Written by: Megan McCormick, School Health Facilitator, Ever Active Schools
Fall is busy. Students are back in school, and we find ourselves scheduling everything down to the second—even our bathroom breaks. It’s important that when things become busy, we do not overlook how important our own self-care is within the confines of our classroom.
Taking dedicated time for your mental, emotional, physical, and social health has a variety of benefits, such as:
- Improved productivity
- Increased self-knowledge
- Improved immunity against flu or illness
- Decreased stress
Whether you only have a spare five minutes or you find an hour of time to devote to your personal wellness, self-care should be a regular practice in your school year.
Five minutes: Breathe
Self-care can be as short as five minutes and as simple as focusing on your breath. A simple reminder could be leaving a note on your desk or a timer on your phone throughout the day to remind you that five minutes is manageable to fit in. Breathing is something you already do, but now you can do it with a bit more intention.
Bring attention to your breath, whether that’s the feeling of air across your lips or through your nostrils. Do not alter or try to change your breath, but notice how quickly or unevenly you are breathing. Five minutes of awareness of this flowing breath is enough to slow down your heart rate and bring a sense of calm.
15 minutes: Journal
If you find yourself with a bit more time, grab a piece of paper or dedicated notebook and take 15 minutes to write down a stream of consciousness. Putting pen to paper can be an incredibly powerful tool. Without judgement or reaction to anything you are writing, let your hand guide your thoughts and collect everything that is swirling around in your mind.
Oftentimes, reading back what you wrote can bring reflection, but it’s not always necessary. Simply unloading your thoughts, whether that’s midday or right before bedtime, allows your mind to release the worry that these thoughts will be forgotten or missed.
If you are ever in a pinch, the notes app on your cellphone is a wonderful tool as well.
30 minutes: Go for a walk
In Japan, there is a term used, shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing: the act of being with nature on an intentional basis. Spending time in nature has incredible benefits for your social and emotional health, in addition to the physical benefits of walking and taking a break.
You don’t necessarily need luscious green space to get the benefit of walking outdoors; fresh air, sunshine, and the break from artificial lighting can all add to the benefits of moving your body and being active. 30 minutes is the standard recommendation, but this act of self-care could be as quick as a walk around the block.
60 minutes: Spend time with a friend
If you find yourself with a little more time on your hands, seeking social connection is a great way to add self-care. Whether it’s grabbing lunch, tucking away in a coffee shop for a catch up, or finding time to walk pets – meeting with a friend, co-worker or loved one is a great way to reconnect to the world outside of your classroom.
Friends bring perspective, offer advice, and are great ways to slow down and bring more mindfulness to your day. Offer to organize a lunch date this month and perhaps your friend can organize the next. Friends also make excellent walking partners.
I hope that whatever time you’re able to find in an afternoon, day, or week is prioritized for adding in self-care. When you build in self-care into your routine, you are a healthier and better version of yourself for your students and your school.