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An open letter from an educator to an educator

What we are experiencing is hard. Regardless of what your iteration of pandemic teaching has looked like, I know it’s been challenging personally and professionally. I know you’re worried about your students, their progress, and their social-emotional well-being. I know you’re trying somehow to embrace a new normal. 

 

I know you’re tired. I am, too. 

 

I get that we can’t pour from empty cups, but for just a moment, can we pause? 

 

Self-care cannot be something to check off the list. Self-care is not one-size-fits-all. 

 

Self-care is not an initiative. 

 

Cultural shifts that value teacher mental and physical wellness take time to fully impact the system. Incredibly, the conversation is starting. It’s helpful that many see our value in a new light and want us to be well. 

 

But, a slow shift is not enough right now, and we’re third-year pandemic-teacher-tired. 

 

So, what can you do to feel better and take care of yourself? 

 

Do something small but effective to start, friend. 

 

I tell my students I firmly believe that a “right fit” book for every reader can spark a love of reading. It’s okay to abandon something if it isn’t working for you, but we’ll keep going until we find what you love. 

 

I also think there’s a “right fit” habit that can spark your mental and physical wellness. 

 

At the very least, we want to activate our parasympathetic nervous system - the one that helps us rest and digest - and slow down the signals from our sympathetic nervous system that keeps us in fight or flight mode. Fight or flight mode is what we need when a bear is chasing us, and while we do so much at work, hopefully, bear running isn’t a requirement. Consistently staying in a heightened state can lead to harmful effects on your body and nervous system. 

 

The following habits are connected to studies on longevity, happiness, and overall wellness and can help to - quite literally - ease our minds during this challenging time. 

 

I hope that as you reflect on self-care, you try something from the list and keep trying out habits until you find what sparks a greater sense of well-being. 

 

Ten Self-Care Habits to Try to Ease Your Mind and Spark Your Wellness: 

 

  1. Prioritize sleep: Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep 
  2. Drink more water: Aim for your body weight in ounces each day
  3. Stop and breathe: Try inhaling twice through your nose and exhaling out from your mouth slowly. Repeat five times
  4. Do any form of exercise: Try a 15-minute walk to start 
  5. Go outside: Try to get ten minutes in the morning and soak up that natural light
  6. Meditate: Try a few minutes on Calm, Headspace, or find a YouTube video you like 
  7. Journal: Doodle or jot down your thoughts. List things you’re grateful for each day
  8. Connect with someone: Call a friend or family member once each day
  9. Commit an act of kindness: Brighten someone else’s day 
  10. Remember your purpose: Read those old thank you notes you saved or watch a feel-good teacher movie. Remind yourself you make a difference.

 

In support, solidarity, and pursuit of wellness,

 

Stephanie Smith 

Sixth Grade Teacher and Simply Bee Health Coach

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