Teachers need self-care, too!

Teachers are remarkable people. Having worked with teachers in my practice for the past decade, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most passionate, smart, creative, and ... stressed out people ever. Having been a teacher and a lecturer myself, I understand the excitement, creativity, and energy that goes in to helping people of all ages expand their minds and develop their skills so they have the best possible opportunities in the world. I also understand the pressure, overloaded schedule, emotional overwhelm, and burnout.

Helpers, like teachers, are often expected to work at the expense of their own self-care and well-being. Teachers are expected to answer emails, meet with parents and negotiate parent-child (and parent-parent) relationships, and are on the front lines of noticing emerging mental illness, learning disorders, domestic violence and child abuse, and bullying. Teachers are notoriously underpaid for the amount of work they do, too - particularly considering they're doing the job of, like, five trained professionals.

This can lead to major burnout, stress-related illness, difficulty in relationships, and leaving the profession early.

In all my work with teachers, there are a few things that have been super helpful in trying to regulate the intensity of the school year. One of those is to really, really take the summer off. Go camping, travel, relax, swim, read a book, work on your music or other creative projects, but don't teach and don't prep for the next year. (It's hard to do, for many reasons, including economics- but if at all possible, vacations help.) Many teachers tend to pack their summers and breaks just as they would the academic year, which means there's really no decompression time. Additionally, developing a mindfulness practice, a meta-awareness of the calendar cycles (so that when you're "in the weeds", to borrow a restaurant worker term, you know you'll come out of it again), and regular self-care habits like coming to therapy can also be helpful in mitigating the stress and allowing space for your creativity to emerge. After all, teaching can be really fun and engaging, but it can also be excruciating and exhausting if you aren't feeling replenished.

But not every teacher is fulfilled by teaching. Some teachers might be really good at what they do, but it's not really scratching their professional itch. I have helped teachers discover what it is they truly want to contribute to the world, and how to find their way amidst ambivalence about their professional pursuits.

As with all learning, it takes time for therapy to help you understand your patterns, cycles, hesitations, shame, and desires. Facing these feelings can help unblock you to make you the best teacher (and partner, parent, friend, and colleague) you can be, without sacrificing your needs for the needs of others. It can also help you discover that your creative passions might emerge in other places you had never considered.

What risk, then, is there in being more fully you?

...to be continued...