Self-Care Tips for School-Based Counselors, Admins & Staff
The holiday season is upon us and self care is more important than ever. Many agree that this is the most stressful time of year to work in a school! Student behavior zooms all over the spectrum as students try to contain their excitement and manage their own holiday stress. As a result, this is the perfect time for school-based counselors, administrators, and staff to practice some self-care as we experience the highs, lows, and stressors of the winter holidays. Self-care is described by the American Psychological Association as providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001) and it is important because we must take care of ourselves in order to be our best selves with family, friends, students, and clients. After all, there is a reason that adults are advised on every airplane flight to put the oxygen masks on themselves first and on their children second! We can’t do much to help our child on the airplane or our student in the classroom if we are passed out because of lack of oxygen… or because of lack of sleep, food, or any of the other self-care needs that allow us to function healthfully!
So, in the spirit of the season, here are four self-care gifts that we can give ourselves in order to feel amazing and achieve optimal health.
- Give Yourself Permission to do Nothing!
As school-based counselors, administrators, and staff, we are booked every minute of every day! Therefore, it is crucial to spend some time during our non-school hours to do nothing. Take one day a week, or if that’s too much, at least one day a month, and do nothing! Remind yourself throughout the day as you start to clean or make someone a meal or take a peek at your TO DO list, that today is your DO NOTHING day. And you can spend it however you want- lie on the couch with your cat and some ice cream, go window shopping, catch up on all those Teen Truth blog posts that you’ve been meaning to check out, meander around your neighborhood- whatever you want! If necessary, call in the babysitter. Or just encourage your kid to do nothing alongside you- let them max out on the ipad, eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or hangout on their own in the Pack&Play!
- Schedule Restful Sleep and Healthy Food
Research shows that these are two of the most important factors to optimal health. Unfortunately, due to the school environment of long work hours and barely 30 minute always-interrupted lunch breaks, sleep and healthy eating are the first to go! For that reason, make it your mission to schedule 8 hours of sleep for yourself most nights. If you are one of the lucky ones who feels refreshed after 7 hours of sleep, more power to you. Anything less than seven hours is really not considered enough time to reach the amount of REM sleep needed or to allow the body proper time to repair itself, which is one of the main things that happens while we sleep. Additionally, it is crucial to get in at least one healthy meal a day, so decide when you can fit that it and then use whatever means necessary to make it happen. For me, I spend an entire day of vacation time cooking and freezing a healthy lunch choice for every day during the work week. Some other ways to get in a healthy eating option once a day are utilizing a low-cost service like Hello Fresh, packing your lunch from healthy dinner leftovers the night before, or picking up a fresh salad or healthy greens breakfast smoothie on the way to work every day.
- Take a Staycation!
As much fun as taking a vacation can be, we all know that travel is loaded with stressors- the cost, the planning, air travel, unplanned snafus, etc. So, take the most stress-free vacation known to man and give yourself a staycation! After all, the school year is stressful enough- so why not give yourself a true stress-free break from work?? Set aside a few days or a week where you turn off all technology, put all your work and chores to the side, and make a concerted effort to do (at home) all the things you would do on an actual vacation. Take a drive, sleep in, see something new in your town, go for a day trip, go out to eat, have dessert, buy yourself some souvenirs (aka- whatever you want) at the mall or on this super-fun educator shopping site, and just enjoy all the parts of your city as if you were a tourist there.
- Spend Time in Nature
Have you heard about the healing power of trees? Yes, this IS a thing. Research has proven that trees clean the air and that there is a direct correlation to improved health when people spend time in an area that has a good trees to humans ratio. Check out this research article by Dr. Robert McDonald who is the Lead Scientist for the Global Cities program at The Nature Conservancy on this topic if you feel like I’ve gone too New Age-y on you. Another nature option is to spend time near water. The sound of water is soothing and helps calm a busy mind. So, go spend some time each week outside, preferably being active- take a walk in the snow, go for a run, head to the indoor pool, lay on the beach or just sit in the sun with your dog. Whatever the activity, if you spend some time with nature each week, your body and mind will calm down. Since we deal with student crises all the time in our roles as school-based counselors or admins, bringing a bit of calm to the mind and body during the off-school hours is a must! And if you have kids, model the importance of self-care, enlist their ideas on the best nature activities, and take them with you! Because, more power to you if you can find a way to spend time in nature WITH another human! The more we work and spend time with our electronics, the less we interact with other humans. Research shows that human interaction is crucial to our mental well-being, as explained in this article by the Mayo Clinic. So, think of your favorite person and go drag them out into the wilderness with you!
As you probably noticed, this post was about both fun self-care and wellness self-care, because both are so important to our optimal health. A healthy body requires a healthy mind and vice versa! So, go make time to relax, have fun, and start up some new healthy habits during this holiday season! Your mind and body will thank you for it. And, an added bonus to all this self-care is that the occupational hazard of school stressors during the holiday season will not pack such a heavy punch. You can find even more self-care tips at my own website at schoolcounselorstephanie.com or click here to use a free Google Slide presentation that offers similar tips to your staff.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you school counselors with a little holiday gifty to help alleviate your January back-to-school stress as everyone returns to school fuzzy on your actual role/duties as a school counselor! Click here for a mid-year presentation that you can show staff to remind them just what it is you do as a school counselor and how you support students. Finally, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you take care of yourselves, so please leave a comment below!
I hope to see you back here next month for my January post on student support groups.
School Counselor, TEEN TRUTH