Being an early childhood educator comes with a lot of responsibility. Dealing with staffing shortages, feedback from families, licensure compliance, and managing a classroom can bring on potential stress. Balancing everything can be difficult, so it’s important to remember that protecting your mental health also means protecting your well-being and your business.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top strategies to prioritize your mental health so you can take better care of yourself, which in turn, ensures that you can take better care of your children, families, and business.
Consistently bringing your work home with you makes it difficult to ever have a true break. Allow yourself to completely disconnect from work on days when you can. Setting boundaries helps to separate work and home life so you can truly rest and reset your mind.
- Protect your peace of mind by making choices about what you are going to respond to, whether it is personal or professional
- Set hard boundaries and stick to them to find a healthy work-life balance
- Watch and/or listen to the news less frequently if it impacts your mental health or mindset
- Charge your phone outside of your bedroom so you get a moment to wake up before seeing and responding to social media and work-related messages
- Give yourself permission to go offline outside of working hours
Prioritize mental health as a community
Bringing certain mental health practices into your community not only helps others prioritize their mental health but also makes it easier for you to incorporate best practices for yourself as well.
With a tool like brightwheel, you can easily check in with your teachers throughout the day directly in the app. Send quick morning affirmations to your whole team or message an individual directly when you notice it's time for them to take a break.
Encouraging others, especially fellow educators, to focus on their wellness makes it easier to reduce stress and burnout through community support. It also provides additional opportunities to boost your mental health throughout your day.
- Have monthly mental health checks for every employee to check in and see how you can support each other
- Join supportive groups in person or online
- Decompress with coworkers at the end of the day to get to know them outside of work
- Share positive thoughts with your children and staff to create an encouraging and supportive culture at your center
- Practice yoga, meditation, or other mental health exercises (such as watching our webinar on community support) during staff meetings
- Instead of conducting meetings sitting down, check in during a ten-minute walk
- Assign buddies in the workplace for support
- Set up recurring calls with another local director or educator to learn from and support each other
- Complete a Breathe for Change class to bring yoga and mindfulness to your community
- Talk with a close friend
- Practice belly breathing with your children and on your own
Send a joke or affirmation with your daily emails to staff members
Reframe your thinking
The way you think has a big influence on your mental health. Allowing negative thoughts or worries to run freely through your mind can increase stress and make you feel overwhelmed. Being aware of how you are thinking helps you adjust what you focus on so you can stay positive.
- When commuting to work, practice saying a daily affirmation to help you get into a positive mindset
- When dealing with something that makes you nervous, stressed, or anxious, try separating your thoughts from the facts
- Wait a day to respond to messages that are particularly stressful or frustrating
- Practice gratitude—think of three things you’re thankful for every morning or when your mental health is struggling
- When you’re feeling stressed, use these statements from Mindful Schools to shift your perspective:
- Nothing is wrong; I am facing a challenge and it will all be okay!
- I do have the resources to meet this experience.
- I need to take a pause and ground myself in this moment, just as it is.
Seek comfort in the things you enjoy
It’s easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of work you need to get done. Be deliberate in creating a work-life balance that makes sense for you. When you have free time, catch up on rest and do things you enjoy that take your mind off of work.
- Spend time with your family and pets
- Listen to audiobooks
- Make art, whether that’s knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing, or anything else
- Bake a treat for yourself
- Watch comforting videos like home videos, ASMR, or cute animal videos
- Do a puzzle
- Get lost in a great book
- Cook a nourishing meal
- Take a walk to clear your head and enjoy nature
- Go to a Zumba or dance class
- Visit a comedy club or watch a comedy show
- Treat yourself with a manicure or pedicure
- Buy an adult coloring book—and don’t worry about coloring in-between the lines
- Set aside time to unwind in the evenings
- Take a bubble bath
- Dress up and take yourself out
Take care of yourself
Only you can advocate for your own wellness. Make the conscious decision to focus on yourself and your needs. Your work is important, but you can’t be at your best if you don’t prioritize your well-being and mental health first and foremost.
- Check in on yourself often. Ask yourself, “What brings me joy? What makes me feel stressed out or anxious? What does my mind need? What does my body need?”
- Attend therapy or counseling—we all need someone to talk to!
- Take a real break midday so you can return to work refreshed
- Listen to soft instrumental music while working to create a peaceful environment
- Set aside time to be spiritual, whether that’s meditating, praying, or reading scripture
- Practice yoga in the mornings or evenings to unwind
- Give yourself a foot massage
- Do deep breathing exercises when you start feeling overwhelmed
- Enjoy a cup of green tea or a snack that contains magnesium (which helps to reduce anxiety and stress)
- Read for personal development
- Journal for 10 minutes in the evenings
- Use your sick time for mental health appointments—mental health is health!
- Try out vagus icing techniques for stress and anxiety management
- Burn aromatherapy candles when you come home from work
- Try repeating affirmations when you encounter stressful situations
Be your best to give your best
As an early childhood educator, you are supporting the healthy growth and development of the next generation. However, it is so important to not let your responsibilities overtake your own mental health needs. Remember that prioritizing your mental health improves your overall well-being and your ability to give your best as an educator.
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.