I'm a teacher in a Primary school, and I usually get to June overwhelmed, nerves frazzled and tired, but this year, I have studied and practised a self-care planner to avoid draining my energy and help my pupils without losing my balance and my health.
There is no one self-care plan that suits everybody because it depends on your values and needs, but I have some tips for you so you can learn from my personal experience.
In your classroom:
1- Set your limits
For example, before my decision to have a self-care planner I tried to focus my attention on everything at the same time: pupils' requests, colleagues' requests, parents' communications but It was so difficult to satisfy everybody at the same time, so I finally decided to set specific moments for everything.
I defined a time for my pupils and their requests and a time for colleagues and parents. I have explained my new procedure to everybody, and it has worked. The point is that you need a rule that works for you, so you feel like you have some control over your own time.
The key to self-care is self-awareness. You have to feel your needs. Perhaps you need to take five minutes and breathe, or you need to ask for help. You have to know yourself and your needs.
Staying balanced and maintaining your well-being is a priority but if you do not have self-awareness, it is impossible to know what you need. Self-awareness requires time and practice. Several times a day you have to ask yourself: What do I need at this moment? I need to breathe, or I need a glass of water, or I need a moment of quiet and silence or look out the window and rest my eyes.
The second step of self-awareness is to recognise the things, people, and situations that cause you stress, observing your signals of stress, such as a headache, irritability or anxiety, sleep disorder, stress and fatigue.
3-Count to three before making a decision
Stand apart from trivial classroom conflicts, such as the “he-did-it-first” or “she-took-my…” arguments, or from disagreements that arise between colleagues. Choose your battles carefully.
Consider each situation carefully and try not to answer if you are angry or tired but take your time and explain to your pupils that you need some moments to clear your mind.
4. Focus on the positive
It is easy, during a fast-moving day to have negative thoughts. For example, when a lesson does not go as planned or when a pupil behaves oddly/differently. When a negative thought appears in your mind, refocus that thought to something positive.
Instead of thinking that the scores on a recent assessment are not good, tell yourself that you are grateful that the students will have more opportunities to learn that content with different activities. Consider the strange behavior of your pupil an occasion to know him better etc..
5- Say no
Teachers so often have a hard time saying no to people.
When you know what your needs are, put them first and make sure they are met before dealing with others' needs. This is a very important point.
When you learn to say yes to yourself, your life will be great! So, let go of the “should” and deal with “what I need” because when you satisfy your needs, you are more helpful, kind and supportive.
6- Be Your Coach Not Your Critic.
Teaching is a great job but you face many obstacles and failures along the way, and you don’t need to beat yourself up every time you do something that doesn’t seem perfect.
Celebrate yourself for taking a risk, lean into your discomfort and carry on with your work.
Accept that you are always growing and learning and are allowed mistakes. Don't be too hard on yourself.
7- Maintain your inner balance
Teachers who work in difficult contexts, sometimes see and hear things that can be very difficult to bear, and we need to maintain our inner balance.
The most important action I take to protect myself is to sit and shift my awareness to my breath, again, and again, and again. I focus myself on my inner calm, and I try not to have judgmental or negative thoughts.
We can't solve every problem, and it's important to know this. We can't save the world, but we can be an example of strength and a balanced person. Our pupils need some examples of adults that take care of themselves and teach it!
8- Explain your needs
If you need a little break and time for yourself, explain your need to your class clearly and sincerely. They can understand you perfectly and will learn to respect their needs in the same way.
Your life outside your classroom
Have fun because you need to balance the stress with fun and interesting activities without having to solve problems and explain everything just as you do every day in your classroom.
10- Have a physical routine
Do any physical activity: walking, stretching, dancing, running. I have a daily routine: I do exercises for my back, I stretch my arms and legs, and I do some exercises to tone my muscles.
Every day I go to work on foot, and sometimes I dance in my bedroom. When I move my body, I feel energised and healthy, and I can face up to my day better.
11- Don't be defined by your profession
You are an interesting and unique person, and your job is only a part of you. Defining yourself by your job is limiting and can be problematic if the career isn’t going well.
12- Take vacations, big or small, home or abroad
When you have the chance, live some new adventures and see your life from a different perspective.
13- Relax and nourish your mind
It’s important to have a routine that nourishes your mind, soul & body.
For example breathing, muscle relaxation, listening to music, reading for fun, watching a movie, exercising, writing a journal, speaking with a friend, painting, dancing, etc..
14- Visualise your day
Each day before you go to work, spend just 10 minutes visualising your day.
Find a comfortable place, sit with your back straight, hands on your stomach and breathe slow, deep, relaxing breaths. Visualise your future day. See and feel yourself in a state of quiet as you effortlessly walk through your day.
Open your eyes and start work!
I hope my tips can be useful for you and your life.
Have a good day,