Tips for Teacher Wellbeing
As outlined in the “Challenge to Teacher Wellbeing”, the symptoms of burnout can vary, but the experience of feeling drained, rundown and tired are common signs that burnout may be creeping in. We put together a brief list of tips that we have found helpful for building and maintaining a sense of wellbeing. These tips may not solve the larger issues of teacher burnout, but we hope they support your efforts to take care of yourself.
Prioritize your self-care
You cannot serve others or your students if you have nothing left to give. Just like the old airline adage says, you must put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. High levels of stress over prolonged periods of time, or chronic stress, have been shown to inhibit our ability to regulate emotion, to cope with stressful situations, and to feel empathy for others. The implications of a school full of teachers with chronic stress is profound when looking at academic and behavior outcomes in students.
Follow a schedule
Give yourself a reasonable and attainable time everyday to unplug from work and engage in something that makes you feel good. Try to avoid checking your email or engaging with work after this time with the knowledge that you will be able to re-engage the following day, recharged and ready to bring your best self to your colleagues, students and families.
Make at least one day over the weekend sacred
For some it might be Saturday, for others it might be Sunday, but it is important that educators give themselves at least one full day off a week. If you can do the whole weekend, even better! But I urge you, make at least one of your weekend days a sacred time dedicated renewal and pleasure. You deserve it. You really really do.
Give yourself space to breathe
If you find your stress levels building during the day, try using your breath as a stress release valve. A practice that we find particularly useful is making your exhale twice as long as your inhale. The elongated exhale sends the signal to your nervous system that you are in a space where you can begin to relax. A common ratio is to inhale for a count of 4 and to exhale for a count of 8. You can also shorten this ratio to an inhale for 3 and exhale for 6 if that is more comfortable. To begin the practice, close your eyes if that is comfortable, or find a still point to focus on. Slowly breathe in for a count of 4, seeing if you can notice your belly rise with the inhale. And then slowly exhale for a count of 8, seeing if you can notice your belly and chest fall on the exhale.
You might find this 5 minute video helpful, it includes instructions on the breath as well as a gentle arm movement. If the ratio breath feels like too much, you can always try a full belly breath. Slowly breathe in fully and exhale completely. Repeat at least 3 times.
Create Communities of Sustainability
Ironically, teaching can be a lonely profession. Even though you might be surrounded by students all day, it is easy isolate within your classroom. Creating a community with fellow teachers, or friends outside of school, that can help you laugh, listen to you vent, and prioritize self-care is a powerful antidote to burnout.
Try evidence-based practices for stress resilience and trauma healing
Dynamic Mindfulness is an evidence based practice that can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. This makes it an ideal tool to build stress resilience and trauma healing for educators, their students and the families that they serve.