I Choose to be Happy: Self-Care in the School Setting

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.


I leave you with the following mantras to help you live a healthy personal and professional life (Adapted from the 12 Choices to Step Back from Burnout by Vicki Davis).

  1. I choose to be happy.
  2. I choose to disconnect and detach with love
  3. I choose to be mindful
  4. I choose to make time for sleep
  5. I choose to get outside and get moving
  6. I choose to be grateful
  7. I choose what to overlook
  8. I choose the battles worth fighting
  9. I choose what to do next time and what to stop doing
  10. I choose to enjoy the relationships that matter
  11. I choose to schedule and prioritize what really matters
  12. No matter how the school year started, I choose to finish well

Additional Resources:

The Resiliency Quiz: http://apps.nacada.ksu.edu/apps/intlconf_media/uploads/handouts/2016/59-H03.pdf

The following APPs can be used for wellness:

  • Aloe Bud: Reminders for self-care activities (e.g., drinking water)
  • Breathe: Guided breathing exercises
  • Shine: Personalized self-care programs
  • Insight Timer: Guided meditation
  • Mind Yeti: Mindfulness for kids and their adults
  • Sleep: Training for better sleep
  • Smiling Mind: Guided meditation
  • Stretch Timer: Guided body stretches
  • ToDon’t: Procrastinate the bad habits to make room for the good ones


Author: Darcie Jenkins

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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