The Art of Self-Care for Teachers: Saying "No."

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Last week, we discussed how practicing the art of self-care IS your duty.  Learning how to set boundaries at home and work helps you take care of YOU so you can take care of others. One valuable way to break your pattern of self-sacrifice is by learning how to gracefully say, “No.”

When you’re a chronic giver or helper, it’s really hard to tell people, “No.”  Most of us don’t like to disappoint people.  We avoid conflict when possible, and many people simply believe that taking care of one’s self is just plain selfish.  These days, more and more people have started shifting their beliefs around self-care; personal health and well-being have become a part of people’s lives in the 21st Century.  People are empowered when they can say, “No” to a request that is not absolutely necessary.

Please be aware of this important point:  When you begin to set boundaries and start saying, “NO,” people may seem disappointed.  Disappointment is a perception, and you’re NOT in charge of managing other people’s emotions.

To learn how to gracefully say, “No,” follow these three steps:

1. Buy Some Time

-Put space between the request and your answer. (Example:  “I’ll need to get back to you,” or “I’ll need to sleep on it.”)

-Let the person know that you may NOT be able to commit.  (Example:  “I’ve made the decision to limit the commitments I make, so I may not be able to do this.”)

2. Do a Gut-Check

-Take three deep breaths.

-Ask yourself, “On a scale from 1-10, how much do I really want to do this?”

-If you’re still unsure, ask yourself, “If I knew this person wouldn’t be angry, disappointed, or upset, would I say “No?”

 

3. Tell the Truth Directly…with Grace and Love

-BE HONEST about how you feel without over-explaining. (Example:  “I feel bad about letting you down, but I need to…”)

-Tell the truth directly in 1-2 concise lines.

-Ask how you can provide support. (Only do this when you have an ethical responsibility to someone or a situation, such as volunteering, promises, agreements, etc.)

 

When you set healthy boundaries at work and home, you will find that you’re happier, more productive, and feel more present in your life.  You will notice that your cup will feel fuller, and you will be more resilient in times of stress.  It’s vital for you to make a difference in your own life first, so you can make a difference in the lives of others.   Be an empowered educator in the 21st Century!

 

If you’d like to learn more about self-care, check out Cheryl Richardson’s book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care.

The Art of Self-Care for Teachers

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Are you familiar with the frog in boiling water metaphor?  (Of course, do not attempt this at home!)

Imagine a pot of cold water sitting on the burner of a stove. A frog is peacefully swimming in it. The heat is turned on, and the water starts warming up. The frog finds this pleasant and keeps swimming. The temperature keeps rising, though. Now, the water is a little more than what the frog enjoys; it becomes a bit tired, but it doesn’t panic. As the water continues to heat up, the frog finds it very uncomfortable, and it becomes weak. At this point, the frog withstands the heat as much as it can, but is unable to do anything. Sadly, you can probably imagine where this is going. The frog never tries to escape the pot and is consumed.

Next, imagine another frog being plunged into a pot of boiling water. The result is very different for this frog. The frog immediately gives a powerful push with its legs to get out of the boiling water. This frog survives and ends up being kissed by a princess…Oh, wait that’s a totally different story.

 

Seriously, do you ever feel like you’re the frog in either one of these scenarios?  You’re not alone if you answered, “Yes.”  I share this story with you to begin a conversation about self-care.  

Have you ever noticed that it is often easier to give than to receive?  Teachers are notorious for taking care of others before taking care of themselves.  For those of us labeled as “givers,” it feels good to be helpful.  There’s comfort and satisfaction knowing that we are needed in some way; so we keep giving.  When we become a chronic helper, by this I mean rarely or never saying, “No,” what we’re actually doing is sending a message to people that implies we will always be available.  So, we continue down this path (adapting to the warmer water) until we realize we’re exhausted, irritable, stressed-out, burned-out, or even ill.  This is the sign that should tell us that we’ve become the frog in the hot water; we’ve adapted to the discomfort that surrounds us, and now it’s too difficult to get out.

I know from personal experience that I have allowed people to push my boundaries, to the point of illness.  People in general, but specifically we teachers, are not as good at giving to ourselves and setting the necessary boundaries to keep us healthy and happy.  In the school setting, there are plenty of requests for your extra participation outside of your required educator duties.  I know… sometimes, it might even seem easier to teach when you’re sick than to create plans for a substitute teacher for a day or a week.  It’s also easier to keep the peace and sign up for one more non-mandatory committee than it is to say, “I’m unable to commit because I have enough on my plate at this time.” 

Practicing the art of self-care IS your duty.  Learning how to set boundaries at home and work helps you take care of YOU so you can take care of others.

 Stay tuned for my next blog; I’ll teach you how to stay resilient by gracefully saying, “No.”