Ahh, winter break. It's been SO nice to have 2 slow, easy, relaxing weeks off, but in 2 days it's back to reality for me! I head back to school on Monday and while I'm excited to see my students, it's tough to give up the relaxing, carefree days of break. One commitment that I am going to make as I head back to school is to TAKE CARE of myself. For me, self care doesn't have to mean a full-on spa day experience or luxurious bath (let's be honest, I'm grossed out by my rental bathtub, so that really isn't an option for me). Taking small breaks every day to give yourself a little extra love and care can really work wonders for my attitude, stress-level, and overall mental health on those long teaching days. Here are my favorite quick and easy self-care activities:
Give yourself a massage
As I apply face lotion in the morning and before bed, I massage my cheekbones, brow bones, sinuses, forehead, chin, and temples. It feels super relaxing and only takes a minute! An added bonus--stimulating the face muscles with a massage can help bring oxygen to the skin as well! This can also be a quick foot or calf massage after a long day.
Try a face mask
It may feel like you're twelve at a sleepover, but face masks can really feel like you're giving yourself a mini spa experience! I recently purchased the Trader Joe's face mask trio and I absolutely love it! I use at least one of the masks once a week and when I apply the mask I give myself permission to rest as it sets for a few minutes before continuing with my day.
Enjoy a favorite meal
Indulging in comfort food can be very calming and relaxing (hence calling it "comfort food") but so can eating clean & green! Whatever brings you a sense of joy and happiness, go for it. Sometimes I know that eating a big bowl of mac 'n cheese is what I need, other times I know I need to go the fresh route. One thing I've tried to start doing every time I eat a meal is to eat mindfully-- really savor each bite, feel the texture of the food, and notice the flavors.
Buy yourself flowers
Once in a while (especially in the winter) I buy myself a bouquet of $5 flowers from TJs on my weekly shopping trip. It's a nice way to give a gift to yourself and bring some freshness and brightness to your living space.
Even in frigid Chicago temperatures, taking a walk can work wonders to clear my head and bring me down when I am feeling stressed. Sometimes I will just go for a few blocks, either listening to my favorite music or podcast, or listening to nothing at all. Going with a friend, significant other, or family member is great, but walking alone can be amazing as well.
Try out essential oils
I'll admit it, I've become an essential oil freak. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical about the benefits of essential oils at first, but since trying just a few, I recognize the effect they have on me. Spritzing some lavender essential oil (mixed with water) onto my pillow before bed or sprinkling some lemon essential oil into the shower in the morning can have a huge impact on my overall mood. I encourage you to try it!
Here's a challenge-- stop reading, close your eyes, and identify 3 positive things about your day or week. 3 things that you are grateful for. Make sure at least 1 of these things is something you are grateful for about yourself. See how you feel after! An even bigger challenge--do this for a month, once a day. I've been gratitude journaling for about 3 years and it has dramatically changed my mindset.
Read old notes from students
Am I the only one who hoards old notes, letters, and drawings? One of my tasks over winter break was taking a stack of papers out of a large envelope and putting them in sheet protectors in a binder--I call it my 'feel good file'. After a bad day or week, it is helpful to take a look and remind myself of the impact I have had on so many students!
Did you know that laughter has endless health benefits, like lowering blood pressure & boosting immunity? Go ahead, allow yourself to laugh. In the classroom, I often find that I am so tense and concerned about a million things, I don't always stop to see the humor in my students. I challenge you to try to laugh at 1 thing (at least!) each day during the school day(bonus points for laughing with your students) and see how this effects you!
So, what small things do you do for yourself throughout the day? How do you take care of yourself? I would love to hear your ideas! Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup--refill yours first!