This year, many of us have formed new habits and sought new skills in support of self-care, taking a day-by-day approach to our lives in the face of discomfort, stress, and fear. The ability to acclimate and self-regulate is particularly relevant in education, as those responsible for teaching and caring for others must be especially resourced and able to manage emotions. Stress is contagious. When we support the adults who serve our children and youth, the reciprocity of self-care supports the collective good. Self-care is the foundation that allows us to show up for our communities.
The reciprocity of self-care and the contagious nature of stress inspired Pure Edge, Inc.’s focus on supporting the educator. We began sharing Breathe, Move, Rest strategies with educators in response to a 2016 research brief by Dr. Mark Greenberg of The Pennsylvania State University in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The research underscored that highly stressed teachers impact student academic performance and social adjustment. But the impact on educators themselves is substantial, too. High stress levels compromise educator health, sleep, quality of life, and job performance. However, the findings also showed that organizational and individual interventions can reduce teacher stress. Programs rooted in social-emotional learning and mindfulness improve both teacher wellbeing and student outcomes. As stress levels climb, educators need more support than ever. Our ask is that you put yourself first. If you do, we think you’ll be a happier, healthier version of you. And you matter. If you can only find two free minutes in your day, use them for your self-care. Here’s what we recommend:
Find your favorite breathing strategy. Nasal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system to help us feel calm. If all you can fit into your day right now is an Even In-Even Out as you wake up in the morning, that’s ok. Try a few simple strategies to discover which feels most effective for you. Maybe it’s Starfish or Anchor Breathing. This simple act can set the tone for the day ahead, help you transition between activities, and end the day on a more positive note. When you find yourself feeling stressed, notice what is happening in your body, and reach for a breathing exercise. The more you practice a strategy, the more effective it becomes. In challenging times, you’ll have a familiar tool to employ to help you reset and refocus.
Movement matters. The wear and tear on the body that accumulates over time as a result of chronic stress is known as allostatic load. Stress feels different in different bodies, but we know it takes a toll. The great news is that because stress is carried in the body, we can also use the body to mitigate its impacts. Notice which muscles feel tense, tired, or achy when you experience stress, and try to activate those muscles through movement. A Chair Twist or Chair Cat/Cow can make a big difference for your brain and body when you are seated at a desk or computer for long stretches of time. Step away from your work for a minute to reset with a standing pose like Sunrise/Sunset. We also created Mindful Movement sequences to guide you through series of postures to help you self-regulate and re-energize.
Rest is the third vital ingredient in a Breathe, Move, Rest self-care practice. Good quality sleep is essential to physical and emotional wellbeing, but so is the opportunity to simply slow down and close the eyes. Round out your breathing and mindful movement with a guided rest. If you only have a minute or two, here is a shortened version.
To build daily habits in support of self-care, repetition is key. Breathe, Move, Rest strategies, plus simple acts like journaling or taking a walk are all accessible habits that support wellbeing and self-regulation. We suggest starting small, with a favorite strategy, and building. Consider challenging yourself to engage in at least one self-care strategy each day for a week. We hope you’ll continue to prioritize your self-care. You matter.