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How Teachers and Students Can Improve Social Wellness with Self-Care

scrabble tiles with "self care" written on them

July is Social Wellness Month, which focuses on how to better nurture yourself and your relationships. For teachers and students, navigating and nurturing relationships is all part of the educational experience. From teachers coaching their students to kids being there for a friend during tough times, schools are filled with individuals giving and receiving emotional support on a daily basis.  

Educators don’t just instruct on curriculum – they are extremely invested and intertwined with their students’ lives and well-being. If an educator isn’t prioritizing self-care and social wellness, they can experience burnout for themselves, their students, or both. 

Self-care is also necessary for teachers and students because it informs social wellness. If teachers and students don’t acknowledge and focus on their emotional needs, it impedes their ability to develop their social skills and overall ability to form meaningful relationships and/or build successful careers. To help educators hone their skills this Social Wellness Month, we’ve rounded up tips and resources educators can use to strengthen this skill for themselves and their students. 

How to practice self-care

With 50 percent of teachers having considered leaving the profession at some point according to a 2019 survey due, in part, to stress, teacher self-care is crucial for the success of all educators and students. The more self-care resources offered to our teachers, the better the education experience can be for our students. Real self-care is a form of self-preservation; educators can give more when they have more of themselves to give. 

A few ways teachers can incorporate self-care into their daily and weekly routines are: 

  • Journal emotions
    • Letting it all out is a therapeutic practice and journaling is a safe and healthy way to process your emotions. After a particularly challenging day, write it all out - don’t hold back - and then put the journal away for when you need it again.
  • Set up daily “me” time
    • Find 30 minutes every day to focus on something that benefits you. This could be quiet time for a hobby, exercise, or reading - any activity you enjoy with no distractions.
  • Connect with loved ones regularly 
    • Social support is key to social wellness, so choose a few people to connect with to share your challenges and victories. 
  • Create an emergency self-care pack 
    • Carry a pack with the items that give you comfort. This could be an aromatherapy product, a journal to quickly write out how you’re feeling in that moment or headphones to focus on breathing. 

Self-care teachers can offer students

Just like teachers, students need self-care to address stress from school and/or home life. According to the CDC, anxiety and depression in children is on the rise over the last two decades. 

Fortunately, children who incorporate self-care practices into their daily routines find themselves better prepared for stressful situations. When students are stressed, they can’t focus on learning. To improve student wellness, many institutions are already incorporating self-care practices like meditation, which has shown to benefit students’ overall well-being. 

For teachers, offering self-care practices to their students can change a classroom. Students feel safe when they can express their emotions and practice social wellness freely. 

Here are simple examples of how teachers can incorporate social wellness and self-care into the classroom:

  • Personal reflection exercises 
    • When done in a safe space, personal reflection exercises can help students better understand their emotions and how to address them. 
  • Get-to-know-you exercises 
    • By encouraging students to communicate and get to know each other better, teachers are helping students build social-wellness skills. By cultivating a positive social experience, students gain self-esteem.
  • Breathing activities/meditation
    • Stress across all grade levels is increasing, which is why incorporating breathing exercises and meditation into the classroom can help students better manage their stress. 
  • Offer accountability 
    • Help students communicate their goals and coach them on how to reach those goals.
  • Be an example
    • Tell your students how self-care has improved your life. They see you as a role model and are likely to take after your lead.


How teachers can create a social-wellness network

Social wellness and self-care are practices, meaning there is always room to grow in them. Creating a social-wellness network of fellow educators is a great way to add accountability and motivation into your practices. 

Networking isn’t just for getting ahead - it’s a valuable tool that grants you access to different strategies and perspectives. Seek out virtual events and discussions within the education space. By going digital, you have a chance to talk to educators outside your city and learn the tools they’ve found success with. Follow up with the people you connected most with, or want to learn more from. 

Likewise, Facebook Groups and Twitter chats specifically for educators can provide connection, tips and resources needed to incorporate self-care and improve social wellness. Facebook offers many closed, members-only groups, where like-minded educators feel comfortable sharing with each other. 

Each person practices self-care and tends to their social wellness in a different way. By connecting with others striving for the same goal, you’ll learn new tips and practices to incorporate into your life and your classroom. 

For additional reading on teacher wellness and self-care, see our blogs on preventing teacher burnout at the end of the school year, 5 strategies for avoiding burnout during holidays, and making teacher appreciation a daily practice. To keep up with other resources and information in the field of education, follow the Rutgers Alternate Route program through Twitter and our blog and visit our website for our FREE e-guide on Getting a Teaching Job in New Jersey!

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Heather Ngoma

Heather Ngoma has over 20 years experience collaborating with educators across New Jersey to drive education innovation. She currently serves as the Director of Rutgers University's Alternate Route Teacher Training Program at the Center for Effective School Practices, a program which helps career changers, recent college graduates and other aspiring education professionals become licensed teachers in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @heatherngoma.