Anyone who works with children has found themselves mumbling to themselves. We ask ourselves, “Why”? On those days I find myself thinking, “I’m just getting too old for this”? But, what is “this”?
Working with children is hard work and stressful. You sit in your classroom with ten little people who are still learning what this human experience is all about. They are excited about new friends and new toys and new experiences. And their excitement can be loud and sometimes aggressive. Then you add the child that has some behavioral issues. That child that demands all of your time. Or the parent that just can’t understand why you don’t do more of this or less of that. By the end of the day you’re exhausted and cranky and feeling like that “burn out” is rapidly grabbing hold of you.
But then that one small voice shouts, “I love you Miss Helen”. And then the hugs. And the giggles.
This is why we do what we do. Because these children, all of them, matter to us.
I could go on a list a whole page of reminders of why we do this – why our work matters, but I think we already know them. What I’d like to ask you today is, what do you do for yourself on days like these? All the reminders don’t make us feel better when we are utterly drained and wasted. So lets talk about self-care.
Self-care isn’t something you have to spend a lot of money on (although a massage would be fabulous!). Self-care, by definition (according to PsychCentral.com ) is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” As teachers, we tend to be so busy with our jobs (even on our off time) and taking care of family and the home and our education (that we have to have continuing), we often neglect our own needs. The problem here is that we can’t adequately care for others if we haven’t been cared for.
Self-care is not a selfish act. It is necessary for preservation of our health and our sanity. So why don’t we practice it? We all usually work through our lunch breaks. And bathroom breaks? Uh, cross your legs and hold it!! We were taught that we should take care of others and that our own needs come last. And many of us in helping professions (myself included) are co-dependent personalities. That means we are “fixers”. We feel the need to make taking care of everyone else (even when they don’t want it) a priority. But then we tire out and get sick and can’t help anyone.
Doing things like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods and exercising regularly sounds like a no brainer, but we in child care have a tendency to neglect those most basic things.
So what do we do?
Here are some ideas:
- Laugh – find reasons to laugh some more!
- Put time for yourself on your calendar and keep that appointment.
- Do something relaxing for yourself everyday – even for just 30 minutes. Do crosswords, take a walk in the woods, look at a magazine that is NOT work related
- Browse a book store
- Get a manicure or pedicure (or both)
- Spend time with family playing a game or just chatting
- Take a short walk during your lunch break
- Take up a hobby like photography, knitting, something that is creative
- Find that one thing that gives you pleasure and takes you away from the world for just a little while. For me, that’s cooking – I’m in my zen when I’m creating in the kitchen. For others it’s a good novel, meditation, or dancing
Bottom line – make yourself a priority.
You’ll be able to cope with the unexpected better and you’ll go home remembering why we do this and why it’s worth it.
Happy Valentine’s Day – Be your own Valentine this year.