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Establishing Nourishing Well-being Habits with an Educator Self-Care Menu

educator well-being self-care Oct 02, 2020

Helping Educators Slowly and Steadily Establish Habits that Nourish their Body, Mind, Heart, Spirit, Relationships, and Work Well-being. 

by Katie Raher, PhD, PPS

Even though fall is all about slowing down, simplifying, and savoring the moment, schools are as busy as ever at this time of year and about to get even more ramped up for the holiday season.

Everywhere I go, I keep hearing about how exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed people in schools already are. And it’s only about a month into school. We’ve got a loooong way to go, and we have got to figure out a way to feel energized and grounded enough to support our students with the best possible care and education all year. And we deserve to have well-being for our own sake as well.

In good news, educator well-being and self-care are starting to get infused into discussions in the educational community.

When people are just starting to think about expanding self-care, though, it can feel overwhelming to know where to even begin, and questions abound.

What are some actual self-care ideas that will fit my personality, needs, and likes?

What can I do if I don't have a lot of time or money (which I'm pretty sure is semi-standard protocol for educators)?

And of course, how in the world will I add all these things into my life?

I feel you. I’ve been there. 

When my exhaustion, illness, and burnout got so bad that they woke me up to the need for caring for myself, I still had no clue where to begin or what would help most, or how I'd fit this in to my schedule or budget. 

Now, 3+ years later, I can fortunately tell you I found a way to establish tons of self-care habits that don't feel like a lot of work and are just a natural part of my day-to-day life now. 

Insert your possible reaction: Wait, what?! How in the heck did you make that happen?!

I actually get asked that question a lot, and dang, let me tell you, it's been a journey - one that I'm still on. Now, although my natural tendency is to push hard and go all in to everything I do (I'm that person who has always done the extra credit and always wanted that A+), my self-care journey was far more successful because I took a slightly different road - the slower, more scenic route. 

While my go-to strategy would have been to add tons of thing at once, I happened to have crossed paths with some folks (who were there when I was balling my eyes out from the overwhelm in my world) who told me it would be better to slow down, to simplify, to take steadier bite-sized steps to the well-being I wanted, and needed, so badly. And they were right.

It's because of the simple, slow, steady steps I have taken for the past 3+ years that I now feel more whole, healthy, and grounded, with more ease in my self-care habits.

(Don't get me wrong. The ongoing struggle to prioritize my well-being is real. Especially as a recovering perfectionist. And I'm super grateful that I've established a bunch of nourishing habits that have given me a solid foundation from which I can keep doing the work.)

And now, I’d like to offer you a menu of nourishing practices and a simple exercise to help you slowly and steadily integrate new habits into your world, so you can create more well-being for you, even amidst the stress that can surround us in schools

It should take about 5 minutes to browse through the menu and complete a simple exercise to get you on the slow and steady route to more nourishing self-care habits. You'll have menu options to nourish your body, mind, heart and emotions, spirit and intuition, relationships, and work well-being.

There are a lot of ideas, as it is a menu. When you go to a restaurant, there are a lot of delicious-sounding options, and you usually pick just 1 item to order. Or maybe 1 main course and an appetizer or dessert to share. The options at a restaurant aren't meant to overwhelm but to make sure every person's tastes and interests in that very moment are fed - so you feel satisfied but not too stuffed.

The same holds true for this self-care menu. I hope you see how broad self-care can be and that you find what's most enticing and fulfilling to your specific self-care palate in this very moment in time on your journey.

To help you establish nourishing habits that stick and become a regular part of your routine, here are some steps that can help... and the Educator Self-Care Menu can be found at the bottom. 

Browse the Menu While Tuning Into Your Needs and Wants

While you read all the pages in the menu, use the key below. Go slowly, and take notice of your reaction to each item. Really listen to yourself. What do your body, mind, heart, and intuition have to say about these possibilities?

Next Steps to Establish Nourishing Self-Care Habits

1. Review the heart items, and pick just 1 of these activities to begin incorporating into your life right away. Which one feels most doable? Easiest to fit into your schedule with working in schools? Easiest to fit into your budget?

Why start with just 1 new practice? Well, sometimes, when we attempt to do too much all at once, and it doesn’t work out right away, we are far more likely to quit everything. Then we’re back to square one.

Instead, by slowly and steadily taking steps – or rather one step at a time – we raise the odds of sticking with something new and actually establishing a new habit.

In time, this new habit will feel easy and be part of your day-to-day rituals and routines.

2. Go write down the 1 heart item you’ve chosen into your planner, since having yourself in writing is always a more powerful way to make your self-care a reality.

3. Write down "Browse the Self-Care Menu" once a month in your planner for the next year. 

4. Now dig in! Start sampling and savoring your new positive self-care practice.

5. When you see it’s time for your monthly self-care menu note in your planner, check in with yourself. This note means you’ve been nourishing your new habit for a month. If you still need more time with this one (as some habits take longer than a month to establish), continue working on it, and sit in the proud feelings you deserve for your persistence.  If you're feeling pretty solid with your new habit (by solid, I don't mean perfect, as you're human...instead, I mean you've made significant progress), go back to the Educator Self-Care Menu and pick another heart item to integrate into your plan.

6. Continue to repeat this cycle, integrating the hearts slowly and steadily.  Celebrate your efforts, enjoy how nourishing your new routines and rituals are, and of course savor the increased well-being!

In due time, you'll start to integrate question marks as well. After a year, add your reminder notes to the next planner.  Keep it going, as nourishing yourself is a lifelong journey. 

The Self-Care Menu

If you'd like a PDF of the Eductor Self-Care Menu and exercise, sign up hereThe Constant Love and Learning Newsletter will come monthly and give you more tips, ideas, and musings to support you in your well-being journey and as you support your students' well-being.

Remember, if you'd like a PDF of the Eductor Self-Care Menu, be sure to sign up for the Constant Love and Learning Newsletter by clicking the link at the top of this page.

So...what's gonna nourish you this next month?

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