If you’re a teacher, taking the time to research and implement self-care strategies is probably the last thing you want to do with your time away from school. The descriptions below and included checklist provide you with a different self-care strategy for each month of the year. The strategies are designed to flow easily into your current lifestyle and can be continued (or not) as the year progresses.
January: Read something new. Find a book, magazine, blog, or anything else that genuinely interests you, and give yourself time to read it. You could also use the month to finish a book you started, explore your local library, or treat yourself to a brand new book from Amazon or the bookstore. Reading is a mental escape, and if the right book is read, it can have a therapeutic affect. The term bibliotherapy refers to the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. Carving out time to start the year off with some bibliotherapy is a self-care strategy worth continuing.
February: Express gratitude daily. Simply writing down one thing you are grateful for each day will allow you to reflect on a positive aspect of your life instead of focusing on the negative. Keeping sticky notes in your beside table makes it easy to start or end the day with gratitude. Starting a daily gratitude journal is another option. According to Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, a practice of gratitude is good for your health. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and facilitate better sleep.
March: Try meditation or deep breathing exercises. Simply sitting in a quiet place and letting your mind relax is an act of self-care. Meditation is different for everyone. Explore what works for you. The internet is filled with meditation videos and tutorials. There are also various guided meditation applications for smart phones that can be downloaded at little or no cost. In order to get the best results, aim for short sessions that increase over time throughout the month or year.
April: Organize something. Take the time to create order out of something messy. Even if it’s just doing something small, creating order will make you feel better. An organized and peaceful outer life will help to foster an organized and peaceful inner life. The act of organizing gives the mind something to focus on, and it provides an outlet for negative built-up energy.
May: Take a hike or go on a nature walk. Immerse yourself in the beauty of spring while getting exercise at the same time. There are many benefits to hiking or walking in nature. Exposure to sunlight not only increases your vitamin D levels, it can elevate your mood and improve your capacity to concentrate. Taking a walk in nature doesn’t require any special gear, and, in most places, the month of May is a beautiful time to be outside!
June: Learn something new. A great way to take time for yourself and explore something different is to visit a local museum, nature center, or historical landmark. Make the trip all about you. You set the itinerary. Give yourself time to linger and fill your mind. Choose a time when you won’t feel rushed. Enjoy the solitude. You may walk away from the experience learning something new about yourself!
July: Find a park and enjoy nature. Take from the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau and spend quality time outdoors to recharge and rejuvenate. Simply sitting in the shade of a tree or on a park bench and listening to the sounds of nature will having a calming effect. The National Geographic article titled, “This is Your Brain on Nature” states, “Measurements of stress hormones, respiration, heart rate, and sweating suggest that short doses of nature—or even pictures of the natural world—can calm people down and sharpen their performance.” If your feeling adventurous, pack yourself a healthy lunch to enjoy al fresco.
August: Experiment with the calming effects of aromatherapy using essential oils, candles, or incense. Aromatherapy has been shown to have many health benefits, and there are a variety of options when it comes to calming fragrances. Lavender and peppermint are commonly used for their healing properties. Using an essential oil air diffuser is an easy way to add the benefits of aromatherapy to your life. An air diffuser will allow you to safely experiment with the use of essential oils. Whether you choose to use oils, candles, or incense, adding aromatherapy to your routine is a relatively easy self-care strategy to implement.
September: Stretch or try yoga. Spending just ten minutes each morning or evening stretching will help to reduce inflammation and stress. The internet is filled with free videos to guide you through all levels of yoga or stretching. Yoga with Adriene even produced a free Yoga for Teachers video available on YouTube! Like walking, stretching and yoga don’t require any fancy equipment or clothing. It’s hard to make excuses when you can stretch in your pajamas in the comfort of your own home.
October: Complete at least one random act of kindness. Studies have shown that the happiest people in the world routinely give to others. It may seem counterintuitive, but making someone else feel good will make you feel good. There are entire websites dedicated to ideas for delivering random acts of kindness. You can even become a kindness ambassador!
November: Be creative. Creativity comes in many forms. Give yourself the freedom to let go and live in the moment. Play with different forms of expression. Think outside the box. Try a DIY project, build something, paint, the list goes on and on. Art is extremely therapeutic. You may find that your creative “flow” helps to alleviate stress and allows you to perform better in other areas of your life.
December: End the year by trying something new. Push your boundaries. Try a new sport, eat something you’ve never had before, or sign up for a new experience. You may surprise yourself and enjoy something you never thought you would enjoy.
By the end of the year, you will have a complete arsenal of self-care strategies. Some you may want to carry into the next year, and some may not have worked well for you.