Faculty Club / Wellness / 5 Honest Self-Care Tips from Educators

5 Honest Self-Care Tips from Educators

5 honest insights from faculty who learned how to prioritize their health and well-being in the midst of their busy schedules

As an educator, you know the importance of self-care so that you can provide the best support for your students. But with the demands of research, building curriculum, and meeting the unique needs of students, it can be easy to neglect your own well-being.

Here we’ve gathered 5 quick tips and insights from our faculty community, where they share how they learned to prioritize their health and well-being in the midst of their busy schedules.

From simple practices like building a habit to self-care rituals, these tips aim to help educators feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the day-to-day challenges of the classroom.

Define what self-care is for you. 

I am constantly reminded of how important it is to have a strong and personal definition of self-care. Reflecting on this supports me in maintaining my mental health and well-being and helps support students as well.

My students and I always start off the Spring semester by reflecting on the following quote by Audre Lorde:  “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

What is a quote that can help you build a self-care mindset?

Gabriella McBride, Adjunct Lecturer of Social Work, New York University

Set boundaries.

For my teaching, I realized that I needed to institute a boundary with respect to communication, as the constant barrage of email was increasing my stress level and eroding my time for other pursuits. I now limit email responses to one hour at the start and one hour at the end each weekday, plus one hour on Saturday.  This concentrates my focus on email to those periods of the day, and my students appreciate knowing when to expect responses.

For life in general, I have realized that I truly do need downtime, and I have given myself permission to take it! 

At work, scheduling time to think and create (disconnected from technology) has decreased my burnout symptoms and improved my overall productivity. 

At home, giving myself permission to have downtime has led to higher quality interactions with my family, more patience, and an improved mood.  Meditation and yoga have also helped!  I have found that there are even specific videos and classes online designed just for educators, and some offer suggestions for how educators can incorporate mindfulness techniques into the classroom experience.

Cynthia van Golen, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Delaware State University

Schedule “me” time.

Find a hobby or passion and be available for it. While it sounds simple, you must make it a priority.

I set aside time twice a day to walk: once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and I have set my Outlook calendar to give me a 15-minute reminder before it is time to go. This gives me enough time to really get my head right and try to find a place to finish what I am doing, or at least get to a stopping point.

If for whatever reason I can’t get to the walking right at that time, I will choose for the calendar to remind me again in 30 minutes. While it may get pushed off—and to be honest sometimes it is ignored—I make sure it is set in my calendar every single day rain or shine.

This practice has been a true game-changer for me when it comes not just to mental health, but to physical health, because since I started a year and a half ago, I have lost 30 pounds and four inches around my waist! Losing weight was never my intention, but I will happily take that positive as well! 

Maybe physical activities are not something you want or can do. What about that book you keep putting off reading? No, not the one for your research, the novel that you bought at the bookstore and wanted so badly to read. How about that painting class that you wanted to take? Maybe you had to skip that lunch with friends…so set another one up?

Malynda Mabbitt, Learning Designer II, South Dakota State University

Keep the blood moving.

I try to stay physically active, even if it’s just making sure my FitBit records enough steps for me each day. I heard that saying that if I complain that I don’t have time for a 10-minute walk, then that probably means I need a twenty minute walk.

I’ll even just get up and do some physical activity in my living room at night while I’m watching television, just to get some endorphins flowing.

Jeremy Logsdon, Director of the Center for Literacy, Western Kentucky University

Seek help when you need it.

While it may have seemed “taboo” in the past, the increase in the number of people who suffer with mental health has forced us all to take notice at one time or another.

I remember being ashamed when I was first diagnosed with severe (almost crippling) depression and anxiety at the age of 14. The first step is to accept it: Look at yourself in the mirror or write down exactly how you feel and then accept it and get help!

While it may sound foolish, this is exactly what I did. I wrote the words, “I hate myself,” and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I cried and said to myself “This is not ‘normal’—this is scary.” Life may not always be easy, but I can tell you that it is worth it.

Take time for yourself and take care of yourself; the world does need you, but give yourself permission to step back and breathe, too.

Malynda Mabbitt, Learning Designer II, South Dakota State University

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