Teacher Self-Care: Why and How

Read on as Linda K. Valloor dives into what self-care really means, and how teachers can support their wellness year-round.

+ show tags
Teaching Strategies:

Teacher Self-Care: Why and How 

Teachers are constantly caring for others, whether that be tending to the obvious educational needs of students or the social and emotional demands that come with the job. As teachers, we know that every learner needs a healthy mindset and to feel balanced in all aspects of their life. However, we struggle with applying that same knowledge when it comes to our own lives. 

Before we can embrace the idea of self-care and its importance, we have to be sure we know what it is. According to the World Health Organization, self-care is “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote and maintain health, prevent disease, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” Physical self-care is related to living habits, whereas mental (and/or emotional) self-care relates to coping mechanisms that help manage stress. Both categories of self-care are important in reducing stress and increasing joy. Acts of self-care should not feel like extra tasks and should be enjoyable. Self-care should not be an added stress!

By understanding the importance of self-care, as well as learning some self-care strategies and practices, you can improve your emotional well-being and prevent burnout.

Why do we need self-care?

It has been proven time and time again that a lack of self-care can lead to diminished mental health, resulting in conditions such as depression, stress, and anxiety. But did you know that refusing self-care routines can also negatively affect physical health? Lack of self-care is tied to an increased risk for chronic diseases.

In an online survey conducted by Vagaro in December 2020, 2,000 Americans shared their feelings on self-care. In that survey, 64% believed activities dedicated to self-care enhanced confidence, 67% believed it increased productivity, and 71% believed a greater degree of happiness was a benefit. Self-care can even reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer. 

As humans, we all need self-care; but as a teacher, you definitely need self-care. Many individuals enter the field of education because they are intrinsically motivated to put others’ needs before their own. It is one of the main reasons educators stay teaching even when their working conditions are less than ideal. This is a reminder that you are allowed to take care of yourself; there is no shame in admitting that you need, and deserve, time to rest, relax, and recharge. You should be taking care of yourself and prioritizing a healthy work-life balance.

Self-care must not be viewed as selfish and it is, in fact, a necessity for you to continue being an effective educator. If you do not take time for yourself, you won’t have the energy or clarity to extend yourself to others. Health, balance, sustaining important relationships, and reducing stress are important components of a fulfilling lifestyle. We must remove the stigma that self-care is a waste of time, money, or effort. Know that you are worth it! 

What are some common self-care practices?

Self-care is achievable, but you have to find methods and activities that are appealing to you.

Physical activity

Physical activity, such as walking, jogging, stretching, and yoga, is a type of self-care that many in the teaching profession can find time for. Some of these activities can just take up a few minutes and you may even find it beneficial to schedule time for them during your prep period or immediately after the school day. Not only will these practices benefit your physical health, but they improve your emotional well-being.

Spending time in fresh air

Spending time outdoors is another common method of self-care that can help us clear our minds and get in touch with nature (outside our classrooms!). Getting some fresh air can help us feel rejuvenated, even if for a few minutes.

Mindfulness practice

Mindful breathing is another self-care activity you can master to gain perspective and peace. Take a deep breath by inhaling through your nose first and exhaling through your mouth. Pay attention to the sensation of the air going in and out. Focus your mind on the counting of 1-2-3 on your breath in and 4-5 on your breathing out. Begin by trying this a few times a day when you find yourself most overwhelmed or when you anticipate entering a stressful circumstance. If you find this type of breathing is beneficial, aim to practice 10 minutes a day.

Practicing mindfulness will not only help your emotional health and well-being, but it will prepare you to handle high-stress situations without becoming overwhelmed. If you are new to mindfulness, consider listening to a podcast on the subject while practicing your deep breathing.


Journaling is an activity that allows you to process your own thoughts and release some of your anxieties while looking forward. It can help you heal and also build confidence. By writing down your thoughts, you can check in with yourself and clear your racing mind.


You may also enjoy reading as it allows you to escape for a bit and immerse your thoughts in topics such as history or fiction, providing a healthy temporary escape.

Building a dedicated nighttime self-care routine

Another common method of self-care is a nighttime routine that assures you get enough sleep. Some individuals may choose to play soft music, set “do not disturb” on their phones, take a warm bath, or honor their spirituality. 

As a teacher, how do you live a life that makes space for self-care? 

Prioritize your well-being by recognizing that self-care is a necessity. Having conversations about self-care with your students will help keep you accountable and may open up opportunities to practice a method in the classroom that can benefit all involved. Encouraging deep breathing exercises or dedicating a few minutes to a gratitude journal can affect perspective in positive ways. As you remind them, you will remind yourself. 

Be realistic about how you would like to implement self-care. Again, integrating beneficial activities into the classroom is a great start, but you will need to practice self-care away from the classroom to experience the strongest benefits. Set 5-10 minutes aside for daily activities that bring you joy. 

Set boundaries. Teachers love to do all the things! But a huge part of self-care is being honest with yourself and those around you when it comes to your limits. When is it healthy for you to partake and when is it healthy to say no? Do not take on tasks that will cause you to sacrifice self-care routines and disrupt your work-life balance.

Our wellness is crucial to our productivity, relationships, and overall joy. Self-care will help us manage stress, something many of us dream of as we grade papers, rewrite lesson plans, contact parents, and teach engaging lessons. When we make the educated choice to incorporate self-care into our daily lives, we can foster a life of balance and fulfillment. 


About the author

Linda K. Valloor


About Linda

Linda Valloor, M.Ed., is a teacher, education consultant, and writer. She was a high school teacher for eighteen years, mainly teaching World Literature and Poetry. She also… Read more

loading gif