Self-care for teachers can sometimes feel overwhelming, can’t it? A bit like starting a new year’s resolution in January. You’re full of enthusiasm and motivation. Your new habits are in full swing on January 1st, but by January 12th, the whole ‘new year, new me’ vibe has well and truly left the building.
Cue sitting on your sofa sipping gin through a straw or eating an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s in your pyjamas. Or something I like to call Friday night…
But what if self-care for teachers didn’t have to be that hard? What if your self-care habits were easy to fit into your day, so that you’re still putting your needs first weeks, months and, dare I say it, years later?
Well, I’m here to tell you that self-care can be easy. Bloody easy, in fact.
Self-Care for Teachers Starts with You
Now before you start coming at me with pitchforks, hear me out. I’m going to get honest with you, so if you don’t want a bit of tough love, stop reading now. However, if you do want to grab your self-care by the cojones, this is for you, babe.
No one else gives a shit about your self-care like you do. No one. Yes, they might empathise and do their bit to help out, but no one cares about it like you care about it. Why? They’re too busy worrying about their own shit show. We’re egocentric beasts. Our own lives are way more important than anyone else’s.
I’m not saying that your friends/family/partner/cat don’t care at all. Of course they do! But unless you take control, unless you set your boundaries, unless you develop simple habits, your self-care isn’t going to happen. Friends, family or feline companions included.
But I know time isn’t on your side. Your school day is unpredictable, challenging and down-right bloody exhausting. But that’s why self-care for teachers matters even more! It’s because it’s unpredictable, challenging and bloody exhausting that you need to put yourself first. No one else is going to do it for you. No one.
Did you hear me at the back? No one.
It’s time to stop putting your self-care at the bottom of your to-do list and put it right at the top. Highlight it, add some gold stars around it, write it in a glittery gel pen, if that floats your boat, but prioritise it you must.
Make Self-Care a Priority
Prioritising self-care can be a challenge when your to-do list is full of other important jobs. But the reason that some teachers have their self-care shit together is because they make it as important as everything else. It’s not an after-thought or a possibility. It’s a necessity. A non-negotiable part of their day. Up there with staff meetings, marking science books and asking the class for the fiftieth time where the glue lid is.
But before you freak out and tell me you don’t have time, I hear you. I know that. But that’s where five minutes of self-care comes in. Just. Five. Minutes. That’s all. Nothing more if you don’t want it to be and always less if you need it to be.
By setting aside five minutes of your day, you’re making self-care a priority. It might seem too simple and too inconsequential, even laughable, but believe me, it isn’t. It’s what starts the ball rolling.
And the best bit? It’s all steeped in research, so it’s scientifically proven to make a difference to your life. It’s not just me chatting shit from my soap box. Tiny habits can change your life. Tiny self-care habits even more so.
Building 5-Minutes of Self-Care for Teachers: Step-by-Step Guide
Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes, but the easiest way to look at it is by splitting it into three different areas of your life:
- Soul/Connecting with self or others
When reading those three, I’m pretty certain that one will have jumped out at you as a priority in your life right now. Maybe you’re struggling with your mental health at the moment or maybe you’re feeling disconnected from family and friends right now (thanks, Coronavirus).
Whatever it is, it’s going to be personal to you.
Choose one area to focus on – the one that feels like it’s the most important for you right now. Remember, we’re keeping things simple and avoiding overwhelm, so choosing one keeps things manageable.
Pick a self-care habit that you want to try. If you’re feeling stuck for ideas, you can grab a copy of my free list of 75 Self-Care Habits for Teachers, otherwise jot down a few ideas for your chosen area.
Once you have your idea for a habit, it’s time to shrink that change into a five minute habit. Instead of thirty minutes of yoga every morning. Make it five minutes on the mat. Instead of a half-hour walk at lunch time, just prioritise five minutes of fresh air during your break.
Set an action trigger to help you remember to do your new five minute habit – something visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. Keen to get out for that lunchtime wellbeing walk? Leave your trainers out by your desk as a visual reminder. Excited to try your 5-minute yoga stretch in the morning? Leave your yoga mat out to prompt you. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s something that breaks your stream of consciousness.
Write down your commitment in your planner or tell a friend what you’re doing – maybe they can do it with you, so you can motivate each other? Prioritise it in your day and imagine it’s an appointment that you can’t get out of. If it’s in the diary, it’s got to get done.
Some people find it easier to do their five minute self-care habit at the start of the day for two reasons. Firstly, it means it’s done and dusted before anything else and secondly, it tells your brain that it’s a priority because it’s the first thing you’re doing.
Commit to starting tomorrow. Five minutes isn’t too overwhelming for your brain or your motivation to contemplate. As the saying goes, the best time to start something new was yesterday, the second-best time is now.
Now you may still be sceptical and that’s okay. The beauty of the tiny habits approach is that it creates a ripple effect. Change gathers momentum and soon you’re beginning to put your self-care habits consistently in place. Once you’re doing five minutes of something daily and feeling the benefits, you’re naturally more inclined to do more of it.
That’s the beauty of behaviour change when it comes to wellbeing. You’re going to begin to feel the changes and see the benefits. You’ll start to feel better, even if it’s just a little bit. You’re going to grow habits that you can start implementing into other areas of your life too. Your confidence and self-esteem are going to grow and soon you’ll have self-care boundaries firmly in place.
The research proves it. Sooner or later, your identity begins to change. You become someone who prioritises self-care. No, it won’t happen quickly or smoothly, but happen it will. You’ll see yourself in a whole new light. Soon those five minutes will turn into ten minutes and then fifteen minutes…and so on.
As long as you promise yourself to do just five minutes each day, everything else is a bonus.
Start Off Small
By starting with just five minutes, change feels manageable. There’s no feeling of overwhelm or time limits. Everyone has five minutes in their day to fit something in – it might just mean a little less scrolling on social or waking up five minutes earlier. But if you’re serious about making change, this is a small price to pay for better wellbeing and self-care.
And if you’re still not sure, my question to you is, can you really afford not to be? You can either pay the small price of getting up a few minutes earlier or pay the bigger price of stress, exhaustion and overwhelm.
Sounds like a no-brainer to me, right?
Interested in learning more about how tiny habits can help you? Here are a couple of books that can help!
If you’re more of a watching kind of person, here’s my IGTV video where I discuss how to implement 5-minute self-care habits into your daily routine.
Remember! I offer coaching to teachers to help with work/life balance and wellbeing. If you’re interested, head on over to my Coaching page and find out more!