As with any new job or life change, many of us started our online ESL teaching career full of excitement, anticipation, ideas, and energy. I remember when I began my online classes with ALO7 – my alarm would go off at 4:20 am, and I would quickly jump out of my bed and get ready with minimal complaints from my body or mind. After a while, though, I struggled with physical, mental, and even emotional exhaustion. My excitement and spark had diminished. I examined my routine and tried to figure out what I needed to do in order to take better care of myself and to make sure I was giving my best to my students. I hope that this daily self-care checklist will help you as it has helped me to be at my full potential as a tutor, and even in other areas of my life.
Keep in mind that daily self-care involves many areas of our lives, so I have divided the list into different aspects. Peruse the list and see where you may be lacking in self-investment.
Daily Self Care Checklist
Me as an Individual:
- Schedule sufficient sleep. This activity may be the most challenging for those of us teaching students in China, as their evenings are our early mornings. If we have a family and other responsibilities, it’s hard to turn in and go to sleep early at night. Try to make adjustments to your schedule to ensure you are getting enough sleep as it is crucial to self-care.
- Don’t over commit. Learn your limits and learn to say no to things that steal time from the important things in your life. When we spread ourselves too thin, we tend to burn out and then feel frustrated because we settle for mediocrity in order to fulfill our commitments.
- Eat well and exercise. Taking care of ourselves physically is vital to our mental well being. I find that if I slack off doing my personal yoga routine or eat too much sugar in my daily diet, I feel frustrated with myself, lack energy, and am prone to depression.
- Take a little time for me. I used to completely balk at the whole “me time” trend I saw in American culture. I thought that fed our selfish and self-centered cultural mindset. I have heard the saying that all weaknesses are strengths taken to an extreme, and I realized that kept in check, taking a little time for me is very healthy. I cannot pour out from an empty pitcher. Now, I have some daily me time, and I see that the small investment into myself daily with something I enjoy doing, yields great returns in preventing burnout and keeps me sharp. Emotional self-care, I believe, is just as important as the physical care.
According to Marta Brzosko, “The initial consequences of you putting more attention to self-care might seem to disturb your relationships” but she notes that the people who are upset by us spending time on ourselves will leave our lives and the important people will stay.
Me and Others
- Spend time with your loved ones. You may have to set boundaries in those toxic relationships, but spending time with people who know you and love you always fills the self-care tank
- Learn to delegate things that others can do in your daily routine. This means letting go of control, but it also means less burden on your shoulders for those mundane and life-sucking activities we all have in our lives.
Me and my environment
- Take time every day to straighten up and organize your workspace so you will not be overwhelmed and scatterbrained looking for props at o’dark thirty in the morning. Fewer frustrations while teaching can help lessen mental burnout.
- Create a comfortable and useful workspace that doesn’t have to be taken down and put back up every time you teach classes. Setting aside a space purely for working also helps your brain to leave work when you aren’t actually in the working hours, so you can facilitate more personal time and step towards filling your emotional cup every day.
Me and technology
- Keep the equipment required to do your job as up-to-date as possible. This will help to minimize frustrations and unnecessary stressors, and if you teach online like me, canceled classes.
- Check your equipment daily to assess how updates have affected it and make sure not to wait until the last moment to perform updates.
Obviously, this self-care activities checklist is adaptable to every person. Take some time to analyze the different areas of your life and use these ideas to help you create your own daily self-care checklist. If you are like me, you will change it up from time to time, but only you know your needs and how to best take care of yourself!
What do you include in your daily self-care routine?
Jan Millsaps has been an advocate for the improvement of education models in Latin America for the last fifteen years. She is making a difference one classroom at a time. Jan became an online tutor with ALO7 in late summer of 2017 to help pay off medical bills and to provide for future retirement, if there ever will be such a thing in her life.
Jan has a B.S. in Education, concentrating in Reading (K-12) and Math (6-9). However, she has taught every subject and grade level throughout her 25-year career. The last fifteen years have been dedicated to teaching ESL the majority of the time. She also continues to teach math and reading.
Jan believes education is the key to societal development and works hard to make a difference in the lives of her students both online and offline. She is passionate that her students reach their full potential and become world changers.