Self-care is far from self-indulgent, especially among those of us who are committed to serving others. It isn’t about being selfish or shirking our responsibilities. It’s about figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over and making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy.
NEW Self-Care Videos: Gentle Yoga, Mindful Movement, and Indoor Walking
NEW Mindfulness for School Leaders (recommended book)
NEW Self-Care Through Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion (interview)
|photo by tuelezka for freedigitalphotos.net|
Realistic Self-Care: 8 Key Questions
Real life being what it is, daily or even weekly balance isn't usually possible. If we think in terms of cycles—weeks, months, even years—there are times when we may need to put more of our energy into our work, caring for our families, or dealing with our own health issues.
Your specific answers to this question might be quite different from mine, but they'll likely fall into the same three general categories: movement, nourishment, and/or rest.
3. How Many Minutes Have You Got?
Even on the most frazzled days, you can likely squeeze in five minutes to eat a quick healthy snack, three minutes to do some gentle stretching, or even just 60 seconds to look out the window and take some deep breaths.
Most of us have a tendency to react in unhelpful ways: overly aggressive, passive-aggressive, or overly assertive. Responding calmly and assertively is almost always more effective.
5. What's Draining Your Battery?
Does your work leave you feeling physically exhausted or sluggish from inactivity? Are you getting too much of a mental challenge or not enough? Or perhaps you need to be firmer about setting boundaries, and/or let go of something you 'have to do' that you don't really have to do.
6. Do You Need an Oxygen Mask or a Parachute?
You hear all the time that you should 'put on your own oxygen mask first,' but do you actually follow that advice? And is that truly enough to take care of yourself, or are you in a situation that you really need to get out?
7. What's Holding You Back?
Do you come up with the perfect self-care plan, only to have it derailed by unforeseen circumstances? Or do you spend so much time trying to come up with the perfect plan that you never take action? Do you always honor commitments to other people but have trouble meeting your own needs? Or do you tend to push back against restrictions, even if you've made the rules yourself?
8. What Kind of Support Do You Need?
Let's face it. Self-care doesn't happen in a vacuum. We're all in this together, and there are a lot of ways we can lend each other our support in mutually-beneficial ways.
Coping with Stress and Burnout
Body-based practices to help us focus on the present and stop ruminating.
Evalyn Gaskell of Harmony LifeBalance shares her favorite practice for recognizing and reducing self-induced stress.
Tips from mindfulness facilitator Jennifer Howd on creating your own, at-home retreat. All you need is a clear intention and some self-discipline.
Six reminders to keep things in perspective, based on the popular self-help book.
Are you just having a bad day, or is it time to quit your job? Or are you in serious need of some R and R (if only you could find the time)? Answering these ten questions should point you in the right direction... or confirm what you already suspect.
This poster/infographic shows a a few important numbers to keep in mind as you 'keep calm and carry on.'
Tips for professional and family caregivers (carers), based on my family's experience taking care of my mom during her four-year struggle with brain cancer.
In this interview, I discuss how to take better care of ourselves so we can better meet the needs of our students.
"The purpose of mindfully labeling thoughts and feelings is to recognize that they’re distinct from the person who’s having them. You are not your thoughts and feelings; they come and go while you remain yourself."
This poster/infographic shows half a dozen quick ways to clear your head and take care of yourself.
Suggestions on setting limits, work-life balance, and self-compassion.
"Shallow breathing ('chest breathing') can result in a vicious cycle: We breathe shallowly because we’re under stress, which makes the body feel it’s not getting enough air... Relaxed abdominal breathing ('belly breathing') is one of nature’s best anti-stress medicines."
"Most people have a preferred tactic to avoid painful stress reactions... Becoming aware of avoiding a stressful emotion is often the first step in learning how to do something different."
Have you been feeling frustrated and burnt out? Maybe you've started wondering whether it's time to move on? Answering these ten questions should help you make up your mind.
A few strategies for dealing with the frustration that comes from feeling like we don't have control over our work.
Interested in mindfulness, but not sure where to start? Or looking for some new ideas to add to your existing practice? This quick quiz will help point you in the right direction.
"The purpose of the body scan is not necessarily to relax or to go to sleep, although it can help with that sometimes. The important thing is that you stay open and curious to your body's experience."
It isn't a treat if you're not enjoying it. This chart can help you truly appreciate what you're eating by slowing down and noticing not just the flavor but also the texture, scent, color, and even sound.
Here's a quiz to help you measure the strength of your mind-body connection, followed by suggestions for practices you might find useful.
This is a great activity if you tend to spend too much time sitting around with your mind running in circles.
"Changing our shape, in its many parts, can change our mood, our awareness, and what actions we’re able to take."
In this interview, fitness expert (and former kindergarten teacher) Debra Mazda gives specific suggestions for how teachers can integrate healthier eating and exercise habits into a busy workday.
Imagining what complete compassion might feel like can help us access that feeling during difficult times.
It’s uncomfortable to feel guilt or shame over something we’ve done. But instead of trying to push away these negative feelings, we can use them to avoid making the same kind of mistake again.
Imagining a supportive elder can help you respond mindfully in emotionally-charged situations.
Links to More Resources
Skovholt Practitioner Professional Resiliency and Self-Care Inventory
CompassionFatigue.org: "The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© is dedicated to educating caregivers about authentic, sustainable self-care and aiding organizations in their goal of providing healthy, compassionate care to those whom they serve."
ElderWisdomCircle.org: free personal advice, from "an online inter-generational program pairing advice seekers with a network of seniors (“Elders”) who provide empathetic, caring, and supportive advice based on their own life experiences."
Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL), measuring compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary trauma.
Self-Compassion Practices from Dr. Kristin Neff
guided meditations and exercises on coping with emotions, self-nurturing techniques, and changing critical self-talk
Yoga for Teachers video by Adriene Mishler
from Greater Good:
from The Guardian Teacher Network:
from The Mindful Teacher: