While making your list of New Year’s resolutions, remember to build in time for self-care. As educators, therapists, or parents—especially when supporting those with special needs—our day-to-day lives can be stressful and focused on meeting the needs of other people over ourselves. There’s a good reason for the statement, “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Without your own oxygen, you lose the ability to help anyone else.
Likewise, if we think about ourselves as a pitcher of water whose job is to fill the glasses (children) around us, we need to make sure that our pitcher has water to pour. It is not selfish to care for ourselves; it’s a necessity. However, finding ways to nurture ourselves and stay refreshed and energized in our jobs and with our families isn’t easy. It’s something I have struggled with a lot, especially with the perception of limited time. Here are some suggestions to try in the new year that have worked for me and others around me:
- Consider your perception of what taking care of yourself means to you. Do you have big goals of changing your diet or exercise routine or planning a vacation? Those can be great, but start with tiny steps and realize that even calling a friend, drinking your tea or coffee in a quiet space, or taking the long route home to finish your audio book can be ways to fill your pitcher.
- Make sure your week is sprinkled with things that you enjoy doing. Map it out on a calendar and schedule lunch, a movie, a hike, or something that you can look forward to.
- Go outside and breathe! Spending time in nature boosts energy and mental health. Think about eating lunch outside (without your phone), going on a walk, or spending time at a favorite park or beach, Even if you take the kids/students along, the experience can offer a nice change of pace and scenery.
- Try to get the sleep you need and consider waking up 15-30 minutes early to build in time for rest, yoga, or meditation. This is a tough one, but has a huge payoff if it can become routine. I’m still working on this and find that going to sleep earlier is a struggle! Using an app with a quick meditation or stretching does help when I get up in time to fit it in.
- Make exercise a priority, whether you prefer a vigorous bike ride or a gentle walk. Walking outdoors offers the bonus of getting some fresh air and taking the dog out. When I’m really feeling like my pitcher needs replenishing, I walk with the dog to get her out and then bring her back home and go out for an extra 10 minutes to walk alone.
- Limit your schedule. It’s ok to turn down invitations, even if you don’t have something else planned. Consider what you most want to do, and give yourself permission to say no. Again, this is something that I’m working on, but when I pause before saying “yes” or raising my hand to volunteer, I am trying to visualize myself at the event, meeting, or occasion to make sure it fits into my core values and goals and will be a true pitcher filler.
- Make sure you have a solid support system. It might be at work, at home, or with a friend that “gets” you and is a good listener. It doesn’t have to be many people—just one can make a difference. Talking to someone and sharing experiences can be extremely nurturing.
- Take time to feel gratitude toward yourself! Write down or think about at least 3 things that you did that day to a) take care of yourself so that b) you can care for others.
The new year is a perfect time to reflect and think about what is already working and where you could add a bit of water to your pitcher. When you pay more attention to your own needs, you will become more resilient and able to meet the needs of those around you, especially as a parent, caregiver, or educator. Start small because sometimes tiny adjustments can make the whole picture look much more doable and even joyful.
Wishing you a peaceful and restorative year to come!