It's back to school time! With it comes buying shiny new pencils (and pencil skirts), doing homework assignments (or preparing lesson plans!) and filling those lunchboxes. Of course, this time of year also means that, in the midst of our hustle and bustle, our self-care routine can be derailed in favor of finishing off those papers that need grading or squeezing in one last meeting. And yet, self-care is such a fundamental part of our well-being and productivity. I mean, if we aren't taking good care of ourselves, then how can we best care for others? So let's skip the potential burnout of all-work-no-self-care and make self-care a priority this year, whether you are a teacher, student, administrator, or just someone who wants to retool your daily routine to better incorporate wellness.
1. Make your own lunch and breakfast. Cooking your own food is hands-down healthier for you. You can control the amount of salt and sugar in your meals and the portion size. Plus I find it is easier to stick to a healthy diet if I cook for myself. I especially love making mason jar meals during the semester so that I am greeted each morning and afternoon with delicious grab-n-go meals. I simply take an hour on Sunday so that I can have yummy meals all week long to take with me to work. Plus, it is so gratifying to reach for a tasty homemade lunch come noon--it's like a mid-day treat! Looking for a little inspiration? Check out my recipe index for mason jar meals, quick breakfasts and more.
2. Make exercise part of your routine. Come mid-semester, this can be hard when you are tired and feel like there is a lot on your plate. But I always think that if I have time to sit on the couch, I have time to exercise. The benefit of making exercise a part of your routine is that it helps you to unwind and take care of your body. Often when I find myself dragging my feet to my workout, I later finish my long walk or hot yoga feeling revived, refreshed, and all around transformed--and SO happy I made the extra effort to take care of myself! The times I've given into tiredness and just flopped, I've found I can't shake the tiredness, so can never completely recharge and relax. The best part of this is that if exercise is already part of your lifestyle now, it is easier to stick to it as part of your routine when your semester gets more hectic.
3. Honor your transitional moments between work and private life. It is important to begin and end each workday with something that is just for you; it helps you transition from home to work. Even your drive to and from work is like an everyday ritual that helps you get geared up for the day or decompress at the end of it. I also like to begin and end my work day with some yoga or exercise--these little rituals I've carved out for myself help me to transition out of teacher mode so I can enjoy my evenings (and weekends!) and recharge my batteries. If you aren't mindful of those transitional moments, it can be harder for you to shake off the work day and take care of yourself.
4. When you're working, really work. This may seem like it doesn't belong on this list, but part of self-care is in maximizing your work time so that you can maximize your down time. It can be easy to fritter away time and energy during your work day on unnecessary things only to then have to take work home to be prepared for the next day--or to stay awake at night thinking of what you didn't, but truly needed to, get done. So make it a goal to be as focused as possible during your work hours so that you're not working ALL hours.
5. Make your workspace an office sanctuary. My office is in a traditional cubicle setting. One thing I can never understand is how people can be productive while feeling hemmed in by three gray walls. I say push back the gray cube! Your workspace should be light and inspiring--a place you enjoy working in. Just as a home should be more than a place to put your stuff, a workspace should be as uplifting as it is practical. After all, work feels heavier when you are surrounded by gray drab walls, so take a little time to pepper your space with things you love and that inspire you. Working is an act of joy, so let that shine through. You'll be surprised how much it affects your mood and stress levels when you surround yourself with tranquil, peaceful things. Fight the gray, I say!
What ways do you work in self-care once school starts?
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