Quote of the Week: “Self-Care is a priority and necessity, not a luxury in the work that we do.”Justin Chan
As a country and global community, the coronavirus has changed life as we know it. The number those testing positive continues to climb. While many are working diligently to produce a vaccine, we have a way to go. For months we have been encouraged to implement some simple, yet powerful measures to play a role in slowing the spread: wear a face mask/covering, wash your hands with soap, and practice social distancing. These preventive measures are critical and proven to work. However, I’d like to propose that equally as important is taking preventive measures to support our mental wellbeing.
Self-care means many things for many people and even looks different. I am a firm believer that self-care creates a path to the greatest gift, self-love. In order to establish a common language let’s consider, Dr. Catherine P. Cook-Cottone’s definition of self-care, “Self-care is the daily process of being aware of and attending to one’s basic physiological and emotional
needs including the shaping of one’s daily routine, relationships, and environment. It is the permission for educators to take care of themselves.” When was the last time you took a pulse check of your physiological and emotional needs? Consider asking yourself these questions:
- Are my basic needs being met (i.e. sleep, water)?
- Do I feel safe at home/work?
- Do I feel like I belong?
- Do I feel confident?
- Am I living my best life?
- Do I feel connected to something greater than myself?
These simple questions are aligned with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Deprivation in any area motivates a person to fulfill that need and therefore robbing them of full productivity. I think most if not every teacher can attest that a hungry, tired, and scared student is less productive. Therefore, I was fully prepared with granola bars, instant oatmeal, snacks, etc. to buffer the need and in order to focus on instruction. The same is true for teachers.
I absolutely love our working definition and it resonates with me and I hope you are having the same reaction. But the reality is that allowing this to lead our lives and fitting it into a teacher’s world can be daunting. In all my years of teaching I witnessed pockets of teachers that modeled self-care. Far too many of us still struggle and the teacher attrition data is supporting this fact.
Dr. Cottone speaks of being aware of our needs and I must be honest. I was so consumed with my students and the daily demands I lost touch with my needs. I was able to identify the obvious needs like not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water. Water was always a challenge as I worried about who would watch my students while I ran to the bathroom. I think building awareness is a powerful first step in identifying where to start. The Berkeley Well-Being Institute has developed a survey to identify the skills needed to inform creating a self-care action plan. Now that you know!
Let’s scaffold (just like with your students) your self-care and start with some strategies for meeting your basic needs. Consider these recommendations from Psychology Today.
- Schedule your self-care and guard it
- Make sleep a priority
- Say no to others and yes to your self-care
- Let a pet help (I love my Mateo)
- Get organized
- Read a book on self-care
- Recommendation: Take Time for You: Self-Care Action Plans for Educators by Tina H. Boogren
Just commit to the one that your draw to start and then gradually add another. If you forget or fall off the wagon don’t give up. Just like you would encourage your students to keep trying give yourself the gift of encouragement and grace.