Making Self-Care a Priority While Remotely Working

Jessica Shaffer
Jessica Shaffer
5th Grade Teacher; M.A. in Administration & Leadership, Georgian Court University, NJ
‘Self Care’ spelled out in wooden tiles surrounded by blank wooden tiles.

What is Self-Care and Why is it Important?

Self-care is such a simple yet complex topic. It is when you take care of your emotional, mental, and physical health. As an educator, self-care is often overlooked, as many of us put our needs to the side and put the needs of our students, parents, and administration first. During this time of online learning and “remote working”, it has been imperative to make self-care part of the routine, as staying healthy in all facets of life increases your ability to effectively “teach” the students and meet all of their needs from afar.

Physical Care

Working remotely is not a concept we, as educators, could have imagined in our wildest dreams, but here we are. Staying physically healthy during this time of remote working can present a challenge. As a teacher, you are generally up and at work early while being physically active. Personally, I know my Apple Watch lets me know I take at least 7,000 steps during the school day. My new office is my couch with multiple devices, many lists, a bottomless cup of coffee, and far less movement. Feelings of exhaustion can overtake you while sitting for long periods of time while staring at a screen. Through this experience and talking with many friends who work from home regularly, I have learned a few different things about staying physically healthy.

On the nice days, get outside and enjoy the weather! I have taken a major step back to appreciate all the simple things in life so much more. Take a hike, go for a run, or do a virtual workout. There are so many gyms and companies offering free or very affordable at-home workouts. The first two weeks of remote working was difficult for me, but as I got into a better routine of being active, I felt physically and mentally better.

Sleeping is also important to feeling physically healthy. This has been a challenge for so many. There will be days where you can’t sleep at all or sleep too much! Don’t feel bad taking a nap, going to bed at 7:00 pm, or going to bed at midnight! Staying active mentally and physically can help you to sleep better, so just taking care of yourself can help to keep your sleep more “normal”.

It is easy to let your diet slide during a time such as this. Going food shopping can be somewhat of a nightmare, but trying to make sure you are still eating relatively close to your normal diet will make you feel physically (and mentally) better. In addition to this, do not beat yourself up if you have a day (or two) where you just want to eat ice cream for dinner! Grab that ice cream, grab a spoon, and eat it right out of the container!

Mental Care

Staying mentally healthy is of utmost importance. Remote working presents many unique scenarios that can be draining. Students are facing so many different situations and coping in many different ways. It is easy to internalize what students are dealing with which can make you feel sadness or anxiety. Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings is important. Talking to colleagues, family, and friends can be helpful. Thankfully, there are options such as FaceTime and Google Meets where you can have a “face-to-face” interaction while talking. Being able to voice your worries and receive advice can be uplifting. If you see an outside therapist, many are offering phone/virtual sessions, so keeping your regularly scheduled appointments can be critical to staying healthy mentally.

Staying mentally active is important, and you can do this by continuing to challenge yourself. There are many webinars available where discussion points surround distance learning and our current situation. There are many different pieces of advice you can learn from webinars which you can implement into your instruction or daily routine to ease the pressure, lessen anxiety, and just make you “feel better”.

Trying to enjoy your hobbies is important to your mental health. It is easy to get immersed in work and forget to disconnect. I have found making time for the things I love has made me feel so much better. I have been making the time to workout, hike with my dog, shoot some hoops, and learn the guitar. Creating that time for myself each day has helped my mental health to thrive.

Social Care

Social care is also important during this time! You must get creative with this as we cannot socialize the way we normally do. One of the best ways I have remained connected with others is through video chats. Just talking with a group of friends, sharing a few laughs, and talking about how you feel can make you feel so much more positive. Group chats via text message and sharing memes or funny videos can also help you to stay social.

Take a drive and visit family through a glass door or window. Visit a drive through flower farm, grab some flowers, and leave them on friends/family doorstep. Maybe leave a sweet treat on someone’s doorstep with a positive note. When you see someone’s post on social media crying out for help, take a minute to write a response and support them. Taking the time to spread love and positivity during this pandemic can have an impact on others greater than you will know.

Through all of this remote working, remember one thing: whatever you are feeling, you are not alone. It is easy to feel so alone and isolated in your mind when you are not living your normal day-to-day life, but I promise, someone else feels just as you do. As Kevin Heath stated, “Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference.” Try to keep a positive mindset during this time and pay it forward to others. The opportunity for physical, mental, and social growth right now is there, sometimes we all just need a little help in seeing that.

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