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Redefining Self-Care: Finding Balance in the School System

In every workshop I lead on staff wellbeing, I consistently emphasise one key message:

Self-care is so much more than bubble baths or a glass of wine on a Friday night; it’s about establishing a work-life balance that doesn’t necessitate regular escapes.

This work-life balance can feel even more elusive for those working in the school system, who are all too familiar with the boom-bust and often frantic nature of school terms followed by a much-needed reprieve during holiday breaks.

Yet, the significance of educator wellbeing cannot be overstated. The media’s spotlight on the “teaching crisis" and the alarming exodus of teaching staff speaks volumes. This notion is backed by research from the Black Dog Institute, revealing that nearly half of Australian teachers contemplate leaving the profession within a year (Black Dog Institute, 2023).

This data showed that 60% of teacher absences in the preceding month were associated with mental health or emotional issues. Moreover, more than half of the teachers surveyed reported moderate-to-extremely severe symptoms of depression, a stark contrast to the 12% prevalence in the general population (Black Dog Institute, 2023).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, teacher wellbeing doesn’t just affect teachers – in fact, research shows that it has a ripple effect on the rest of the school community, impacting both student and parent wellbeing outcomes (Carroll et al. 2021).

So what can we do to address this?

Reframing the notion of self-care

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of associating self-care with momentary indulgences. But genuine self-care goes deeper than a bubble bath or a glass of wine. It’s about building a life that doesn’t require constant fleeting escapes to find solace or tranquillity. True self-care involves creating a daily routine and environment that supports your emotional and physical wellbeing in a sustainable manner.

Navigating the school term

In the world of education, achieving work-life balance can seem like an impossible task. The oscillation between the relentless momentum of school terms and the brevity of breaks often leaves educators feeling emotionally and physically exhausted.

Recognising and prioritising the importance of self-care is a great first step. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate – think small changes, big impact. Spend some time in the school break carving out time in the school term for your wellbeing non-negotiables, such as exercise, social catch-ups, and regular hobbies.

In the fast-paced world of education, self- care isn’t an indulgence; it’s a necessity. Now more than ever it is critical that we rewrite the narrative of self-care – from momentary escapes to a sustainable routine that nurtures emotional and physical wellbeing, fostering not just survival, but flourishing.

Contact Dr Laura for enquiries on staff professional development workshops around redefining self-care.


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