It’s no secret that teachers are leaving the profession in droves. In fact, recent statistics place indicate that 41% more teachers quit their jobs at the end of the last school year than in previous years. Long hours, low pay, and lack of resources have all been mainstays for years, but add in the stress and demand of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s no wonder educators are looking for greener pastures.
As a result, self-care for teachers is more vital than ever. From small habits to big breaks, here are the top five reasons educators need to make sure they prioritize themselves and their own well-being.
1. Kids Need Emotionally Healthy Educators
I still remember the day I found myself crying in front of my 7th graders, shocking them all into momentary silence. It was at the height of the pandemic, and I had been teaching students in person in the classroom as well as a handful of remote kids on Zoom at the same time for seven months at that point.
The day before, someone had entered my waiting room with an explicit username. I kicked them out. They came back with a worse name. They were removed again. This went on for approximately 30 minutes while I was still attempting to teach my students.
I didn’t know you could lock the meeting to prevent this from happening at the time. I just knew I was being sexually harassed by some unknown person and I couldn’t do a thing about it without compromising my students’ learning by ending Zoom early and cutting their instructional time short.
Suffice it to say, I was triggered in a major way.
The next day, I started having an anxiety attack when I thought about getting back on Zoom. I ended up yelling at two students for something minor and bursting into tears in front of them before running to the workroom to try and pull myself together. They apologized, I apologized, but I took the following day off and spent most of it crying.
Teacher self-care doesn’t just affect us. It makes us better educators, more patient and able to handle the challenges that arise daily. It helps us be more available for our students and be the best version of ourselves in the classroom each day. And kids need us more these days than ever.
2. Teacher Self-Care Can Make You Happier
In a recent survey, 71% of respondents said that one of the biggest benefits to self-care is that it can make you happier. And while being a happier person may be appealing to everyone, teachers are especially in need of that boost.
The impacts on student learning and achievement over the past several years have been significant. For many educators, being in the classroom is looking much more normal of late, but it’s becoming glaringly obvious that our students have borne the brunt of the learning interruptions. Test scores are lower, student anxiety and depression are up, and behavior problems are mounting.
By giving yourself some much-needed rest and relaxation, you may find yourself more content in your job and more willing to stick with the profession for the long haul, despite all the difficulties you’re facing.
3. Self-Care for Teachers Can Make You Physically Healthier
High levels of stress are proven to have a devastating impact on nearly every system on your body. Everything from headaches to digestive and reproductive issues is impacted when you feel constant levels of anxiety and pressure in your daily life.
Self-care is an intentional and purposeful action to give yourself a break from stress and interrupt the negative thought cycle. Depending on what you need, physical activity of some kind can help raise your endorphins, give your mind a break, and help your body grow stronger in the process.
At the height of the pandemic, I began running again. Religiously. I put our then-1-year-olds in a second-hand jogging stroller and found a path through our neighborhood that I enjoyed. I ran it every day for months, then again on weekends when school got back into session. To this day, it has become a staple of my routine and something that helps me to keep my anxiety, depression, and stress at more manageable levels.
It didn’t hurt that I lost weight and began to feel better about my physical appearance as well. The confidence boost helped my self-esteem and I felt strong. Nothing wrong with that in my book!
4. Self Care Produces Resilience
It’s no secret that teaching is a marathon. We go hard for months at a time, then use our well-deserved breaks to recuperate and rest. And can you imagine how terrible we would be as educators if we worked year-round?!
Resilience helps us to adapt to unpredictable students and overcome obstacles (like that one parent email that just gets under your skin). It also gives teachers more mental capacity to be productive, think creatively, and design lessons and assessments to help our students meet and exceed standards. Not to mention, resilience can help you survive those times of the year when there’s too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get it done.
Self-care often involves intentional rest. And it’s from this place of rest that educators are able to be our best selves for ourselves and our students.
5. Self-Care Makes You More Self Aware
No matter what your self-care routine may be, slowing down is a vital component of self-care and mental health. This much-needed break gives you an opportunity to check in with yourself, reflect, and become more mindful of what you need.
Stressed out about the end of the year, conferences, or standardized tests? Acknowledge that so you can make a plan. Anxious about the admin meeting you’ve been summoned to? Recognize your feelings and get some exercise to help you get your mind off of it.
It’s from a place of self-awareness that you’re able to deal with emotions in a healthy and productive way.
Make It a Priority: Teacher Self-Care is Vital
You may be a lifelong teacher or already making plans for a career switch. Either way, we still have a long road ahead of us until the end of the school year and burnout is real.
Do your best to prioritize self-care each week, in big in small ways. If you need inspiration, make sure you check out our list of teacher self-care ideas and schedule some time for yourself. Both you and your students will be thank you!