Self-Care Tips From A Former Self-Care Critic

By Rachel Chambers

When I was in graduate school to become a school counselor, I was constantly lectured about self-care. While I always thought it was a nice idea, it never felt realistic; I could take all of the bubble baths I wanted, but at the end of the day, I still had a to-do list a mile long and only 24 hours in a day. It took a pandemic for me to realize that I needed to re-think the seemingly impossible practice of self-care. Although self-care will look a little different for everyone, the following tips helped to change my mindset and become a believer! Full disclosure: I willingly chose to write this blog post the day that my draft was due. Did that add some extra pressure? Perhaps. Do I regret it? Not at all — I was practicing self-care and doing what was best for me (and I honestly feel pretty great about that!).

  1. Set Mental Boundaries

We all have lives that exist outside of work, and after a year of Covid, it can be mentally and physically exhausting to sustain the bare minimum on some days. After making it through those particularly difficult days, it is perfectly acceptable to put the work computer away, not respond to text messages (you don’t owe an instant reply to anyone!), and tell yourself that “future you” will be more than capable of handling whatever comes your way. Sometimes, we just need to focus on home when we are at home, and if you need to explicitly give yourself permission to do that, please do! Your to-do list will still be there tomorrow, and you will be better able to tackle it if you give yourself time to recharge.

  1. Embrace Co-Care

Although self-care is often discussed in education, we tend to leave the (amazing!) idea of co-care out of the conversation. We all have that one person who we like to call when we are having a rough day — mine is my mom when I am driving home. Experiencing that connection with someone we trust does wonders for our mental health. I once heard the brilliant Dr. Lori Desautels, an assistant professor at Butler University, say, “If you can name it, you can tame it,” and “If you can share it, you can bear it.” I believe both expressions are true; putting words to your thoughts and feelings helps with emotional processing, which can significantly lighten the mental load that you are carrying.

  1. Avoid Toxic Positivity

I have heard a lot of counselors talk about toxic positivity this year, and understandably so! Toxic positivity is the harmful notion that we must always maintain a positive attitude no matter what the circumstances are. The fact of the matter is that there is not always a bright side, and happiness is not a switch that can be activated at any moment (and that’s coming from a self-proclaimed Queen of Happy). To set the record straight, there are no “negative” feelings; our limbic system is wired to experience the core emotions of sadness, fear, anger, joy, disgust, and surprise, and it is valid and healthy to process all of those emotions.

  1. Remember, Your Co-Workers Are Humans, Too!

As educators, we always come to school wanting to give our best to our students; however, we sometimes fall short of our own expectations. Part of self-care is remembering that we are all humans, we all have things that we are working through, privately or publicly, and it is important to honor that. At my school, Invent Learning Hub, we hold a staff circle every Wednesday where we have a mental health check-in, share some of the struggles that we are facing outside of school, and appreciate and celebrate the positives. This helps us to remember that we are all different people — we have different strengths, needs, boundaries, working styles, and personalities. However, those things that make us special are what make us strong, and learning those differences allows us to perceive and value each other as holistic individuals.

Rachel Chambers is the Director of Culture at Invent Learning Hub