In education we are great at looking after other people. We look after the children, other staff, sometimes the parents too. But how well do we look after ourselves?

We’ve all heard that we ‘can’t pour from an empty cup’ and that we need to ‘recharge our batteries’. Both are true. We need a reserve of resilience to draw on in the emotionally demanding situations which occur regularly in schools. If we don’t recharge and replenish, we might be able to ‘soldier on’, sometimes for significant periods of time, however, eventually, like the battery, we will run out of juice. Looking after ourselves will become a necessity rather than a choice.

“Every little act of noticing or practicing self-care, however small, is a win to be celebrated!”

The signs that we need to recharge vary from individual to individual. We might struggle to focus, find it hard to wind down, sleep badly, or be impatient with other people. These are important signals from our brains and bodies that we need to prioritise our own needs. Perhaps even be ‘selfish’ for a while.

To recharge successfully we need to know what healthy self-care habits look like for us. We are all different and our preferences and needs are unique. But for each individual they are those habits that refresh and recharge us – allowing us to live healthier, happier lives and support those around us.

Your own self-care habits are likely to draw on some, but perhaps not all, of the areas below:

  • Care for our bodies. Looking after our sleep, diet, alcohol intake. Releasing physical tension through movement, relaxation or exercise. Protecting time for rest and doing nothing is sometimes the most helpful thing we can do. Research shows that even taking micro-breaks (a regular one-minute mindfulness exercise at your desk for instance) or a regular lunchbreak makes a significant difference to wellbeing and makes us more effective in our work.
  • Care for our minds. Making space for important decisions. Giving our minds time to recharge using meditation, mindfulness or activities that generate ‘flow’ (being truly immersed in an activity you enjoy; reading a good book or a creative activity for example.) Staying curious and taking opportunities for learning or new challenges.
  • Care for our emotions. Giving ourselves time to process difficult emotions, drawing on support with this if we need it. Purposefully generating positive emotions by having fun, being mindful or calm, practising gratitude. Showing kindness and appreciation towards others and ourselves. Noticing when we’ve made a difference and allowing ourselves to feel proud of our ‘little wins’.
  • Care for our time. Set a limit on the time spent on specific tasks (looking at work emails, for example). Breaking tasks down into small steps. Using diaries, planners or post-it notes to help us prioritise and focus. Working out what, if anything, we could delegate to someone with more capacity.
  • Care for our connections. Immersing ourselves in activities that make us feel connected to something greater than ourselves, religious practices or time spent in nature, for example. Protecting time to be present with the people we care about (keep the technology away). Using kindness, humour and fun to strengthen bonds with others.

When I coach teachers and SENDCOs we often discuss how difficult it is to prioritise and practise healthy self-care habits, even at the times they are most needed. This is natural as our cognitive and emotional capacity is often taken up with reacting to the demands on us, leaving little time to make intentional choices about self-care.

Top Tips

By increasing our awareness of our own needs and strengthening habits through regular practice we can keep ourselves charged and make it easier to respond purposefully when we feel overwhelmed or stressed. Some ideas that might help with this:


Notice the signals your brain and body give you and what they are telling you. Sometimes stopping, noticing and taking care of ourselves is the most helpful thing we can do for ourselves and others.


Create your own individual ‘toolkit’ of self-care habits or activities as a reminder of what helps you. This could be a list, something visual, or a box of resources.


Give yourself permission to prioritise self-care habits. You deserve it. You could make a plan to strengthen existing habits, or even start a new habit. The free ‘5 minute wellbeing promise’ at can help you structure this. Like any change, regular practise is key to strengthening habits so why not spend a few minutes planning how you will do this.


It can seem that the focus of our busy lives is on what we didn’t do, not what we did. Don’t do this to yourself. In a world that constantly wants us to prioritise other people’s needs and demands, every little act of noticing or practicing self-care, however small, is a win to be celebrated!

Need more inspiration? Download the ‘Brief self-care activities for teachers’ resource from for quick and easy self-care boosting activities you can use individually or with your team.

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