#33 – How to Prioritize Self-Care: Developing Your SEL Toolkit

Unpacking Education March 31, 2021 21 min

Teachers are givers. Sometimes, we give so much so often that we forget to give ourselves grace and compassion. In this podcast episode, we reflect on the need for self-care—how we can overcome our self-inflicted, self-care bias; find time to stop and identify what we need to avoid burnout; and create a space, physical or mental, to recharge.

For teachers, it’s easy to put students—their happiness, their emotional well-being, their mental health—first. When it comes to self-care—the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, particularly during times of stress—it just isn’t the forte for many teachers.

In this episode, our Digital Learning Specialists talk to Cherie Spencer, a Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator in Galveston, Texas, to unpack the steps we need to take in order to stop, define, and build a personalized self-care toolkit. Her message to teachers: be kind to yourself; you need to put your mental, emotional, and physical health first so that you can continue to support your students.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.

Christopher Germer, clinical psychologist, meditation practitioner, author


The following are resources available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Build your self-care toolkit.

Finding ways to process the challenges associated with teaching this year has become a topic for crucial conversations, as teachers look to each other, their administrators, and their families for support. With the increase of anxiety and worry, our bodies shift into a constant survival state that leaves us feeling unsafe and stressed. To combat this, we need to identify our individual needs in order to build a personalized self-care routine.

  1. Identify your self-care bias. When it comes to self-care, teachers are often their own worst enemy. Take time to stop and identify your self-care bias. Do you lift your brow when you see a teacher go offline or close their door during a lunch break? Do you shake your head when a teacher is heading for the parking lot promptly at 3:00 pm? Dig into your bias, acknowledge that it exists, and reflect on the feelings and needs that arise.
  2. Set and maintain boundaries. In this past year, the boundaries between work and home have blurred. It’s time to determine a schedule that takes into account a start time, an end time, your self-care practices, and your personal “I need to be alone” time.
  3. Recognize what is and isn’t in your control. Shifting teaching modalities, absentee students, testing pressures—these stressors are not in your control. Consider creating a T-chart to note what you can influence and what is causing anxiety that is out of your control.
  4. Celebrate moments of joy and gratitude. Find small moments of joy to celebrate every day. Jot down these moments in a journal, collect emails from students or parents/guardians that remind you of why you do what you do, and set up a gratitude jar for your family. These small celebrations remind us of the strength and resilience we can draw from personal connections.
  5. Find moments for mindfulness. Find small ways to take care of yourself throughout the day. Set a timer for 1 minute to take seven deep breaths. Take a 5-minute walk break. Commit to a short, guided meditation. Find a self-care practice that works for you and make it part of your daily routine.