The Importance of Self Care
I have a headache. I didn’t sleep well last night. I haven’t prioritized exercise lately and feel sluggish. I’m grumpy. Any of these thoughts might be flooding my mind on a teaching day. Do I feel able to stop and attend to my needs? Not quite yet. Sarah just lost a tooth, and she’s in a state of excitement and shock as I get her a tissue for her bloody gums. Across the room, Jake just pushed Anthony, and Anthony responds with a fierce kick to Jake’s shin. Eight other children raise their hands, awaiting my attention and help. I feel that my own needs pale in comparison, as I struggle to attend to the needs of my students. I push my needs aside and ignore them. I can always help myself and practice self care later, right? I am too needed by others to help myself.
The trouble is, did I attend to my own needs later? Likely not. I’d be more likely to collapse on the couch after a long day than truly address my needs. Parents face similar challenges, but they are “on duty” even more so than educators. Parenting is a 24/7 job. Research shows, the average mom gets only 17 minutes to herself each day. Clearly, self care for teachers and parents is of critical importance.
How Do We Find Time to Practice Self Care?
How can we make a self care plan if it feels like there is no time in the day to do so, or we feel too exhausted to muster the energy for it? The hard truth is, we must make time for it. It has to be a priority. Not only will this improve the quality of your life, but it will improve the quality of your children or students’ lives. When parents and educators feel fulfilled and healthy, they are able to bring their best selves to parenting and teaching. Air travel teaches us, you must put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.
If we want to be strong, calm, and positive for other people in our lives, our needs must be met first. It took me five years of teaching before I truly learned this valuable lesson. I pushed myself to the brink of burnout. This was the wake up call I needed. Sick, fatigued, and emotionally depleted, I realized it was time to make a change.
Self-Full Instead of Selfish
We often think taking care of our own needs feels selfish. Let’s change that word, “selfish,” to self-full. When our tanks are full of fuel, we can show up better for everyone else. When I showed up depleted for my students, I wasn’t modeling how I want them to treat themselves. Would I want my students or children to run themselves into the ground, never taking care of themselves? Of course not. I want them to be healthy and thrive. They can’t learn or enjoy life if they are completely exhausted and drained.
Just as we might model for our children how to be kind, we must model for them how to practice self care. When you look after your own health and wellness, you model for your children how to do the same for themselves. A parent or educator who takes care of himself or herself shows up stronger for everyone else.
Self Care Tips
Dedicating an entire day as a self care day might feel overwhelming. Not to worry, there are many self care practices that can be utilized throughout a typical day. I started to find creative ways to engage in a self care routine while with children, such as practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga with them. When I was able to steal some quiet moments to myself, I found ways to practice self care that didn’t demand too much of my time, such as writing in a self care journal or dancing to a favorite song. I found myself more capable of facing each day with positivity and strength.
Learn More With Our Freebie!
At RAISE, we encourage consciously taking care of yourself just as much as we consciously take care of children. Check out our freebie, “Taking Care of Kids is Hard. Nurture Yourself!” for the latest research on self care and more inspiring ideas! With research, we show you why self care is important and include a self care list for inspiration. Simply sign up for our free newsletter, and you’ll receive a download of this freebie. Start taking care of yourself today!