What is Teacher Wellness?
Teacher wellness refers to how educators feel in their roles and whether their specific mental, social, and physical needs are met.
Research tells us that teacher wellness is connected to teacher self efficacy, or how confident teachers feel in doing their jobs.
Many teachers face teacher burnout because they do not have the support and resources to stay in the profession.
Teacher wellness also affects their students’ learning.
For example, if a teacher exudes joy and passion for their profession, their students are likely to engage and enjoy school.
On the other hand, if an educator is unwell, whether mentally or physically, their students are more likely to have anxiety and difficulty learning. Teachers whose own needs are not met are not able to meet the specific needs of their kiddos.
What is Teacher Self-Care?
A lot of time is spent teaching educators what they need to know and do to be successful, but a holistic approach that includes staff wellbeing is crucial.
Self-care refers to the methods, behaviors, and systems a person has in place to nurture their mental, social, and physical wellbeing.
In an ideal world, preschool or child care administrators, district and school leaders, teachers, and staff would engage in regular conversations about challenges, stress management, and resources they need. But we know that unfortunately just isn’t the reality for most.
Why are Teacher Wellness and Self-Care Important?
Self-care habits are just as important as physical health habits in maintaining personal hygiene. It’s hard to imagine going days or weeks without showering, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or washing your hair, right?
But when was the last time you set aside a few moments for breathing or affirmations?
Despite the attention we give to the care of our physical bodies, we often neglect our emotional well-being. Mental hygiene is crucial to your health and wellness!
Early childhood educators in particular can feel very isolated. It is our goal to help professionals take control of their wellness with self-care ideas and resources so they can be successful.
6 Quick Wellness Hacks for Teachers, Child Care Providers, and School Leaders
It might sound intimidating to add even more to your busy days. Don’t worry!
We’ve compiled some easy ways to practice daily self-care, take action, and stay on top of your wellness.
- Practice Positive Affirmations:
Create a list of 5-10 positive statements that validate your strengths, abilities, talents, and goals for the day.
For example, “I’m the most amazing teacher.”
“I can give love to my kids today.”
“I have a big smile.”
“I love to sing.”
“I have new opportunities with ____ today.”
“I will use my magical hugs today.”
“I will look for the positive in my children and classroom today.”
These affirmations can help you boost your confidence and motivation. Write out or record the words to help your remember your amazing qualities.
Use your daily routine to repeat these affirmations out loud maybe while looking in the mirror, while commuting, or any moment that suits you best.
At the end of the day, identify and affirm your accomplishments, even for things that are still in progress.
Our brains react chemically to our emotional expressions, like smiles or frowns. Smiles (even forced ones!) tell the brain to lower stress and boost our immune systems! Science is so cool!
Breathing exercises regulate your nervous system by placing your focus on breathing. You can practice breathing while in a good mood, during times of stress or worry, or in a more formal way, like through guided meditation on a yoga mat.
Breathing exercises are completely free! When you feel overwhelmed and take a moment to breathe, your brain will give you a feeling of control. Check out YouTube videos, podcasts, or try some of these breathing activities!
- Use positive language:
How we talk to ourselves matters.It is important to be mindful of the words we use and to speak with kindness, even with our own inside voices.
Reframe your thinking, reframe your words. Have you ever considered turning negative thoughts into positive ones? It’s possible! For every negative action, there are usually three positive ways to describe it. What’s your most common negative thought? How might you reframe it into a more positive perspective?
- Reward yourself:
Recognition feels good! Have you considered rewarding yourself for completing one task each day? You can choose to give yourself an extra cup of coffee, a cookie, a chat with a friend, or a nature walk. The reward is entirely up to you!
Hugs are powerful! Giving yourself a squeeze for 15-30 seconds will help lower the stress hormone cortisol and regulate your emotions. Try it!
Don’t Wait for A Breakdown to Start Self-Care…Do It Now!
“But we don’t have time for mental health!”
You might recognize that teacher wellness is important, but feel that you don’t have capacity to focus on practicing self-care. Classrooms and schools are busy places and feeling overwhelmed has become far too accepted in the teaching profession!
We made sure these self-care practices are super quick and easy and won’t take time out of your day. They can be completed during your daily routines, throughout the school day, and even with your students! It’s crucial to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being every day, especially in a career where you’re helping others.
You don’t have to change your whole life! Be proactive and implement one or two quick wellness checks or self-care techniques this week. Share any positive experiences with your school community to help other teachers and students.
Education is power and learning self-care together makes us all stronger.
Reflect on Your Feelings and Needs
All feelings are valid, what we do with them is what counts! By practicing some self-care strategies you will begin to be more aware of details and events happening around you. Make a point to note how a self-care method or well-being check has impacted you before adding another.
Embrace significant moments and challenging times. Acknowledge and label the emotions you are experiencing.
Read and write about feelings, expand your vocabulary of emotions, and find similarities and differences between them. Instead of being “mad,” think about whether you are “frustrated” or “irritated.” Instead of just being “happy,” ask yourself if you are “content.”
We want you to know that we are proud of the work you do with children and families. Identifying, labeling and recognizing the range of feelings and emotions you experience is key in teaching others how to talk about emotional health, too.
Summer Self-Care Strategies for Teachers to Carry Through the School Year
Start to practice self-care in your daily life outside of school and you’re likely to maintain the practice when a new school year starts up again! Let’s think about some of the ways you can start practicing self-care activities and routines that are easy to use and take with you to different places:
- Music – Create a playlist, whether personal, for your family, or for an active or relaxed atmosphere. Listen to some music that makes you feel joy, peace, or fun. Train your brain to find a piece of mind when musical notes are in the air. Bonus tip: This is a great classroom strategy, too!
- Books – Make books fun. Re-read books you love and be more aware of what makes that book special to you. Reach for a book when you are relaxed or when you need to find a moment of calm. Focusing on reading a few pages will help redirect your brain and lower your stress responses.
- Images and/or Quotes: Look around and notice images, objects, or quotes that trigger positive thoughts, feelings, or ideas. Create a collection of these things on your phone, tablet, or any device that you frequently use. Revisit them when you are validating strong, difficult, or overwhelming feelings and need some redirection, or when you need a break. Those images will help the brain to reroute you to a more positive and manageable place. Also, review your collection when you’re feeling content because there’s no such thing as too much positive self-talk or reflection!
- Goals – Decide on one thing you are looking forward to completing, either daily, weekly, monthly, or by the end of the year. Map out the steps you will take to achieve that goal. Set time to evaluate progress and revise your goal if needed. Remember change is growth, not failure!
Teacher Wellness and Self-Care Conclusion
Taking care of your mental health and wellness does require time and attention. Visual cues and checklists can support this practice, but you must take the next step to make any of these self-care methods work for you.
We hope you can create space for any of these strategies in your routines and throughout the school day. And as always, you can teach this to others, because remember, when you teach something to someone else, you learn it twice!
We believe that teachers are the most powerful forces of change, and we would love to take care of you as much as you take care of our children.
If you’re still feeling like you need support, comment below or reach out and contact us. We can schedule a professional development or training session on minimizing teacher stress and incorporating self-care activities. Best of luck; we’re here for you!