Making It Work:
Self-Care Strategies for Springtime
It is a stressful time of year. Performances, grading, state testing, and student behavior ramp up as winter winds down and summer approaches. What can music teachers do to combat stress and potential burnout in the final few months of the school year? Instead of creating an elaborate self-care plan at this busy time of the semester, let’s think about what can you do today or this week to take care of yourself!
Assess your current level of self-care.
Self-care is a deliberate practice to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Consider the following questions to assess your current level of self-care in these areas.
Mind: Do you take time away from technology and social media? Can you find time to engage with interests unrelated to work? Is your inner dialogue mostly positive or negative?
Body: Do you eat regular, healthy meals? Are you exercising? Are you getting enough sleep and taking time off when you are sick?
Spirit: Do you spend time with family and friends? Do you complete some type of reflective practice such as journaling, meditation, or reflection?
Choose one particular area that you know needs the most attention and let’s focus there. For example, I have observed that I need a brain break from work to make time for things unrelated to school, such as reading for fun. Your self-care need might be making healthier meals, moving your body, allowing yourself to watch that show or movie you’ve been wanting to see, or taking time to connect with a friend.
Avoid “should” and “have-to.”
Your self-care needs and plans are just that – YOURS. It can be overwhelming to see what others are doing for self-care, especially things that do not fit your lifestyle, budget, or availability of time. We might also feel pressure to try forms of self-care that do not even interest us, leading to additional frustration. For example, if I feel like I “should” go running because it is “supposed to” be good for me but I really, really, really don’t like running, I won’t stick with that form of self-care and then feel frustrated that I’m not doing what I thought I “should be” doing. If, instead, I find a place in nature where I can walk while enjoying the scenery, I am more likely to make time for this goal because it appeals to me physically and spiritually.
Make your self-care S.M.A.R.T. self-care.
Now that you have assessed your current self-care practices, let’s set a goal for this week. Setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal will help you to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Returning to my desire to read for pleasure, instead of saying, “This week, I am going to read,” I might say, “I am going to read for 20-minutes three days this week.” The second goal is more specific by adding the amount of time I will read. It is measureable because I can assess whether or not I have read more or less time than my goal. It is achievable because I know that I have 20 minutes in my schedule. Notice I did not make my goal to read every day for 20 minutes because that is not realistic for my schedule. This goal is relevant to my overall intent to improve my self-care. It is time-bound because I have specifically set a goal for only this week.
Schedule your self-care.
Now that you know your goal for the week, get out your calendar and schedule it! Whether your plan will take 5 or 50 minutes, write time in your planner for your self-care. We are much more likely to stick to the plan if we know it is in our calendar and does not conflict with other obligations. Commit to keeping this time for yourself as you would any other appointment or item in your to-do list.
The end of the school year is a busy time with many reasons to not practice self-care. Be kind to yourself in one small way this week!