Self Care Isn’t Selfish

I get it. I totally get it. There have been nights when I wanted to cry in my classroom after school, and there have been nights that I do. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job. 96% of the time I wake up excited to go to work, I roam the halls looking for students to engage with, and I thank God that I get to call what I love to do, “work.”

The other 4% of the time, I want to cry, yell, eat, or all of the above. It’s not pretty. But I am absolutely unapologetic about it. I am a passionate person. I pour my guts into teaching. I’ve got a lot of skin in the game so when something goes wrong, I take it pretty personally.

If you are sitting at your desk after school in a fury or awaiting your doomsday class during your prep, then you and I could have something in common. Again, for the majority of the time, this is not me; but the moments that it is, stinks.

Whether it’s parents, faculty, lesson plans, kiddos, or funding, we all feel the teacher burnout sometimes. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay, it’s not okay to stay that way.

Our school is big on cura personalis, care for the entire person. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” type of idea. There are two tell tale signs I am not taking care of myself.

 

I don’t workout.

I don’t spend time with Jesus journaling / reading the Bible.

 

When I see those things go away, I know I am not taking care of myself. Why is that such a big deal? I love what one extremely busy revivalist (I can’t remember who) proclaimed, “I am way too busy to not spend time with God.” As frustrated and impatient as I get when I don’t spend time with God, it is imperative that I make time to align myself with God’s heart.

Here are some tips that I have picked up when I am feeling burnt out or frustrated. I don’t know what your situation is, and frankly, our profession carries a lot of luggage. My guess, or hope, is that you are an amazing person that hit a rock. Being a teacher is sacrifice, and hard work, grit, and energy. Let’s see if one of these strategies, for lack of a better term, can bring back your light.

Before we start, remember, you can only control your attitude and your effort. Everything else is out of your hands. Tough love.

Spend time with God

1st things first. Are you running on your own energy, your own creative ideas, and your own patience? Oh good, me too. But let’s not stay this way. Let’s plug into what God has for us, I know it is far better than what I can do on my own.

Start simple, 10 minutes a day. That will add up to 70 minutes a week! That is a good place to start.

There are no bad days, just bad moments

Totally cannot take credit for this. I love reading anything from Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus.

I used to let one bad period ruin a whole day. Or if practice (at the end of the day) went poorly, then the whole day was down the drain. That is a lot of day to waste! Not any more!

I wear my emotions on my sleeve so when I come into the staff room after a rough period they will ask, “Huh, bad day?” “Nope, just a bad moment.”

Take whatever alone time you can get, breathe, and move on and whatever you do. Do. not. bring. anyone. else. down. Deal with it at the end of the day. Definitely write a note so you can process later, because that is important. But move on.

Remember the age of the kids

This is a personal one. Do you want to know a secret? Sometimes, after class. I sit down at my desk and repeat, “They are 13 years old. They are 13 years old. They are 13 years old.” About 30 times.

One of my biggest prayers is that I would see my kiddos as God does: not a finished product, but a work in progress. As a teacher, we are called to help prune our children into amazing people; we do not always get to see the fruits of our labors.

Write down 10 things (or as many as it takes) that you are grateful for

This is super practical.

Here are a few things that cannot stay when thankfulness is present: anger, disappointment, resentment, impatience, being irritable.

Get perspective. Do not get drawn into the awful. Rather, make an intentional stance to move your heart into a place of peace.

When you are done writing, you may need to speak it into life. Yes, say it out loud.

Misery loves company

Do not surround yourself with enablers. I am serious. Is there a difference between ranting and venting? Sure. I might grab a coworker to let off some steam during lunch BUT:

  • It is in private.
  • I give them a time cap to keep me accountable on.
  • I find a solution.

Breathe

Too cliche? Maybe. You could look up a bunch of intelligent facts on how breathing physically relaxes you but I am telling you to take 10 deep breaths right now.

Selfcare

Leave work. This is totally a “calling the kettle black” scenario, but I’m getting better at it. I don’t know what the best number is, but I would say, you need to leave the classroom 2 hours after school ends. This varies of course with after school clubs, meetings, coaching, etc. All that aside, you need healthy boundaries! You need to have a life outside of the school. Join a fitness group, have a game night, do something productive!

Find like-minded people

Or people that are minded like you want to be. Careful, because this next piece of advice can be a rabbit hole.

Find your Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / podcast teacher community. I follow numerous AMAZING teachers that inspire me with their classroom set up, engaging activities, fun classroom games, etc. This is not a place for comparison, (although many of them are very real by sharing how imperfect their classrooms are). This is a place to remind you why you started teaching in the first place. 

In conclusion

I used to think that it didn’t matter what profession I chose as long as I made money. I would be an engineer just like my parents and if I didn’t like my job, I could cry it out in my Lamborghini. After my first year of college (in engineering) I realized I would rather live loving what I do in my 2008 Kia Sportage than have all the cars in the world. And I do, I love my job.

When you are having one of those days, pray for strength, take a 2 minute vent session, then breathe, and move on.

If you don’t make education an adventure, who will?