'Self-care' is an overused word amongst teachers but rarely overdone.
Yesterday, I sat in front of my lap top with my colour-coded list and faffed, procrastinated, chatted to friends, was on social media, looked in the fridge 100s of times, watched random YouTube videos... Yup, I hardly achieved even a quarter of what I would normally. That's because although I have lots of work to do, I don't have any pressing deadlines. I like deadlines. In fact deadlines are a key motivator for me.
Healthy pressure can be good for you but at what point does it become unhealthy stress? As you can see from the bucket below, prolonged stress can have a detrimental effect on your body and mind.
Teachers have been under prolonged pressure, anxiety of the unknown and constant changes since even before this global pandemic. The pressure became intensified with this pandemic.
It's easy to try to cope through unhelpful methods. Such as drinking alcohol to relieve stress. But what teachers need is self-care and compassion. It's time to put your own oxygen mask on first.
It is not selfish to look after yourself, it's a necessity.
If you are unfamiliar with the teacher 5-a-day initiative that was devised by Martyn Reah you can use the link below to learn what it’s all about and to consider ways in which you could participate:
Below are some of my suggestions using #teacher5aday hashtags on ensuring you have some stress relievers incorporated into your life. I've thrown in a few others too!
1. Take that work email app off your phone...permanently.
2. Create a new self-care ritual - perhaps read before bed or a Sunday night bubble bath. 3. Limit how much time you spend on social media
4. Have some fun. Proper sober fun with huge belly laughs like you're a kid again.
6. #Learn - Get a hobby! Start learning a new skill like creative writing, knitting, a language or drawing! Or pick up an old hobby you have discarded for so long like singing or dancing.
5. #Exercise - Incorporate some kind of activity into your day - stretches, coach25K, daily walk. There's so much on YouTube these days and lots of trainers are now running Zoom classes, you don't even have to leave your living room.
6. #Connect - with people who love and appreciate you. Disconnect from toxic people who drain you. Do an audit of the people in your life. Put each person under one of these categories - mentor, counsellor, champion (someone who actively supports and encourages you), enemy (someone who works against you and has a negative impact on you), vampire (drains you of your energy), role model.
Where is most of your time and energy going? What do you need to change? What category is empty?
7. #Volunteer doing good for others can selfishly be good for you too. Could you help an elderly neighbour, volunteer at a food bank, do a local collection of food and clothes and take it down to the local charity? Or could you offer to babysit/dog sit whilst a friend and their partner have a much needed date night?
8. #Notice - keep the bucket close by - on your phone or at your desk. Notice what happens to your body when you are getting stressed. Does your chest get tight? Do you find it difficult to manage your emotions? Are you constantly exhausted? Read this blog which talks more about noticing what happens to your body with different emotions:
This summer it may be useful to do an audit of your life. Use this time to reflect and assess. What are you happy with, what are you not? Do you have stress relievers incorporated into your daily/weekly life? If not, what will you change?
If you are a leader why not share this bucket with your team in September? This will show them you really care about their wellbeing and not just playing lipservice.
As leaders, whilst you are not directly responsible for your team's personal wellbeing, you must realise that you have a direct impact.
Mal is a former senior leader and history teacher. As an Education Consultant and Executive Coach she supports leadership development through ILM recognised leadership and coaching skills courses. Contact her now if you'd like a complimentary 30 min coaching call to discuss some of the above.