By Dilyn Henry | Licensed Mental Health Counselor for Schools—Florida Conference
As a leader, you have probably figured out how to manage your workload by delegating, collaborating, or seeking support. These are effective tools for projects and assignments, but what about our well-being? Oftentimes, our well-being is not at the top of the list. Prioritizing our self-care may be easier said than done. How often do you disconnect and focus on the things you enjoy? Yet, you may wonder, “How can I find time for a quiet moment in the morning?” “How can I go to that spin class in the evening?” The good news is that self-care does not have to take up much of your time. Then what is self-care? Self-care is doing things to take care of your well-being. It can improve your leadership skills and prevent burnout so you can perform better professionally.
Some people hear the term self-care and believe it only relates to yoga, bubble baths, or the spa. These are effective tools, but they are not the only ones. There are several self-care strategies that both men and women can benefit from, and here are a few listed below:
Spend time in nature.
Some call it ecotherapy, others forest bathing. Whether sitting, walking, or hiking among the trees, being out in nature has major benefits for your overall health. It can fight depression, reduce anxiety, lower your heart rate, and increase happiness. It is also said that “seeing or hearing the soothing sounds of moving water triggers a response in our brains that induce a flood of neurochemicals. These chemicals increase blood flow to the brain and heart, which induces relaxation.”
Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. A good night’s rest can help improve your mood, help your heart, regulate blood sugar, give you mental clarity, strengthen the immune system, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Eat a well-balanced meal
“A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression.”
To meditate simply means to think deeply and to focus your mind on something. You can meditate on positive affirmations, a prayer, or on God’s word. Psalms 1:2 talks about meditating on God’s word day and night.
Aim for at least 30 minutes a day. Remember, working out does not have to be difficult. What is important is that you find an activity you enjoy and do it. So, if you are not an early morning person but enjoy walking, take your walk in the evening after dinner; you will enjoy it more.
When self-care becomes a priority, we become more effective leaders.
Spend time in nature to reduce stress and anxiety. www.heart.org. (2022, July 26). Retrieved January 25, 2023
Matt. (2020, May 7). Why does looking at Water Relax us? Discover GR8NESS. Retrieved January 25, 2023
Eight health benefits of sleep. Sleep Foundation. (2022, April 15). Retrieved January 25, 2023
Monique Tello, M. D. (2020, January 29). Diet and depression. Harvard Health. Retrieved January 26, 2023
After nearly 38 years in education, I have observed educators trying to find a work-home balance. I have learned that self-care needs to be incorporated into daily routines to create that balance. If you are reading this, you are most likely an administrator and are probably already saying to yourself, “Are you kidding? Who has time for self-care?” What if I told you self-care could improve your leadership?
Taking Time to Self-Care
Dr. Evelyn Sullivan
Division Director for Early Childhood—North American Division
Finally, remember to enjoy your weekly Sabbath rest! Resting on the Sabbath is linked to better mental health, less stress, and spiritual rejuvenation. Sabbath also helps us free our minds from our labors and provides a break from the perpetual stresses and anxieties that drain our bodies and mind. God knew that we needed a day to self-care, so he gifted us a day to enjoy ourselves with Him and each other.
Let me start by saying that self-care is a necessity. It helps us to maintain a balance between our personal and professional lives. There have been times that I put self-care at the bottom of my list because I had so much to do. However, I have learned that when I self-care, I am more productive and can tackle my responsibilities more efficiently. Now, do I self-care all the time perfectly? No, sometimes I skip eating my lunch to deal with an emergency. An emergency will come up occasionally, and you may need to skip lunch. However, if you treat every situation as an emergency and ignore lunch every day, that is when your health begins to suffer.
Self-care can help you stay on top of your game and handle the challenges during your workday. Think of it this way; your mental health cup must be full to work at optimal levels. So don’t wait for your mental health cup to be near empty to fill it up. Here are some quick tips to help you keep your mental health cup full:
Taking Care of Me!
By Murray Cooper | Education Director—Southern Union Conference
Let’s focus on some additional ideas to ensure you care for yourself. Since the pandemic, finding substitute teachers, let alone substitute administrators, has been challenging. Still, one of the ways you can take care of yourself is to have someone you trust to cover your classroom if you are a teaching principal or working with your administration team that has your back if you are in a larger school.
There are two options to remind you of your available personal days and sick days per your conference and union code. First, no honor badges are coming to you if you don’t use your personal days. In my experience, those days, used with care, can provide you a chance to catch your breath as a school leader. If you are sick, instead of trying to push through an illness, take your sick days, get better, and return to school once you are able. We are great at telling parents to keep their kids home if they are ill—we need to practice what we preach!
Another way to take care of yourself is to take advantage of several items in our health care plan. Over the years, I’ve used the massage visits, which greatly help reduce the stress in my back and shoulders. Of course, this would apply to other treatment options, such as getting chiropractic help. In addition, make sure to get an annual physical, dental cleaning, and eye exam to spot any potential health conditions early before a serious health challenge arises. But, again, skipping out on doing these doctor visits is not taking care of yourself.
When I conducted principal coaching and training, I tried to convey to people that in the role of principal, and even more so if you are a teaching principal, is that no matter the long hours you put in, you can never catch up entirely. You must learn to be good with that—this doesn’t mean you don’t try to keep caught up, but that you permit yourself to not be at the school 24/7. Set your schedule such that at least one or two days per week, you give yourself a firm deadline to leave the school building by 5:00 PM. Setting up an early release at least one day per week helps you to do other essential items that pertain to your family or home.
Finally, my colleagues have mentioned enjoying the Sabbath rest—I concur wholeheartedly. I also encourage you to limit your focus on school on the weekends. Give yourself permission not to work Saturday night so you can be with your family and friends. Likewise, on Sundays, set a time boundary, so you don’t spend all day on school-related items. Sometimes, it is unavoidable to be doing things Saturday night and Sunday. Still, if that is your normal way of operating, you are dealing with a work week that never ends, and ultimately that is not taking care of yourself.
Your students, teachers, and family need
you, and the best way to be there for them is
to take care of yourself.