Self-Care and Co-Care: It’s Time to Make a Care-mmitment!
A career in education is hard on the body, mind, and spirit. And we say it’s important to take care of ourselves so we can take care of one another, but how often do we really practice it? Not as often as we’d like, right? To fill our minds, we have regular staff meetings and inservices! To fill our spirits, many of us have regular religious or other practices. Many of us go to the gym or do some form of exercise, although many might agree it’s not as regular as we’d like. Why not make a commitment to taking care of our whole selves? Why not a commitment to self-care or a care-mmitment to our ourselves and each other?
A great way to start moving forward in this area is to create a Care-mmitment Calendar for yourself or, even better, with your colleagues or a whole staff!
It can be more fun and easier to start better habits when you see those around you making the time for self-care. And some of us are better at helping others remember to take healthier steps than getting ourselves doing it and so partnerships can be a great idea too! But how does it work?
How it works:
- Visit with your colleagues about the effects of stress and the benefits of self-care and co-care. Share with them examples of self-care and co-care.
- Talk about ways you each might enjoy some self-care time.
- Take those ideas that were shared and build a Care-mmitment Calendar using staff input.
- Each week, via encouraging emails or announcements, share that week’s challenge to staff.
- Encourage your colleagues to make the time to participate. Remind them how good it will feel to take a guilt-free moment for themselves. Remember, none of us have the time. We have to find ways to take the time.
- Ask each person to record when they’ve completed the challenge. Tally building participation on a success chart. Set a goal (with the staff) to see if you can match or beat the challenge each time.
- In a staff meeting, have the staff submit at least 1 (or more) self-care or co-care ideas that can be done throughout the school year to relax, refresh, renew, or just breathe and think of nothing. Consider using a balance of ideas included in the following topics:
- Compile your staff-generated list and drop it into a calendar.
- Each week/bi-week/month send out the friendly challenge to the staff.
- Encourage them to complete the weekly self-care strategy. Encourage them to try something new. Encourage them to do it with a friend. Encourage them to note their before/after feelings. Encourage them by role-modeling for them that you’re doing it too.
- Make a success chart either online (Google form) or in a central location (staff room) that only counts numbers of people who’ve participated. No need to record by name. You want to know who is and who isn’t doing the challenges? Ask them.
- Not everyone needs to do all the challenges. Don’t make this a pressure situation. This should be fun and something they see value in and want to do.
If you find you’re having some trouble getting started with ideas, you can also start with the Care-mmitment Challenges below.
There are roughly 36 weeks to a school year, so I’ve added 40 ideas below. I recommend starting with small bites at first. Choose 1 or 2 of these items each month to challenge yourselves to complete. And when most of your staff is participating, ramp up to weekly challenges!
- Do a Walk n Talk with Jessica Smith. These are great 15 minute physical breaks to learn about stress relief and self-care. You can do them alone or with friends indoors or outdoors on your phone with earbuds!
- Find 3 silly jokes and share them with 3 colleagues.
- Go outside and sit in the sun (or shade) for 5 minutes. Don’t talk. Don’t think. Close your eyes (if you like) and just listen to the sounds around you. Feel the outdoors on your skin. Breathe slowly and deeply as you do this.
- Bring 3 healthy lunches this week that make you feel good!
- Begin each day of this week with a positive intention.
- Pay it forward this week. Find an opportunity to do something unexpected and nice for at least 3 other people this week.
- Find (or make) a fun playlist that makes you want to shake your booty! And then share it with one other person who might enjoy it too!
- Listen to a podcast, TEDtalk, or YouTube video that inspires you and makes you feel all the feels!
- Set up a lunch or dinner with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Be sure to keep that commitment!
- Clean out one desk drawer. Donate any items you don’t need back to a bin in the office. Leave a donation. Take a donation!
- Compliment yourself at least 3 times today. And then compliment someone else 3 times this week.
- Print out a quote that inspires you and put it somewhere you’ll see it from time to time.
- Enjoy at least two 5-minute meditations this week.
- Eat a balanced healthy breakfast every single day this week.
