just the “woosah” moment you need to regroup. Close your eyes and slowly inhale for four counts, hold at the top for seven counts, then exhale for eight counts.
11. Wear compression socks
The students will love your long socks, and your legs will love the extra support. Compression socks increase the flow of oxygen to the heart and reduce fatigue throughout the day.
12. Eat your lunch
That parent phone call will go better when you aren’t hangry. Taking a few minutes to have lunch will give you the energy boost you need to make it through the day.
Check out our round-up of self-care ideas below:
Practice self-care at the end the of day
Leaving everything and the school building as quickly as possible is tempting. However, ending the day with a few new habits can prevent you from needing emergency self-care. A little preparation at the end of the day will help you start the next morning positively.
1. Clear your desk
Walking into a cluttered desk can set the tone for a rough day. Take 5 minutes to clear some workspace on your desk. You might not feel like it, but you will appreciate this simple self-care activity for teachers in the morning.
2. Clear one thing off your to do list
Teachers’ to-do lists can be never-ending. Choose one task – and only one – to do before you leave for the day. Cross it off and walk away.
3. Prep your room
Walking into a cluttered desk can set the tone for a rough day. Take 5 minutes to clear some workspace on your desk. You might not feel like it, but you’ll thank yourself the following day.
4. Leave a positive note on your desk
Teachers are often drained by the end of the school day. Write out one of your morning affirmations as a reminder to start the day with positivity.
5. Note successes in your teacher self care journal
Make it a new habit to look for the good every day. Maybe a student participated for the first time in a small group or had an “aha” moment on a tough topic. Celebrate being a part of that process.
6. Write a positive student note
Instead of the negative, focus on moments of joy and student learning. Writing a positive note to a student can brighten your day and theirs.
7. Check in with a teacher bestie
There’s Nothing like a chat session with your bestie. Share a laugh before you both head home. Scheduling something a best friend date outside of work can also help take your mind off of work and the stress that comes along with it.
8. Set non-negotiable boundaries:
As educators, we often give in to teacher guilt and take on extra work. Preserve your peace by setting boundaries. “No” is a complete sentence.
9. Join a teacher group
Find a supportive online teacher group, like Black Educators Rock, not just one that vents. You can hear that in the teacher’s lounge. Fill your mind with positivity and creativity from other educators like you.
10. Water your plants
If you don’t have any low-maintenance plants in your classroom or office, get some greenery, Sis! Name them, talk to them, and let them fill your classroom with extra oxygen. Get you some green therapy.
11. Get a class pet
Choose something simple, like a Beta fish. As cute as Rango or Thumper may be, you want to avoid adding extra work by choosing a difficult pet like a lizard or rabbit.
12. Diffuse essential oils
Many schools don’t allow plug-ins or oil diffusers during the day. But after school, diffusing a little lemon oil or your favorite scents can clear the air and uplift your mood.
Best practices for at home self care
We spend the whole school day dealing with the needs of others. And then go home to deal with stress in our personal lives. Concerns with family members – children, parents, significant others, fur babies -the list goes on. No wonder teacher burnout is so prevalent!
Implement these healthy habits & keep the self-care activities for teachers going when you get home
1. Set aside time to decompress
Whether you sit in the car and dish the dirt with your work bestie or quietly meditate in your bedroom, take 15-30 mins to decompress. Your family will learn to adjust to this new habit and appreciate a happier, calmer you.
2. Read a good book
When was the last time you read a good book, not related to school? Most new releases are available through free via digital downloads from your local library.
3. Skip mindlessly scrolling social media
As much as we like to stay in the know, it isn’t always best for us. One last social check before bed can quickly turn into three hours of lost time. The phone’s blue light can make it harder to fall asleep.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
The best gift you can give your body is a good night’s sleep. Resist the urge to tidy up, fold laundry, or clean the bathroom while everyone else is asleep.
5. Stay consistent with a healthy diet
You’ve done great all day, don’t give in to the urge for a midnight chocolate snack. Part of your self-care management is taking care of your physical health. As much as your mind wants chocolate, your body needs protein, fruit, and veggies.
6. Take a hot bath
Add some Epsom salt or essential oils to a hot bath. Soak away the stress of the day with your self-care bath.
7. Sip a hot cup of tea or warm milk
This simple self-care strategy is an old-school go-to for nighttime relaxation. The warmth of the liquid hitting your tongue and passing down your throat can have a calming effect. Plus, if you’re feeling extra fancy, you could add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or honey for flavor.
8. Make a space only for you
Clear out a small room or corner of a room just for you. Post positive quotes or your vision board to keep you focused.
9. Stretching before bed
A few gentle stretches or yoga poses can relieve that last tension of the day. The physical activity can help tire you out and give your body a more restful sleep.
10. Disconnect from work apps
As part of setting healthy boundaries, don’t respond to emails or parent messages in the evening. Instead, turn off your work apps and allow yourself to enjoy a few hours of not thinking about school.
11. Enjoy family time
You have your students for just a year, but your family is forever. Spend uninterrupted quality time talking to and interacting with those closest to you.
12. Schedule a girl’s night
After a day with young people, you need adult time. Put a girl’s night – or day – on your calendar. Catch up with friends, enjoy a nice glass of wine, and get ready to laugh until your stomach hurts.
13. Be gentle with yourself
Talk to yourself like you do your most fragile student. Give yourself permission to take a break and be kind with your thoughts. Acknowledge that it’s OK if you didn’t get everything crossed off your to-do list — you can always try again tomorrow.
14. Smile and laugh
Nothing brightens someone’s day like a smile. Give yourself a great big smile in the mirror. Laugh at silly jokes, watch a comedy and take yourself to the park for some fun.
Incorporate Self-Care Activities for Teachers Into Your Daily Routine
Know you are not alone. Educators everywhere are facing common challenges. Lack of resources. Differentiating lesson plans. Maintaining healthy relationships. Managing second hand trauma.
While you count down the days to summer break, implement these simple self-care activities for teachers. Remember, an act of self-care a day can keep the teacher blues away.