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Teach for America New York Molly Zeins - Wellness Tips
Teacher Wellness

Molly's Top 5 Wellness Tips For Educators

One of our staff members, Molly Zeins, shares some of her favorite self-care tips for educators.

By Molly Zeins and Elie Bilmes

December 13, 2017

While self-care is something that we all should prioritize year-round, the winter break is the perfect time to slow down and show yourself a little extra love. Below, I’m sharing my top five tips for self-care (and a bonus tip from Elie Bilmes, our Director of Programs in Brooklyn).

Molly's Wellness Tips

  1. When your break begins, unpack your bag. You carry around so much stuff: from the ungraded quizzes your students took last week to the book you’re about to teach in the next unit. Think of your teacher bag as a metaphor for all of the responsibilities and emotional baggage that weigh on you as an educator. When your break begins, unpack your bag. Put things in two different places: one pile for things that you need to take care of over the break and a second pile for things that can wait until after you go back to work (note: many things can wait). Throw everything else away or put it back in it’s respective place. There’s something so cathartic about cleaning up; it will help you clear your mind and you’ll know exactly what you need to do before heading back to work.

  2. Find a daily ritual that you love. When you transitioned to the lifestyle of a teacher, it’s likely that your routines were turned upside down. With some time off, rediscover some simple, small joys. This might mean having a mug of coffee and people-watching by your window, taking a brisk walk after dinner, writing/coloring, or playing an instrument. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try mediation (if so, Headspace is free for TFA corps members and alumni teachers).  Find something simple that makes you feel whole and just do it.

  3. Read for inspiration and/or for pleasure. When I’m going through a tough time or caught up in the injustices of the world, it helps to know that I’m not alone and that other people have overcome such obstacles. I love to read, and there’s tons of great literature and film out there that has made me feel more connected with other human beings. A few of my favorites: Homecoming by Yaa Gyazi, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, Hunger by Roxane Gay, Counting Descent by Clint Smith (a TFA alum!). A study in 2009 showed that reading for 6 minutes a day can reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds.

  4. Book your medical and dental appointments for 2018. This is the first thing that falls off my to-do list each year, because I find booking appointments with doctors and dentists around my work schedule to be really tedious. That said, self-care is sometimes about doing the stuff you don’t like so that you can take care of yourself. The winter break is a great time to sit down with your calendar for the upcoming year and book your annual exam(s), dental hygiene appointment(s), and eye appointments as necessary so that you don’t have to worry about these later when your plate is filled up.

  5. Fill up on good foods. Between the donuts in the teachers’ lounge and the leftover halloween candy that’s somehow kept multiplying, we could all use a few greens. Try out a new recipe or two that you can then make in the new year to take for your lunches. There are many blogs out there that cater to educators, or to people who are trying to eat healthfully and on a budget. Love and Lemons, Work Week Lunch, Cookbookish, and Teach Eat Repeat are all great sites for creative, healthy recipes (and the last two were created by TFA alums!).

  6. Bonus tip from Elie Bilmes! Make a plan for the evening before you go back to school. Our Director, Programs, Elie, always recommends to his corps members to make a plan for how you’re going to spend the last day before break ends, so that you can go back to school feeling rested and renewed. This might look like planning a dinner with friends, having a game night with your family or spending the evening reading in bed - you do you! The idea is that if you make a commitment to this time, you will finish up any work that you need to do beforehand so that you can end your break on a celebratory and/or restful note.