- This week, wake up and do NOT check your phone immediately. Instead, immediately drink a glass of water and build your intention (not a to-do list) for the day. Who do you want to be? What do you want to feel? What do you want others to feel as a result of interacting with you? Do this as many times as you can.
- Drive to school and/or home using a different route every day this week.
- Treat yourself to an extra long shower or a soothing bath this week.
- Write down 10 things you love and appreciate about yourself. Then write down 5 things you love & appreciate about someone else (and give it to them).
- Spend 10 minutes writing down all the great things you bring to your job.
- Is there a social media account that makes you feel negative? Spend a little time unfollowing or unsubscribing from the people/things that bring up that negativity. Or delete the account altogether.
- Turn off your phone, iPad, computer, and TV for 2 hours each evening this week.
- Clean out a closet at home and find at least 5 things to donate to someone else.
- Let’s get creative this week! Paint, read, sew, draw, write, garden, dance…especially if you think you’re no good at it. Take a moment to celebrate the joy of imperfection.
- Think of (or find) THREE power phrases and write them down. Put them where you can see them throughout your day. Bathroom mirror, car sun visor, laptop, bedside lamp, over the kitchen sink, etc. When you see them, say them aloud.
- Be a tourist in your own town. Take photos, browse, use new eyes to look with wonder and awe at the everyday and familiar. Find joy in the unfamiliar.
- Find a partner before/after school this week. Walk the hallways and share with them a story about a time you did something that was hard and were able to accomplish.
- Organize a school-wide/department-wide/wing-wide potluck lunch. Don’t forget to bring a copy of your recipe, in case someone wants it!
- Build a self-care (or gratitude) jar in a central location. Have small pieces of paper nearby. Encourage colleagues (and yourself) to write self-care tips or moments of gratitude and drop them into the jar. Read them out at staff meeting or over lunch.
- Sometime during the day (starting your day, centering your day, or ending your day), make a gratitude list of 3 things you’re grateful for within yourself, your career, and in your personal life. Do this at least 4 times this week.
- Make a care-mmitment to eat lunch away from your desk all week long. If you already do, an alternate challenge is to invite a colleague you rarely talk with to eat lunch with you 2 times this week.
- At least once this week, think about a child who is challenging you and complete an empathy map for him/her. How can this help you reframe what might be going on. What questions do you have now about that student?
- Partner with 2-3 other staff members and complete as many of these Deskercises as you can in 15 minutes. It’s good to laugh and be silly!
- Each day of this week, think of a person you’re grateful for and reach out to tell them so. Email, phone call, or a f2f visit are all good options.
- Move in a different way this week. Ride a bike, try a unicycle, rock climb, do yoga, hold a dance party, take the stairs, walk to the store, etc.
- Go watch a sunset or a sunrise this week. Turn off all noise and just watch it. Note the change of sounds, feeling of the wind, temperature, smells, and how different things look. Make it a family outing if you like. Just get there before the event and stay as long as you can afterward.
- Write your future self a note of encouragement. You get to pick the timeline and the mode of delivery.
- Work on getting between 6-8 hours of sleep every single night this week. Having trouble falling asleep? Check out these tips.
- Do a Check Up from the Neck Up at least once per day this week.
- Try out a Yoga for Teachers or Yoga at Your Desk or Yoga for the Service Industry or Yoga for Self-Care or Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief video sometime this week! Invite a friend (or 3) to join you!
- Be sure you’re getting at least 2 liters of water, not including coffee, juice, or soda each day this week. How will you measure to be sure you’re there?
I always believe it’s best to have staff generate ideas for your customized Care-mmitment Calendar, but in case they need help getting started, please start with the ideas above. Remember, this can be a weekly or a monthly challenge. I don’t recommend making it a daily challenge. While daily self-care is the goal, the challenges could likely become “white noise” and fall by the wayside. If your colleagues are particularly stressed and are not good with self-care, I recommend starting with a monthly challenge. Keep it fun and a treat to look forward to — not just another thing on your plates.
And not everyone has to participate every time. This is all about lessening stress. Make your ideas fun. Make them helpful. Make them for YOU.
If you like the idea of the Care-mmitment Calendar and end up using it at your school, please drop me a line to let me know how it’s going! I’d love to see pictures of your colleagues in action, taking care of themselves!