“ Self care is giving the world the best of yourself, not what’s left of yourself.” Katie Reed.
How are you? A simple three word question, which shows kindness, care and consideration. Plus a proven and essential way to bond with colleagues and release the happiness and wellbeing chemical called serotonin. Having the start of the academic year with some students in class and others distance learning, can allow us to feel uneasy, anxious or uncertain. All of which are perfectly valid emotions and natural responses, considering what’s going on in the world.
Your self care is so important right now, as schools and particularly class teachers have faced a summer alone or were managing their own families and are now back in class, juggling split classrooms, distance learning, student wellbeing and parent queries all before 8am!
Self care is something many of us teachers, put last as we often focus on the children’s needs before our own. However, in times of difficulty, you owe it to yourself to take care of you as if you were a pupil in your class.
Looking after your own wellbeing is as simple as making sure you’re drinking water throughout the day. Why? Because dehydration is a contributing factor to anxiety, we must ensure that we are looking after our bodies in order to function at our best during the school day.
Here are some tips to support your wellbeing during the school day:
✅ Breathe- You are doing the best you can with the resources you have.
✅ Sleep- ensuring you are getting quality sleep so you are focused and energised for the day.
✅ Positive self-talk in the form of affirmations: I am________ E.g: I am trying my best.
✅ Set a morning routine-making sure you have your bag packed the night before so you can get up and go.
✅ Listen to music or a podcast that makes you smile before school.
✅ Plan your meals so you know you’re nourishing yourself correctly, which will support your energy levels.
✅ Prepare your meals the night before or bulk cook at the weekend so you can grab and go in the mornings.
✅ Prepare your clothes for the day or week. This way you save time in the morning and can change and head out of the door straight away.
✅ Focus on the tasks that you can achieve. It’s important not to pressure yourself to try and achieve everything all at once.
✅ Move your body and exercise. Walking releases endorphins which are the ‘feel good’ factors in our bodies.
✅ Acknowledge your feelings and act accordingly. If you feel stressed, stop for a second.
✅ Laugh, laugh, and laugh some more! Allow yourself to laugh through the day with the children or during meetings. This will release positive feel good factors and will build stronger connections with colleagues and pupils alike.
✅ Try meditation or yoga to enable your mind to remain calm and focused for the day.
✅ Setting healthy boundaries- not going out after a certain time so you are mentally prepared for the next day.
✅ Calling a person you care about, this can be a friend or a loved one. Hearing a loved one’s voice releases oxytocin, the love chemical which makes us feel good.
✅ Treat yourself- even if it’s a coffee, a bath or a bunch of flowers. It’s good to acknowledge your feelings and do small acts of kindness towards yourself to boost your mood.
✅ Weekly reflection: This can be done within your team, amongst friends or with your pupils. Ask one another how your week has been? What do you wish for next week? By acknowledging ourselves, we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings which we are in a position to act upon. Also acknowledging others releases the hormone serotonin, which is the happy chemical associated with wellbeing.
Did you know?
Our body and brain react the same way to anxiety as they do to excitement! Therefore, you have the ability to change your mind set by managing the way you speak to yourself.
Here’s how to reframe your self talk in order to support your mindset or those around you.
Instead of saying:
❌ I don’t want to teach today.
✅ I’m excited to make an impact with the class.
❌The masks are so uncomfortable
✅ The masks allow me to do my job safely.
❌There’s so much change.
✅ The guidelines are there to ensure we are all safe.
Recognising the impact of these uncertain times will enable us to empathise and act accordingly, in order to serve ourselves and the wellbeing of others in the process.
It’s important to be mindful of the impact on the body and brain when a person faces trauma. According to a study on Traumatic Stress on the Brain, people including children release more cortisol; the stress hormone as a consequence of trauma. In turn, people can become more emotional, make mistakes and act in ways that are typically uncharacteristic to their usual selves. An outcome of trauma will mean people may make mistakes, become forgetful or over think things. These are types of coping mechanisms people use.
Leaders, teachers and members of the school community can be part of self care by making meaningful and positive connections (at a distance) to those around us. That’s why colleagues must look out for one another and ‘check in’, if you notice someone is not themselves. Also, allow the children to take breaks when needed, even though it’s difficult with the demands of the school day. Building a strong rapport with your team, class and community is more important now due to the uncertainty of our climate. As humans we crave meaningful connections and particularly, in uncertain times, we require it even more. If you are a leader, you are encouraged to set a healthy boundary within your team. An example of this could be, not to message on WhatsApp after the school day? The reason for this is so teachers can rest and ‘switch off’, in order to be in a better physical, emotional and mental space when they show up to work and face the new challenges, at this delicate time.
A friendly reminder, is for you to look at the things you can control and to remind yourself that you, too, are human, you deserve to show yourself the love and kindness, in order to do what you do best, and that is to teach and inspire children every day. We as teachers are strong, resilient and show up daily for our pupils and community members, but we owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves.
I hope you have found this article useful and I urge you to continuously ask yourself and members of your school community: How are you today? Your connections will be stronger as you allow people the space and time to feel heard and valued, even as you release the wellbeing and happiness hormone, serotonin.
So, I’ll start: How are you today?
By: Cas Germain
Cas Germain is a Primary Teacher and certified Life Coach. She is passionate about promoting wellbeing to her pupils and peers through positive education. Her Masters in Social Sciences and PGCE in Special Educational Needs, enables her to support all members of her community in a caring and inclusive manner. Follow Cas on Instagram @themindfulteacher_uae