Self-Care During Coronavirus: 5 Tips for Educators
By Karlyn Johnson, MS, PPS, LPCC
iLEAD School Counselor
We hear a lot about self-care, but as an educator during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s vitally important to take notice. You might be shifting between online and in-person learning, adapting to new schedules and different ways of teaching — all while trying to keep up with the needs of your learners, their families, your own family, and your friends.
Feeling overwhelmed on the daily is understandable. During this time, a reminder of what self-care truly is and how to best practice it in practical terms is essential to your well-being. Is self-care stopping and staring into space? Is self-care neglecting responsibilities? What is it exactly — and how do you find time to practice self-care? To help with this, a survey was given to Understood Teacher Fellowship. These educators were asked to share ways they strive to take better care of themselves.
Here are five ideas for practicing self-care as you facilitate learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Set and maintain boundaries.
Dealing with demanding schedules while fielding learners’ needs is daunting. Additionally, working from home can blur the lines of when the workday starts and ends. Determine a schedule that takes into account a start time and an end time as well as breaks.
Using “when-then” sentences can help set and maintain boundaries. You might write, “When it is 10:00 a.m., then I take a five-minute break.” Post your “when-then” sentences near your work station as a visual reminder of your self-care commitments.
Shira Moskovitz, a fifth-grade special education inclusion teacher in Sunnyside, New York, has one more suggestion for setting boundaries: “I schedule time for breaks, meals, and personal family time by actually turning off my computer/phone during that time.”
2. Reflect on your feelings and needs.
It’s important to recognize and name your emotions. We ask our learners to do this, and it helps us as well. When you’re aware of an intense emotion, take a moment to reflect:
- Identify the emotion and why you are feeling that way.
- Think about what you might need in that moment and what you need going forward.
Examples include the following:
- “I’m feeling overwhelmed due to demands regarding my curriculum.”
- “I am depleted. I need a five-minute break”
- “I am hitting a wall of frustration. I’ll organize my thoughts and call a team member to problem-solve.”
“Take time for yourself each day to do something that is not technology-related,” says Stephanie Doyle, a third-grade language arts teacher in Roanoke, Virginia. “Take a walk, sit outside, walk barefoot in the grass, read your favorite book, go on a hike, exercise, or just hang out with your family doing something enjoyable.”
3. Recognize what is and isn’t in your control.
With a rapidly changing world and sudden shifts in how we facilitate learning, it can seem like there are more questions than answers. This may cause extreme worry and anxiety, confusion and frustration. One way to gain perspective is to recognize what is within your control and what isn’t. Consider using a simple chart to write down what is and isn’t in your control.
“Allow yourself to be vulnerable and be OK with saying that you don’t know something,” says La-Krisha Howard, a kindergarten teacher in Newark, New Jersey. “It is completely OK to not know the answer to every concern.”
4. Acknowledge moments of gratitude or joy.
Look for moments of joy and connection and hold onto them. Try jotting down humorous moments, something that made you smile, or something you’re thankful for. You can write these moments in a journal or jot them down in your phone calendar. Consider sharing these moments with your learners and ask them to share their own.
“One of my favorite moments this past week was seeing one of my students lose their first tooth during our Zoom call,” says Jessica Cisneros, a first grade teacher in Washington, DC. Noticing and taking the time to spotlight small, human moments of joy and connection can mean so much in the midst of turmoil.
5. Use self-care routines throughout your day.
Starting and ending your day with self-care practices can be very helpful. For example, you might start your day with a guided meditation and end your day with exercise. But it’s important to look for small ways to take care of yourself throughout your day. Consider trying this deep-breathing exercise for teachers as a midday break. You can explore this self-care infographic for more ideas.
No matter which self-care practices you choose, remember to use at least one (and hopefully more) throughout your day. Stop to reflect on your feelings when you’re upset. Pay attention to self-talk. Do you talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend? When you’re anxious, remind yourself what is in your control.
“Educators across the nation are struggling,” says Lauren Jewett, a high school special education teacher in New Orleans. “This can be tough, so I am trying to remember to be accountable to self-care and empathy for those I am working with.”