I Choose to be Happy: Self-Care in the School Setting
Wed, Nov 6, 2019
If you are working in education, there is a good chance that you’re a helper. As therapists and psychologists, we are great at making sure everyone around us is well and taken care of. For many, this means pouring from an empty glass. Burnout is a very real situation for many in the field of education. Burnout can be defined as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity (Maslach, 1986).” So, how do you know if you’re at risk for burnout, and what do you do if it’s already happening to you?
Risk factors for burnout:
Early career inexperience and professional isolation
Ethical and professional practice dilemmas
Conflicting demands by various clients
Excessive case loads
Employer policies and practices
Lack of appreciation and recognition
Insufficient supervision and mentoring
While career requirements lead to many of the risk factors listed above, most therapists and psychologists adapt by focusing on protective factors and self-care. Self-care is the intentional, proactive pursuit of integrated wellness; balancing mind, body, and spirit personally and professionally. The following 8 dimensions of wellness were defined by the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Try and determine which areas of your life are “well” and which could use a check-up.
Emotional: Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
Environmental: Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environment that support well-being
Financial: Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
Intellectual: Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
Physical: Recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep, and nutrition
Social: Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
Spiritual: Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life
Occupational: Personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work
For those areas you feel are lacking, add them to a self-care plan just as you would an IEP. I personally choose to “progress monitor” my physical well-being through my Fitbit app and my emotional well-being through a gratitude journal. You might choose to phone a friend 3 times per week or commit to a book club. Remember that every day will not be perfect, and that is okay. When in doubt, turn back toward your students and anchor yourself in your why. Go to recess. Eat the school pizza with 2nd graders. Participate with Girls on the Run. Most importantly, remember those smiles and those bright eyes that got you here in the first place.