Lemme tell you, I have never felt like more of a hot mess than since I started working in an elementary school full time, and adding grad school on top of it set me into a state of frenzy, to-do lists, and tiredness. Time for romance or friendships? HAH! Those became a thing of the past: until I decided to change that. When I realized I was taking work and school home with me to an unhealthy extent, I decided to make an effort to make time to live my life AND to do a good job.
Impossible? That’s what I thought too.
Until I started putting myself in my own planner, it actually has to be scheduled in my planner or I will neglect to take care of myself. You need to make a “date” for yourself.
If you’re like me, self-care is not a self-involved obsession with the material world and physical looks. It’s about finding a balance in life and staying healthy, mentally, physically, emotionally, which can be a tall order when it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Self-care is important. Teaching means you are taking care of others all day, every day. It’s so exhausting there are no real words for it. You are responsible for 20+ little human’s emotional and academic growth for 10 months and you’re evaluated based on how they perform, talk about pressure. But you’re not a superhuman, you are a teacher, but you’re only human and you need to give yourself a break sometimes.
The most common thought I have during the day (apart from “how do I explain ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’) is “will I ever feel like there is enough time in the day?”
A few months into the school year: I realized definitively that no, I wouldn’t. So it was time to readjust my mindset.
A few things you’ll hear from teachers on a daily basis:
- I just need 1 minute to use the restroom
- It would be great if I got enough to sleep last night
- “I’m 97% sure I have everything prepared”
- When is that meeting again?
- It would be great to have some more planning time
- I cannot say enough about the value of velcro shoes
- I swear the copier better be working today…
Just to name a few!
It can be all too easy to end up dreading a Sunday night and the 7 am rush to beat the school busses.
Here’s how I learned to combat my sliding mindset fueled by exhaustion and a negative dread:
- Weekend preparation for the upcoming week is your best friend. Meals, outfits, water bottles, lessons: you name it. Whatever you can get ready in advance, take the 5 minutes.
- On the same note, lay everything out the night before. Breakfast, 5 a.m running outfit, clothes for after, shoes: everything.
- Make Sunday night special: a bubble bath, a dinner with friends, wine and a favorite movie, early bedtime, do what makes you feel good to get the week going on a happy foot on Monday.
- Seriously, make time to exercise every day or every other day. It makes the constant up-and-down nature of the job and stress of constant questions a little easier to handle. Remember, you can’t take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself.
- Make an alarm to go to bed and no matter what you have or haven’t done, go to bed.
- Actually schedule days to do something out of your comfort zone. Whether it be kayaking, hiking, an escape room, a winery, a free concert, saving up for a road trip, a day trip to the beach: think of something and let it be a goal.
- Really schedule days to pamper: brunch with a friend, doing your nails, getting your nails done, rock climbing: make sure there is something at least once a month where you are not taking care of someone else. It can be a short as 45 minutes once a month. You can and should set that much aside. It can help to put $5 aside every week for something special once a month.
We all go into teaching because of what we can give, but as I’ve learned, it’s important to maintain a life outside our careers. If only to keep our sanity.
I understand the high expectations, but I also praise everyone who works their tails off and sometimes misses the mark, it’s ok! You’re still moving, you’re still doing great. The ever-changing nature of education makes it tough to get a solid footing without feeling like the rug is being pulled out from under you a little bit.
I cannot even comprehend being teacher and a mom, so to all you superheroes out there, I see how dedicated you are, you are noticed and applauded! YOU still matter too. You still deserve self-care and a little pampering from yourself!
Keep on swimmin fellow teacher friends, and make sure YOU are a priority too. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself.