As school leaders, we spend much of the day “pouring into” others— taking care of staff, students, parents, and everything in between. Oftentimes, in the midst of all the work, leaders can forget to take care of themselves. It often feels selfish.
But the reality is this: if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t be good for anyone else. Self care never has been, nor ever will be selfish.
The workload this year is unlike anything any of us have ever experienced and it’s making the importance of self-care even more evident.
Here are 4 ways we like to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves…
- Deleting email from our phones after 6pm. This was not easy but made all the difference! At 6pm each evening we delete our work email from our phones. Nothing incredibly important, that can’t be dealt with tomorrow, will come in the form of an email. In fact, most emails after 6pm will only keep you up all night worrying or second guessing yourself.
- Showing gratitude. Research has shown that when you show gratitude to others it actually increases your mood more than the person you’re showing gratitude to. On our roughest moments or days we take time throughout the day to pour into others. Whether that’s a simple text, phone call, post it note on their door, handwritten letter, or a postcard in the mail. When we spend time celebrating and pouring into others we leave feeling better ourselves.
- Writing. Each of us has a space (Todd, a digital space; Travis, a physical one) where we collect our thinking. Writing centers us. It helps us write into ideas, questions, or problems that make us curious, or quite simply, just bother us. Taking time to sit with your computer or notebook and jotting down your thoughts airs out your soul. Prioritize writing. It makes a difference.
- Reading. At this point, I’m sure we sound like a broken record when it comes to books and reading. But honestly, it’s deeply connected to self-care for us. Sometimes, we fill our hearts and minds with professional texts. Other times, we need something almost mindless, with a story that will jump from scene to scene with laser-like speed. Then there are times when we need poetry, religious texts, music, cookbooks, and so on. Carving out time to step into some form of text gives us a brain break. It’s crucial for our well-being.
Will these four ideas solve all your stress, worries, and problems? NO! But they can be a few more tools in your toolbox to help you continue to be at your best each day.
Self care isn’t selfish and we have to take care of our own hearts and minds and bodies so that we can be the best leader for those we serve. So often we prioritize others. We’re here to remind you that it’s okay to prioritize yourself. An extinguished flame cannot ignite a fire for others.
Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker.
Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.