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Experts, schools emphasize importance of self-care for teachers

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:13 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - While Tri-City teachers gear up for the school year and find ways to help students cope during this new age of learning, a Grand Island school is making sure they take care of themselves too.

Like most area schools, things at Grand Island Central Catholic will look a bit different this year with mask requirements, social distancing measures and increased sanitation.

Jordan Engle, principal at GICC, said they don’t want teachers to get lost in all the change and neglect their mental health.

“Taking care of yourself is really difficult, especially when you really care about what you do,” Engle said. “My staff is the best of the best. They love what they do. They love these students. They want to spend their time and invest their entire being into the school, which is great, but there comes a certain point when you have to take care of yourself as well.”

Engle said self-care has become a big focus at GICC over the past year. The school will encourage staff to use sick days if they need a day to improve their mental health.

Engle said mental health is just as important as physical health, something the school will stress even more as teachers take on more responsibilities to help students get through the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of balance that has to be struck. Balance is kind of the big word: How do you balance doing a great job at school - which my staff is wonderful. They’re going to do a great job - with still being a person and finding time to take care of yourself,” Engle said.

During the virtual CHI Teacher Mental Health Assembly Tuesday, Karen Williams, a mental health therapist, discussed how teachers can incorporate self-care into their daily routines.

Williams said it all goes back to the basics: Sleep seven to nine hours each night, drink lots of water, move around, get some fresh air and journal.

“Some of this stuff takes a little bit of time to incorporate. This is not about doing it all at once, every single day,” Williams said. “Remember the word ‘livable.’ It’s got to be something that you can do in your life. Something that actually fits into your life, or you won’t do it.”

Williams also described a few breathing techniques to help ground teachers when feeling stressed. One of them is the five-five-five method - breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds and breathe out for five seconds. Williams said this will reconnect your heart to your brain and improve one’s state of being.

Other experts recommend teachers set boundaries for responsibilities during the day. Set times to check and respond to emails and when to meet with students and teachers.

“Life was stressful before COVID-19 and it’s even more stressful now. That’s why it’s imperative that you’re taking really good care of yourself,” Williams said.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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