Self-care for educators in times of crisis
Are you experiencing signs of trauma or high anxiety in light of our pandemic health scare? Educators have an important role in times of student, school, and community challenges. As teachers, we habitually care for others even at our own expense.
The Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity seeks to support educators in developing safe, supportive, and trauma-sensitive learning environments. So often we focus on our students and others in our schools and classrooms, forgetting the importance of self-care to sustain us. So this article is focused on you, the educator, in hopes we can encourage self-care in times of crisis.
We are all aware of how high levels of stress affect our health, well-being, and ability to bring our best to the classroom. In the past few weeks, we have experienced high levels of stress from the uncertainty around the Coronavirus and the various response options presented. How many cases are there, how exactly is it transmitted, what does pandemic mean, what are the symptoms, are we going to be OK? And I am supposed to translate this in a way to keep my students and school/classroom safe. What can I do? I am so stressed out!
The response to this question of “What do I do?” follows two complementary paths. First, remember you are not alone in your concerns and stress. Talk to your colleagues, share concerns and generate answers to the questions you have within the context of your information and school. Reach out and be in the community—it is a real strength for all of us and often provides great ideas and an important sense of connection and belonging.
Second and most important, be deliberate about caring for yourself. Resilient teachers are able to bounce back from challenges and adapt in the face of adversity. Here are six tips to stay resilient:
1. Stay Healthy
We start by sharing the obvious, wash your hands often. When we are anxious, we often binge on comfort foods and other vices but try to use moderation. You can foster wellness by trying to enjoy your meals by chewing slowly and savoring the taste. Get enough sleep, drink water, breathe deeply, and exercise.
2. Keep Calm
In our role as educators, we are responsible for the welfare of others in our care. If possible, after your workday let go and focus on yourself. The more in control you feel, the easier it is to keep calm during the school day and maintain compassionate relationships with colleagues, students, and parents. Deliberately slow your movements and your speech. And when in doubt, sing.
3. Gain perspective
Although we have no control of the pandemic, we do have control of our response. Take deep breaths and take stock of what is in your locus of control. Practice gratitude by listing in your mind's eye all the people and things that you feel appreciative of. As much as possible stay present in the moment. Try not to ruminate or get trapped in ‘what if’ fears. Acknowledge feelings of the moment and ‘name them so you can tame them’ and know you are not alone in them.
4. Quiet the mind
Use practices that work for you to quiet the mind. Some individuals practice meditation, mindfulness, yoga, or go for a vigorous run. These practices even for a few minutes a day are effective in restoring hope, balancing our nervous system, and enhancing our immune system.
5. Spend time in nature
There is a restorative power in nature. If possible, take a walk in a park, feel the rain or sunshine on your face, and notice the signs of spring. Forest bathing has been proven to support clear thinking and reduce anxiety.
6. Spend time with loved ones
Connecting with others, even by telephone, releases pleasurable and protective neurotransmitters, like dopamine, to your brain. Cuddling your puppy or singing to a child will lower your blood pressure and increase positive feelings. The American Psychological Association names a primary factor to bolster resilience is having caring, trusting, and supportive relationships.
View our team at the Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity as part of your community support system. We have witnessed firsthand the incredible power of resilient educators and encourage educators everywhere to take care of yourselves so you can be there to support your students, colleagues, and yourselves.