We have been hearing a lot about self-care lately at my current school. There seems to be an awareness in our profession around the demands of teaching. It isn't just limited to teaching, though. I have worked in other areas and at one stage in my life was a full-time teacher, worked every day during the school holidays from 8am to 5pm and also worked Friday and Saturday evenings. Needless to say I ended up quite unwell! The reason I had jobs outside of teaching was because I did not have job security. I was contracted each term, sometimes for longer but there was always an end-point to my teaching position and I had absolutely no guarantee of any work after contracts had ended. I am fortunate to have worked in other areas so I am aware of the positives/ perks/ benefits that come with this profession.
One of the downsides to teaching is how much you can invest yourself into the profession. Planning, marking, displays, parents, behaviours, yard duties, IEPs..... The pressure can mount. There was a stage in my career when I would arrive at work at 7am, leave at 5pm and go in for most of Saturday. It just wasn't sustainable to live like that. I have learned how to manage my time well and how to prioritise.
Things started to change for me once I started leaving my laptop at work. I found that I was far more productive at work, because I had to be! I also realised how much I was doing after hours that really led to nothing. I would search online but not find what I was looking for. I was constantly comparing myself to other teachers and trying to do what they were doing. Once I realised that my job was to teach the curriculum, and anything else was a bonus, my mindset began to change. I had to tell myself that it was ok if I didn't change my displays on the wall every fortnight, that wasn't as important as teaching. It is ok to use a couple of worksheets out of a book instead of trying to create your own. It is ok sometimes to not have a fancy, fun, exciting lesson planned. In no way am I saying that those things are irrelevant, however, it is about prioritising and doing the most important bits first! I often get overwhelmed with all of the expectations so I work out what are the 3 most important things I need to do right now, and I do them first. If it isn't vital, it can wait.
I also started exercising at the age of 29 lol! I hadn't really done anything since I left school and I ended up incredibly unfit. It took a long time and after many injuries I now exercise 4-5 times a week for at least an hour. Sometimes this is an intense gym class, other days it is a walk along the beach. I do Karate 2 times per week and to be honest, I don't always enjoy Karate, but I feel the benefits are much more than just physical exercise. Every time I drive home from a class I am always pleased I went, even if there were aspects of the class that I didn't enjoy.
Self-care means different things to different people, and it is important to figure out what works for you. For me, leaving work at work, prioritising as well as exercising regularly made a huge different to my well being. What works for you? Leave comments below!