I am living through a global pandemic, national protests, economic turmoil, political discord, and Hurricane Isaias swept through my state. My everyday life is indifferent to these occurrences and continues on with all of its complexity. I am scheduled to return to work in a few days, and I have no idea how that will look. Our state officials have not approved my district’s reopening plan, so we are in limbo.
What do all these things have in common? I have no control over any of them. We live in uncertain times. Yet, I realize that resistance is futile. What I can do is strengthen my emotional resilience, become comfortable with uncertainty, and be intentional by practicing self-care.
Self-care is not selfish; it is necessary for mental and physical health and productivity. Consider how your mood can affect others around you, including your students, colleagues, and administrators. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may need to focus on increasing your self-care.
There are many resources available to help us restore our equilibrium and establish healthy habits. The Resilient Educator’s resource “The COVID-19: Resilient Educator Toolkit” provides teachers with actionable strategies and advice to use for themselves and in their work to support children, parents, and families during these difficult times.
Self-care does not have to be complicated, and any effort can be surprisingly beneficial. Here are a couple of ideas to consider:
Learn to set and maintain boundaries. Working from home has blurred the lines between work and home, so it is important to have a schedule to create a healthy work/life balance. Remember that it is okay to say no and to take time for yourself when possible.
Acknowledge your feelings. As educators we are “fixers” and try to remain positive, even in the midst of chaos. But this year we need to acknowledge, if only to ourselves, how we actually feel. Give yourself the time and space to gain perspective, recognize the stress you feel, and decide how to handle those feelings.
Keep a journal. Writing your feelings down can be cathartic and can also help you process your thoughts. We are living through history, and this is a way we can capture that. If you are feeling a little blue, a gratitude journal may be a way to focus on the positive and keep events in perspective. Added bonus: By documenting your feelings and life during this year, you will be producing a first-person historic narrative. A journal is a tool your students can use as well.
Exercise! Exercise is the most straightforward type of self-care. Long periods of inactivity can negatively affect your mood and lead to adverse health issues. Take a walk outside, work on household tasks, do yoga–do anything but do not make your morning commute from one room to the next your only form of exercise.
Take breaks throughout the day. Step away from the computer. Being indoors and attached to your computer for hours is exhausting; webinars, national and local news, online meetings, chat conversations, and all the other forms of social media are grueling. Mental fatigue leads to a mental fog, increased stress, and a reduction in productivity.
Also, regardless of how people seem, remember the old adage to check on your friends. No one will escape this unscathed, but we can emerge stronger and more resilient.
Feeling overwhelmed or stressed during this time is a very normal response. We are all in the same predicament and doing our best. Practice self-care. Remember, when you experience turbulence, put on your mask first so you are healthy enough to make a difference in the lives of those around you. Take care of yourself, be safe, and be kind to everyone, including yourself.
“How to Make a Self-Care Checklist That Actually Works for You.” n.d. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/self-care-checklist#physical-health.
Mack, Zachary. 2020. “15 Effective Self-Care Tips That Are Made for Quarantine.” Best Life (Apr. 8). https://bestlifeonline.com/self-care-tips-quarantine/.
“Self-Care for Teachers.” n.d. PBIS Rewards. https://www.pbisrewards.com/blog/self-care-for-teachers/#:~:text=Self-Care%20for%20Teachers%201%20Psychological%20Flexibility.%20One%20of,exam%20in%20college.%20…%203%20Positive%20Relationships.%20.
Author: Kathy Carroll, AASL Leadership Development Committee Chair
As AASL Immediate Past President Kathy Carroll is chair of the AASL Leadership Development Committee.