As one of the most challenging academic school years in history wraps up, it's safe to say that teachers, counselors, and administers are due for a deep breath and a restorative break.
Even if you continue to work or teach over the summer, there are some key things you can do for yourself to deprogram, unwind, and renew your energy for what's sure to be an exciting next school year back in the classroom.
Below, you'll find some of our favorite restorative self-care tips that we encourage educators and administrators to try practicing this summer.
Set Reasonable Boundaries
Let's be honest: nearly all educators continue to do some form of work over the summer. This might include teaching summer school, taking on a second job, doing administrative work for your school, or preparing for Fall semester. And this doesn't even include taking care of your own family, pets, home, etc.
But one way to exercise self-care and avoid burnout is to keep your work separate from your home life (something that was very challenging to do this past year, especially if you worked remotely). Try keeping designated "on" hours for work and then really "logging off" entirely when your work is done. For example, you may want to remove your work email account from your cellphone or limit the amount of time you spend a day or week checking your email.
Take a Real Break
Make sure, if it's at all possible, to take some actual time off this summer, whether for a vacation or even just a "staycation." Many of us worked inordinately long and difficult hours over the last year-plus, and it's imperative we find some actual downtime this summer.
And remember: "down time" looks different to everyone. For someone, it may mean lying on a beach reading a book; for another person, it might mean redecorating their home or going hiking. The bottom line is that it's an act of self-care to carve out time that feels restorative to you.
Expand Your Own Education for Pleasure
Many educators gravitate to the profession because they're curious-minded, lifelong learners, but it's possible that you had to put some of your own passions on the back burner this past year. Be encouraged to take a class or webinar that you've been interested in but haven't had the time to do.
That said, please don't feel pressured to take classes or complete elective professional development unless you want to. The goal isn't to pile on work, but rather to give back to yourself in meaningful ways.
Try Something New
Is there something you've always wanted to try but haven't had the time or energy? Now's the time to prioritize your sense of adventure if you're feeling up to it. Have you always wanted to go bungee jumping? Start a garden? Make a vegan recipe? Give it go!
Is there a traditional type of self-care routine or healing modality you've been meaning to try -- perhaps like yoga, Reiki, or acupuncture? Now is as good a time as ever to give it a whirl!
Avoid Spreading Yourself Too Thin
If you can feel yourself getting exhausted with all this talk about taking classes and trying new things, that's OK! Knowing your limitations and living life at a healthy pace for you is critical to your wellbeing.
As the world opens up again, social gatherings and other opportunities will become more plentiful, but don't be afraid to say NO when you need to rest. If you try to do everything, you won't be fully present, and you run the very real risk of burnout.
Unwind With Colleagues
It's fair to say that many educators had an unprecedently difficult, even highly traumatic past year at work. And as a rule of thumb, no one understands the experiences of a teacher like another teacher.
So if the thought appeals to you, try to carve out some leisure time with your colleagues or other educator friends so you can share your experiences and deprogram together. The solidarity of sharing your experiences with other people who can empathize with your unique set of challenges can be a radical act of self-care.
Take Inventory of Your Accomplishments
You were an absolute Rockstar this past year, even when you found yourself struggling (and who didn't?).
Try journaling or making a bulleted list of all the things you're proud of yourself for over the last academic school year, both as a teacher and a person. No accomplishment is too small and when you reflect back on all of the ways you showed up for others, your morale and pride will likely soar.
Pamper Yourself a Little
"Pampering" is also pretty subjective but little bits of luxury go a long way in boosting our mood. Can you pick up fresh flowers at the grocery store? Hang up a new piece of art? Get a massage? Purchase something for your desk that you love looking at?
Your acts of self-care don't have to be lavish or expensive to go a long way!
Make a Necessary Change
What can you change about your environment, working habits, or life in general that will help you move forward with greater optimism, peace of mind, and excitement? Is it a new morning routine or a midday walk on the horizon? Or perhaps a new desk or new classroom décor is in order.
Spend some time reflecting on what changes would make your life simpler, less stressful, and more joyful. Again, small shifts often go a long way in making our days more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Practice Appreciation and Gratitude
Above all else, give yourself and your entire educational community a giant pat on the back. You made it to the other side of this academic year in one piece and your students couldn't have done it without you.
As hard as your job (and life!) can be, keeping some form of gratitude or appreciation journal is a great way to stay focused on everything wonderful in your life, and all of your wins, however small they may feel some days.
A Final Word on Self Care for Educators
Self-care is buzzword that means something different to us all, so most importantly, check in with yourself often to assess how you're feeling and decide what you need more or less of this summer. Maybe you need to take more bubble baths or try meditation. Maybe you need to take more weekend trips. Maybe you need to return to an old hobby or start an art project with your kids. Whatever self-care means to you, make sure to prioritize yourself this Summer so you feel refreshed this Fall!