George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Teacher Wellness

Create a Self-Care Plan to Beat the Winter Blues

Try these simple mental and physical exercises throughout the school day to improve your mood.

As the school year slows to a crawl through these dark, cold days of winter, it can be difficult to sustain the high energy required to accomplish the many daily tasks presented by our colleagues, our students, their parents, and the curriculum. Although it is wise to build daily practices in your life that give you a sense of wellness and fulfillment, it is especially important to do so when there may be little support to draw from others who, like you, may find themselves with fewer reserves.

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This is a good time of year to apply practices designed to help you take good care of yourself. Below are some of my favorites. I encourage you to embrace at least one of these or something similar every day for the next two weeks and then recycle.

Just Move

We can often raise our spirits through simple physical actions. Try one or more of these:

  • Sit down during one or more of your breaks. Close your eyes, drop your head and shoulders, and take notice of your breathing for a few moments. When you inhale, fill yourself with renewal. Rid yourself of tension each time you exhale.
  • Whistle or hum a tune you like while you walk through the halls or the cafeteria, and from room to room.
  • Give yourself a hug at least twice every day. Wrap your arms around yourself and hug yourself as you would a friend in need of nurturing.
  • Change it up. Most of us stand in the same spot and/or move around in a predictable pattern every day without even noticing. Get off your spot today. Start each class in a different place, and move to a different spot at least once every five minutes.
  • Indulge in a loud belly laugh that lasts at least 30 seconds, once in the morning and once after lunch. If you can find someone to join you, great! If not, close your door during a break and start laughing.

Brighten Up Your Room

It can also help if we take action to improve our surroundings. A few ideas:

  • Bring a bouquet of flowers to work. Stop to admire them and take in their fragrance at least once every half hour. If you don’t like flowers, bring in an object that offers a pleasant aroma instead, and take a whiff whenever you feel stressed.
  • Bring to work some pictures of places or people that usually give you great joy. Keep them on your desk or in an easily visible location. Focus your attention on them at least once every 15 minutes and allow your emotions to drift into the pictures.

Take Stock of Your Emotions

And of course, if we want to improve our sense of well-being, it’s very helpful to pay attention to our feelings and to take steps to direct them in positive ways. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Put on a pair of rose-colored glasses. Make a point of noticing as many positive things as you can that are otherwise easy to miss. Is your room clean? Who cleaned it? Have you expressed appreciation? Which kids came prepared and on time? How many parents haven’t called to complain about something?
  • Notice any and all negative emotions (e.g., anger, annoyance, stress, disappointment, anxiety). If you feel any of these, take a moment to acknowledge them and then let them float away like clouds in the sky.
  • Share a feel-good story with each class.
  • If it feels as if nobody notices your contributions, silently say to yourself, “I work hard. I am in a tough situation. I get better results than I usually acknowledge and I deserve to take good care of myself.”

And since you do deserve to take good care of yourself, make sure you actually do that. Enjoy at least one relaxing meal. If you love to cook and have the time, make the meal from scratch. If not, go to a restaurant you enjoy. Savor every bite and sip; let the food fill your mouth as you taste the flavor and feel the texture.

If you have any other favorite techniques for lifting your mood and fighting the winter blahs, please share them in the comments section.

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Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Love these tips! I would add that taking the time to pack a healthy lunch goes a long way in sustaining me through the winter months. I try to make ahead some soups and freeze them in serving-size bags or containers so they are ready for me to grab on the way out the door. Comfort foods like hot soup are a very welcome treat on a cold day.

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