by Shalonda Archibald, NJLA Board Member
I recently read several articles that mentioned the idea of recommending self-care to teachers is demoralizing. I’ve shared in many forums my strategies for self-care and have grappled with the idea of how self-care can be demoralizing. However, in a school with low morale, where teachers feel dumped on day in and day out, I totally get that sentiment. Chad Dauphy mentions in "Tackling Teacher Burnout" that one of the meanings of burned out is “... realizing you’ll never meet expectations of the educational system, or you’ll never get the proper support.” Yes, coming to terms with this harsh reality, which existed pre-pandemic and has only intensified, is disheartening . What’s even more disheartening is feeling that one's career determines one's worthiness.
It saddens me to hear self-care thrown around as yet another buzz word when our profession cannot sustain itself without it. In a recent sermon I listened to Pastor Joyce Myer’s stated, “Life is not your circumstances….MY REAL LIFE IS IN ME.” We all have to face ourselves and know that even though we are in the service of giving, we have to also give to ourselves. Otherwise, our giving is superficial at best. I tell my children often to be a mirror for what they want reflected back to them (i.e. attract good friends by being a good friend).
Self-care allows us to connect with and see ourselves so that we can better see AND serve others. I’m a living testimony of this fact. Self-care, peering into our individual heart postures, is the start to effectively dealing with our woes. SELF, as per Merriam-Webster is the union of elements (such as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person. We must give ourselves permission to care for ourselves. Sounds weird but it’s true. No one can do it for us. External factors cannot fill internal voids no matter how badly we want to believe this.
I challenge you to begin investing in yourself. Yes, yourself. YOU MATTER! Choose one sustainable self-care act and commit to it for the next twenty one days. Take one day at a time and celebrate each time you nourish yourself. You’ll thank yourself for it. The people you cherish will too. Self-care isn’t selfish, it's necessary. If we are going to give our students our best we have to be our best.
I know it sounds easier said than done, believe me I’ve been in that space, however it’s possible. Self-care looks different for everyone. Whether it’s buying a new piano, chiseling out a sacred twenty minutes a day to read for enjoyment, taking a weekend getaway or a nap on your sofa, DO IT. You deserve it.