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An Educator’s Resolution: Taking Care of Yourself

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

*Subscriber Submission!*

A DPI-ConnectEd subscriber requested help for “the emotions and stress that teachers go through,” which are “getting dangerously” out of balance for many educator colleagues. “I am concerned that these incredible, dedicated people will step away from teaching. Some of them already have.”

The Department of Public Instruction recognizes the real effects of stress on our educators.

Image of Self Care Professional Learning Module for Teachers
The DPI has published an online module on self-care directed at educators.

It “can make us feel physically and emotionally exhausted,” says Elizabeth Cook, the department’s school mental health consultant. And, the middle of the semester often brings heightened demands.

The DPI has published an online learning module on self-care (part of Trauma-Sensitive Schools training) and Cook has identified other resources to help educators combat the effects of stress.

The American Institute of Stress has developed the ABC’s of Prevention: Awareness, Balance & Connections. Cook adds D: develop a plan.

Awareness

To improve, we must identify our problem. The Professional Quality of Life measure is a free, online tool that can help you determine whether you are experiencing signs of burnout and compassion fatigue.

Balance

Create balance in your life by prioritizing the things that bring you joy and promote health. Healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and a full night’s sleep are three crucial elements to bringing your life into balance. Additionally, mindfulness practices, finding creative outlets, and journaling are other activities that can help us de-stress and gear up for the next day. For help with the latter two, Cook recommends such online destinations as http://www.coloring.com/ and https://penzu.com/.

Connections

Positive support networks are a crucial element of any self-care plan. Stay connected with contacts--personal and professional--that help you process your thoughts in a positive way. Remember, research shows venting can increase stress and negative feelings, so Cook urges, “Be sure to walk away from conversations with friends and family feeling supported and cared for -- rather than more stressed out!”

Develop a Plan

Establishing a good self-care routine will not happen overnight. The key is not to overwhelm yourself with all the things you must do, but rather focus on small, manageable steps and build from there. The DPI has created several resources to help you develop and sustain a good self-care plan, as part of the self-care module, including a step-by-step guide for developing a plan and a sample self-care plan.

Committing to take better care of ourselves is important, but can be difficult. However, by following these ABCD’s of Awareness, Balance, Connections, and Develop a plan, we take steps towards securing wellness for ourselves and, in turn, our students.

** This story idea was submitted by a DPI-ConnectEd subscriber! We are looking for your news of exciting programs, promising practices, initiatives that could benefit from publicity, or your questions about working with Wisconsin students. E-mail just a sentence or two to benson.gardner@dpi.wi.gov, with "Story Idea" in the subject line.