Working through the motions is common for an educator. So often, your main priority is to take care of the people around you – your students, colleagues and family members. Then, it becomes easy to forget to take care of yourself. Suddenly, you’re eating out more, taking short lunch breaks at your computer and working through the weekends. You tell yourself that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. Perhaps you’re even thinking that without putting in extra time, your effort goes unnoticed. This couldn’t be more wrong.
Personal sustainability is the priority for any educator. Taking care of one’s self is the determining factor for doing great work. Capacity and ability levels all have a limit. Just like with computers, things need to be reset and recharged. This reboot helps maintain a much smoother running machine. Most importantly, personal sustainability prevents burnouts, which is a common problem for most educators. Here are some great tips to help you maintain optimal, personal well-being.
Learn to say NO.
Being overwhelmed has a lot to do with how much you allow yourself to take on. It’s great to have a team player mindset, but you can burn out quickly. Always saying yes to tasks and projects can become a spiral of to-do’s, preventing you from effectively doing your job. Saying NO also has to do with social activities. As an educator, you’re completely vested in your work. Sometimes, when you get home, the best thing for you is silence and peace. If you pack your days with outings and social gatherings, you never truly get a chance to recharge. Of course, you should have time with friends and family, but try not to overload yourself with too many engagements. Doing nothing can be a great way to digest needed personal time.
Take your lunch break outside.
Teachers and administrators tend to work in their little silos. They remain in their classrooms or offices and eat at their desks. “Time cannot be wasted,” is normally their mindset. There is a reason it’s called a lunch BREAK. When you give yourself time away from your work, even for just 20 minutes, it allows your body a chance to rejuvenate itself. Step outside and sit on the benches. Put away all electronics and focus on each bite and time to relax. Even if you have a habit of working through your lunch, take a day or two in the week to break this habit. Start with small steps and work your way up towards every day.
Don’t work on the weekends.
As tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t be working on the weekends. Don’t answer those emails and don’t grade those papers. Sure, teaching goes beyond the normal working school hours of the day. However, it’s important to keep in mind that those tasks will always be there. You will always have the time to grade and answer emails. You will never get back the time for yourself and the need to reset your body after a grueling work week.
Turn off email notifications.
In the early years of your educational career, did you notice how you would always be available via email to colleagues, parents and students? Soon after, you should have realized that this was no way to live a sustainable balance of personal and work life. Set a time in the day where you commit to no longer answering emails. Remember that if you answer an email at 10:00 pm, you will have set a precedent that you will always answer at 10:00 pm. Place a limit for yourself. Turn off all notifications and others will begin to catch on that you are not available until normal business hours.
Exercise and get your blood pumping.
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to be healthy. In fact, you can be anything but that. Exercising has an abundant amount of benefits for your body and mind. Physical activity releases endorphins, which is the hormone associated with happiness. Your body also needs blood pumping to keep itself running optimally. Aim to get 30 minutes of physical exercise daily. It can be in the form of strength training, stretching, yoga and more. Don’t feel limited. Go for a walk around the neighborhood when you get off work. Most importantly, enlist in the type of exercise that is fun for you.
Find a hobby outside of work.
So often, you’ll see that teachers eat, breathe and sleep the world of education. Because people become so immersed in their jobs, they can easily become lost in them. There is a difference between being passionate about your work and being only about your work. Find hobbies outside of your job to keep a good balance. Take up fitness classes, book clubs or join a recreational dodgeball team. Whatever excites you, sign up and commit. It’s important to take pride in doing things that you enjoy, aside from your work as an educator.
Spend time with family.
Your way of taking care of yourself is only as good as the support system you have in place. Be sure to carve out sacred time to spend with family and loved ones. A strong support system comes from people who love and know you the most. Whether it’s Sunday family dinners or a shopping outing with your sibling, time with family is essential to your health and relationships.
Personal sustainability is essential to your work as an educator. Being optimal in your health comes from taking care of yourself and knowing your limits. Don’t take on more than what your bandwidth can control. It’s important to know that in order to do this work with fidelity, you must put yourself first. Identifying your capacity levels is a sign of awareness and intention, not weakness or inability. Don’t be afraid to advocate and take care of yourself. In order to serve others, you must be in a sustainable position to do so. When you travel in commercial airlines, they always instruct you to place the oxygen mask on yourself first. Then, you can help others afterward. The same concept applies to your work as an educator.