Jot down 10 things you want to accomplish over the holiday break.
Now pause for a moment of honest reflection…. How many of these activities prioritize you and your needs over other responsibilities? How many involve self-care?
Educators and others in service professions habitually put the needs of others before their own. The stance of putting others first is part of our identity. Without conscious intention, our self-care routinely falls to the bottom of our to-do lists. We end up exhausted and unhappy, our internal resources depleted. We have little left to give and, therefore, are ill-equipped to achieve the goals that are most important to us.
Thankfully, the holiday break offers the perfect opportunity to reset. This year, perhaps more than ever before, we all need to step back from the challenges of this past semester to:
Reconsider how our own well-being is a prerequisite to our ability to effectively serve others, and
Recommit to concrete actions which will allow us to live this truth, even when life is difficult.
Tina Boogren, author of 180 Days of Self-Care for Busy Educators tells us that “self-care and the pursuit of personal well-being and happiness is an intentional practice” (2020, p. 1). Like the instructional practices and leadership practices we’ve learned and refined, the practice of self-care can also be learned and strengthened. Boogren explains that internalizing self-care practices requires three daily steps:
1. Developing a deep, keen understanding of our own needs
2. Checking in with ourselves throughout each day
3. Responding to our individual needs with targeted action (p. 1)
Boogren suggests that we start small and think big. She tells us that bite-sized self-care actions, over time, will have a huge impact on our overall wellness. Boogren advises, “Commit to doing one small thing for yourself each and every week (or better yet, every single day)” (p. 47).
10 Action Steps to Reprioritize Wellness
Refuel, recharge, replenish, refresh, redefine, reorient, reprioritize, reframe, retool…. Our language offers a plethora of words to remind us that we already have the internal resources we need to handle challenges and navigate complex situations. When we reinvest in self-care, we gift ourselves with the cognitive and emotional energy needed to activate these internal resources and call them into strategic action.
You can reset your wellness focus right now by using the 10 action steps and reflective prompts below to design a personalized self-care plan. This action plan will help you to refuel over the holidays and then maintain a high level of resourcefulness throughout the second half of the school year.
Recenter: Why is your work as an educator important?
Reaffirm: Why are you important? When you are at your best, what are you capable of?
Reinvest: What are the specific benefits you will realize by investing time and energy in self-care?
Remind: What are three essentials you require on a daily basis to be at your best so you can do the work that is important to you?
Re-envision: How can you design simple routines to ensure that you take time for these self-care essentials each and every day?
Recommit: When you encounter setbacks in your commitment to self-care, how will you refocus? How will you remember that your personal well-being is vitally important and deserves your full attention?
Reconnect: Who will support you in this work? Who will benefit from your focus on wellness?
Reassess: How will you celebrate your small wins along the way? How might you share your successes with others, and what is the benefit of doing so?
Revisit: What are you noticing about the impact of your self-care efforts on your physical and emotional well-being? How might you fine-tune your efforts? What new routines might you add?
Rejoice: What are you learning about yourself? What are you learning about wellness?
Step 11: Grow a School Culture that Supports Educator Self-Care and Wellness
Challenging circumstances often lead to new learning. Perhaps a learning outcome from this challenging time will be a recognition that the educator practice of balancing personal wellness and professional responsibility is central to teacher effectiveness and consequential for student learning. When educators make room for self-care in their busy lives, they grow the capacity to navigate the challenges of education beyond just this year, creating a toolkit of wellness strategies they can draw from throughout their careers.
We can redefine our school cultures to include a focus on wellness. When we individually model and share strategies for self-care, we promote wellness for all educators. When we prioritize our own well-being, we contribute to a caring and resourceful school culture that sees itself as responsible for and capable of supporting the wellness needs of staff, students, and families. In short, a commitment to our own self-care and wellness is a gift we give ourselves that benefits everyone we touch.
Boogren, T. (2020). 180 days of self-care for busy educators. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (http://healthiergeneration.org) offers a wealth of resources to support leaders in planning proactively support for educator wellness including e-trainings and print materials to address stress management, burnout prevention, setting up a school wellness advisory committee, and other wellness-related topics.
Boogren, T. (2021). Coaching for educator wellness: A guide to supporting new and experienced teachers. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
Powell, W., & Kusama-Powell, O. (2013). Becoming and emotionally intelligent teacher. New York: First Skyhorse Publishing.
Sue Chapman is a professional learning consultant and author of MathVentures: 33 Teacher-Coach Investigations to Grow Students as Mathematicians. Learn more about her at SueChapmanLearning.com and connect with her on Twitter at @SueChapmanLearn.