A quick self-care check-in for the busy teacher

Illustration by Courtnay Hough

So… I have trichotillomania: anxiety literally causes me to pull my hair out. This has driven me to be very strategic and intentional about my self-care and prioritizing me time. 

Whatever your story and struggles, you deserve to be a priority. Let’s take this time to check in and see what is already working to refuel your energy and happiness tank. 

Through a lot of trial and error, and tons of reflection: my hope is to share my self-care best practices here to help others with similar goals and struggles. 


September = Reflectember 

September is the perfect time to reflect on your work and personal boundaries. Be curious (not judgmental) about how you are doing. 

Start off thinking about how you feel. Do you feel tired or energized? Happy or worn out? When you feel tired, what is making you feel the most tired? What is helping you feel energized?

Awareness of your feelings and moods can help you replicate the ones you enjoyed and tackle the uncomfortable emotions and situations that will come up as smoothly and effectively as possible. 

Think back on the plans, lists, and routines you developed in August before school started. If you haven’t created these yet and would like to, read more here: https://azulita.org/how-to-avoid-teacher-burnout-with-work-life-balance/ What is working for you? Make sure to keep that up or even strive to level up that success!  

Maybe star and highlight the items on that list that are really doing it for you. You could even re-write the list if it is getting a little well-loved and worn. Put those favorites at the top written or drawn in some of your favorite colors. 


What is working? What isn’t? 

What is not as effective as you hoped? Be honest and kind with yourself. Think about what is making it not very effective. 

Are you having trouble leaving work at the time you set for yourself? Maybe you need a daily alarm with a silly favorite song to shake you out of your endless to-do list. 

May I recommend “Push It” by Salt and Pepper or “Let It Go” from Frozen? Whatever will work to get you to head home at the prescribed time of your healthy boundaries. 

Honestly, alarms weren’t enough for me. I had to have a friend call me and encourage me to head home in the beginning until I established that positive habit for myself. 

Perhaps your to-do list is growing longer and longer secretly in the night. I find it’s helpful to star the two items on my to-do list that are my high priority items to get done that day. Everything else is a “nice to do”. Then, at the end of the day, I can feel solid about my accomplishments and if the other items weren’t starred: they can wait to maybe be a priority item for another day.

Look over that list and see if there are any things that don’t have to happen right away or are a pipe dream. Maybe start a separate list for those dream items just in case you happen to run into a bunch of extra time. But don’t let those tasks clog up your regular/priority to-do list and stress you out. 

Illustration by Courtnay Hough

Fill the calendar with you time 

Calendar, schedule, and/or purchase all those self-care priorities! Reflect on which ones are the strongest at filling your tank and prioritize them. 

Look back over your beautiful self-care priority list. If you haven’t made one yet, see this blog to help you list out your personal priorities. See the starred or color ones that are your favorites. 

I recommend scheduling and calendaring your favorite most effective activities for at least a month or two out. That way, you’re committed, and you can enjoy looking forward to them 🙂 

Maybe some of them aren’t refueling you as much as you expected or are depleting you. Take notice and cycle those ones out. 

You don’t have to forget about those ones altogether, maybe they’re just not working for you right now. That’s okay. Listen to yourself; trust your instincts. Perhaps they will be beneficial again in the future. 


Value You 

You are wonderful, worthy, and valued. Your calendar should reflect that. If it doesn’t think about what small (or big) shifts or changes would help your calendar to better reflect that you are a priority worthy of consideration. 

When you look at your calendar, you should see you and self-care sprinkled all over it. If you don’t, then add some in. Start saying no to activities and events that aren’t bringing you joy or refueling your tank. Start saying yes to items that are. 

It’s totally acceptable to tell someone you have plans, even if those plans are to take a long luxurious bath with a new book. Blocked-out time for yourself on the calendar is still a plan. It’s time for you because you absolutely deserve it. 

Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what activity to put on the calendar. Still, block out that time: you can put Me 🙂 or Self-Care there and decide later what exact activity if that works better for you. 

There is no perfect formula, no right or wrong answers: only what works best for you. And that may shift over time.


Maintain continuous self-reflection 

Reflection is the key. Continuing to check in with yourself and what is working helps you level up your self-care.

When you do yoga, often you find that at different times different things feel good. You may be stretchier on one side than the other. You may have a weird pop in your neck today, gone tomorrow. 

I like the metaphor of yoga for self-reflection. It’s a check-in. It should be happening all of the time. It is not a time to berate yourself over failings. After all, I don’t get mad at my right leg for being stiff today. I accept that is a thing and accommodate it. 

Your self-reflection should be the same. 

Different stuffs for different months 

As you’re staying checked in with yourself you will find that certain things might work better during certain times of the year than others.

For example, I love hiking. However, hiking isn’t a main activity for me in the summer because of the temperature, since I live in Phoenix, Arizona. The time I would have to get up in the morning to do it or the travel time it would require to get somewhere cool would not be possible for me. Those factors make hiking more into a labor or task than a love activity. To handle this in the summer I cycle more yoga into my calendar during those hot months.

For winter, I have to block out quiet/blank space for me when things get crazy hectic for the holidays. In fact, I strive for blocking out double Me time during the holidays than usual, because all the social gatherings amp up my anxiety.

It may seem counterintuitive to block out extra you time during the busiest times, but that is when it is most essential. 

I enjoy the holidays more because I’m not running on empty. Also, the event and activities I say yes to, I can truly enjoy because I haven’t over-booked myself and packed my calendar to the brim. 

It’s still a work in progress, I still say yes to too many things and wear myself down. I just try to take a mental note when I do that and pledge to do better and make a different choice in the future.

This can also be a great practice around meet the teacher or open house nights. Be intentional about times that are especially draining for you. Book positive activities for yourself and block out quiet time for you as well.

Calendar blank space for you 

At first, when I’d block out time for myself (without specific plans) I would feel guilty and have a hard time saying no to requests on my time.

Just strive through those guilty feelings. They will lessen over time. The re-energizing of yourself will prove more than worth it. 


I think it will always be a work in progress due to reflection and interests changing over time. That’s totally fine. 

I like to think of it as leveling up. As I learn and grow, there is always room to improve and go up a level of self-care and reflection. 

This mentality helps to free me from judgment and harsh self-talk. I can easily fall into the trap of perfectionism, so thinking about self-care as a journey of leveling up helps me be more gentle and compassionate with myself. I hope it can do the same for you too. 

Remember: you are worthy, valuable, and wonderful. You deserve to be a priority too.

What are your favorite ways to spend or schedule me time? Share in the comments below 🙂

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