Professional Practice

5 Ways Art Teachers Can Practice Self Care

stacked rainbow rocks

As teachers, we give and give. Even during a global pandemic, when expectations are higher, we continue to give. Though we have likely chosen a teaching career because we love giving to our students, it does not negate the fact that we need to make time for ourselves. We need self-care.

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s quite the opposite.

Prioritizing our own self-care allows us to be strong enough to help others. Self-care is typically broken down into a few components: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. You may prioritize your mental health one day by talking with your therapist or friend and your physical health another day by going for a jog. Whatever your self-care looks like, it is vital.

stacked rainbow rocks

Be sure to reflect on each of these categories regarding your self-care, as they all fill a different bucket of your health:

  • Physical
    Take care of your body with proper sleep, healthy eating habits, and exercise.
  • Mental
    Learn new things and practice strengthening your mental health stamina.
  • Emotional
    Process and recharge your emotions by identifying and talking about your feelings.
  • Social
    Nurture your relationships with friends and family through communication and safe connections.
  • Spiritual
    Investigate your purpose and meaning, not necessarily related to religion.

Listen to Self-Care for the Art Teacher (Ep. 196) for more!

Using the analogy from Wait But Why,  picture your day as 100 blocks of ten-minute increments. Every action is filtered through this lens. Ask yourself, “Is this action worth ten minutes of my time?” Of course, there are things we must do. We must work, eat, take care of our families, and the list goes on. But, what do you want to do with the remaining blocks? Reflecting on how you are spending your blocks might give you a little insight into how much time you are leaving to take care of yourself.

So what might self-care look like for an art teacher? Let’s keep it simple with a few of these suggestions.

1. Make art.

Embroidery hoop

As art teachers and artists, we know art is naturally therapeutic. Your excitement, ideas, and emotional baggage need to be released somehow. It’s simply a matter of how you release it. Try experimenting with a new art material. Do a draw-along video on YouTube. Color in some complex coloring sheets. Doodle on your tablet. No matter what you choose to create, this artmaking time is valuable self-care. If you don’t feel like making art, be sure to pick a different way to get your self-care in for the day.

2. Do something for someone else.

Yes, self-care should be for you. But, often, doing something for another person has the residual effect of making you feel better, especially if service acts are one of your five preferred love languages. In a world where teachers are stressed adapting to a new teaching style, be sure to share a kind note with a co-worker or administrator you have observed doing a great job.

painting of a rainbow

3. Take a nap.

This seems obvious and certainly not always feasible. But, this tip will certainly fill your physical health bucket. If you can, take a break. Yes, a literal nap. If you need to, try scheduling time to close your eyes, even for just a few minutes. It can really change the way you break up your day. In fact, a business in Tokyo allows its employees to take twenty-minute naps during the workday.

Read 5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself and Avoid Burnout for more!

4. Prepare a homemade meal.

The act of creating something gives you a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t feel like sitting down to paint or draw, see if your creative juices start flowing when you’re in the kitchen. Healthy or indulgent, the act of creating something to feed your body will surely give you pride over what you have created.

paper and paint brushes

5. Unplug.

This one can be hard sometimes. After all, our connection to others and their stories helps us to keep building our social connections. However, it can be even more important to take a moment away from your devices. Try setting an alarm to remind you to put down your phone for the night, or be sure to get up and do a big stretch before you pick up your device for the day. Unplugging from technology helps you recognize the joy in your day-to-day life.

paintbrushes and supplies

Give yourself permission to prioritize your own self-care. While it may not be easy, it is vital. There are so many ways to practice self-care, yet often actually doing it is the hardest part. Practicing self-care is the least you can do to build yourself up to be the very best you can be.

What does self-care look like for you?

Why is it important to teach our students about the importance of self-care?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Sarah Krajewski

Sarah Krajewski, an elementary school art educator, is AOEU’s Social Media Content Creator and a former AOEU Writer.

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