Real Roadblocks of Consistent Self-Care (and overcoming them this school year!)
Hi Teachers. Shanthi Project here. Just checking in to see how you’re doing...
The school year is under way, and it’s looking a bit…different this time around. On top of all the uncertainty, unrest, and fear that’s taken over the past six months, you’re expected to navigate new territories – whether it’s hybrid learning, new online platforms, socially distanced classrooms, or all of the above. You’d like to be a calming, assured presence for your students, but your reality may feel much different than that.
We’re going to take a guess that your stress levels are a bit higher than normal.
A little stress is good, and a lot of stress can really take its toll and do some damage over time. You’ve likely been hearing the phrase “self-care” a lot more lately. Articles, news reports, friends and family may be urging you to take extra care of yourself. We’ve all heard the “oxygen mask rule” (put your own mask on first before helping those around you) and “you can’t pour from an empty cup” – and while those are true statements, self-care may feel like one more impossible thing on your already overwhelming to-do list. You know you need it, but actually putting it into action can feel impossible. So what’s standing in the way of you following through with self-care? Why does it get pushed to the bottom of the list and why is it not a priority?
The first step to consistent self-care is AWARENESS.
Pause and check in with yourself. How do you feel? What bodily sensations are you experiencing? What thoughts are pervasive? What would help you feel less stressed now and more relaxed or energized overall? Start to notice what’s standing in the way of making your self-care a daily occurrence.
Typically, the top three reasons for not following through with self-care are:
I don’t have enough time, there’s too much else that needs to get done.
When I finally get a free moment, I’m just too tired or don’t have the energy.
I’m not really sure what self-care is.
Is one or all of these true for you? What patterns are you noticing each day that prevent you from practicing self-care? What obstacles typically get in your way? Once you are aware of your own hurdles, you can begin to plan ways to get around them and to make self-care a priority.
What does self-care look like?
Let’s tackle excuse #3 first. Contrary to popular belief, self-care doesn’t have to include massages and weekend getaways. It can be much simpler, much less expensive, and much less time consuming. Think of self-care as something you can do now that your self will thank you for later. Below is a quick list of simple self-care ideas. What resonates with you? What else would you add to the list?
Go for a walk/run
Read a chapter or two of a non-work-related book
Drink your morning cup of coffee slowly, savoring each sip
Listen to some favorite music
Laugh with a friend
List five things you’re grateful for
Take 10 slow breaths
Write in a journal
Finding the ENERGY for self-care
Once you have an idea of what self-care can look like for you, it’s time to fit it in to your day. If lack of time and energy are your roadblocks, there are ways you can easily insert some bite-sized self-care into your daily routine.
Consider your morning routine. There are certain things you do each day that are non-negotiable, like teeth-brushing and getting dressed. Since those things are already cemented in your routine, use them as reminders or anchors for a mini self-care session: When I reach for my toothbrush, I pause and take five slow belly breaths. When I open my closet door, I pause and list three things I’m grateful for.
The work day is also filled with habits and routines where you can attach a self-care moment. Check in with yourself during transitions, like right before lunch or at the beginning of a prep period. Find moments in the day where you can take 20 seconds to ground yourself (stand or sit with your feet firmly pressed into the ground beneath you, relax your shoulders and your jaw, letting go of any tension you may feel in your body, and take a few slow breaths). Do the same with your evening routine. All these self-care moments start to add up and make a difference.
Making the most of unexpected breaks
Sometimes we find ourselves with an unexpected break (even if it’s only five minutes long). When that happens, we might spend four of those minutes trying to decide how to spend that free time. Have a plan ready for moments like that – maybe it’s a 5-senses meditation (pictured right) , or a simple movement break that includes some stretching and a balancing pose. Maybe you just sit and look out the window. Choose something that helps your thoughts slow down. For example, imagine your brain like a settling snow globe.
When you know you have a larger block of time, schedule in longer self-care activities, like exercise or time with friends or family. Make an appointment and do your best to honor it.
Despite your best efforts, there will be days when self-care just doesn’t happen, and that’s okay.
Things are hard enough right now, and we all need to be gentle with ourselves.
When you’re struggling, practice self-compassion. What would you say to a friend who was having a hard time? Self-compassion researcher and author, Dr. Kristin Neff, asks, “Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?”
We see you and applaud your efforts. We appreciate all that you’re doing for our kids. We acknowledge the stress and the pressure you’re under. We are here for you.
Please take care of yourselves.
In case you missed it, Shanthi Project offered a three-part Self-Care Workshop for Educators over the summer. You can find the replays on our YouTube channel. We also have a SoundCloud station and many other tools available on our Resources page!