February 21 2023
If you’re anything like me, your social media feeds are overflowing with “life-changing” self-care and productivity hacks for burnt out teachers trying to achieve that elusive work-life balance. I am a huge fan of the self-care industry, and have tried many things to bring a little more peace and balance to my life. However, some are more worthwhile than others! Below I’ve listed the three self-care strategies that have had the biggest impact on my life.
1. Working contract hours
This may be a controversial one, and may not be achievable for all teachers right away. Working my contracted 40 hours a week, plus two hours of after-school meetings is essential for my mental health and overall wellbeing. Without this boundary, I wouldn’t have the time (or the energy) to do the other things that light me up and keep burnout at bay. The way I see it, my role as a teacher is just one part of my life; and by giving myself time to unwind and have fun, I show up as a much better version of myself for my students. It’s a win-win!
A few years ago, I read Fewer Things Better by Angela Watson and it completely changed my outlook on this issue. Watson gives concrete ideas on how to make working contract hours as a teacher possible, including using your planning periods wisely and letting go of the idea that every lesson plan and resource has to be perfect.
If you feel like this is too big of a jump for you right now, perhaps you could start by trying to leave early just a couple of times a week. Small, consistent changes definitely have the biggest impact.
2. Knowing my energy limits
We now live in a world where a lot of people are working from home, but, for better or worse, this is not the case for teachers. Nowadays, many of my family members and friends are itching to leave the house and socialise on a Friday night. But for me, Fridays are when I feel the most tired and depleted – the most “peopled-out”.
Until recently, I would have accepted all of the Friday night invitations, felt like I wasn’t showing up as my best, and spent the rest of the weekend tired (and possibly hungover). Now, I know my energy limits, and know that Friday nights are just not my nights! I often decline Friday night invitations and instead spend time on my couch watching TV with takeout sushi. I get an early night and wake up on Saturdays refreshed and ready to socialize!
Your energy limits may be different to mine, but it is very useful to know what they are. Take some time to reflect - how do you feel on the weekends? What boundaries might you need to set in order to give yourself time and space to recharge?
3. Disconnecting my work emails from my personal phone
This may be another one that feels unachievable for many teachers, but I feel that it is important for our overall mindsets. As I mentioned above, being a teacher is just one part of my identity. By being constantly available, I realized I never gave myself time to fully disconnect from that part of myself and from that role.
In the past, I have received stressful emails from parents and students that completely derailed my weekends, and which couldn’t be resolved until I got back to work anyway!
I do still find it challenging to not check my emails on the weekends, and I don’t do this one perfectly. But by not having automatic notifications on, I am allowing myself to fully decompress from work if I want to.
I hope that my self-care methods have provided some inspiration for the week ahead! What’s one new thing that you’re going to do for your wellbeing this week?