Self-Care Strategies that Saved My Life
Working with traumatized kids, as fulfilling as that work is, can kill you. How do I know? It almost killed me.
So if you're a teacher, an administrator, a counselor, a social worker, a pastor, or someone who works with traumatized kids or adults, then I want to talk with you about self-care.
I want to share with you 15 self-care strategies that saved my life and radically improved the quality of my life. And I believe these strategies can really help you.
If you're in a dark place right now, if you're discouraged, if you feel like your work doesn't matter or that you don't matter; if you feel that death would be a relief from the life that you're now living, then please watch the video or keep reading.
One of the most important things you can do for self care is to set some boundaries. I've learned the hard way that many people will allow you to hurt yourself, even to the point of death, as long as it benefits them.
Another self-care strategy that really made a difference in my life is self-compassion. Self-Compassion is just you giving yourself compassion for being imperfect, for having flaws and limitations. It means giving yourself space to make mistakes.
Get More Sleep
One of the most effective self care strategies you can implement in your own life is getting more sleep. Because of my demanding speaking schedule, sometimes I was only getting two or three hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation was hurting me. If you are depriving yourself of sleep, you're going to feel miserable, exhausted, and irritable. You're not going to be as mentally sharp, and it is harder to be friendly or amicable.
Another strategy that's related to sleep is relaxation. Sometimes when you're awake, you don't need to be busy. Sometimes you need to just put your phone down, and walk through nature. I know you have a whole lot on your plate. And there are a lot of people that you want to help, but you can't really be your best for them if you're not your best for you. So please slow down and relax.
One of the most effective self-care strategies that I implemented – that was a non-negotiable for me – was exercise. Exercise made a huge difference in my life in terms of how I felt. Studies show that exercise is often more effective at improving your mental and emotional well-being than other interventions.
Another self-care strategy that really made a difference in my life is my diet. If you take care of your body, your body takes care of you. I started drinking green smoothies and eating better. I recommend you improve what you put into your body.
One of the most important things I've done for self-care has been prayer. I don't believe that we're bodies with spirits. I believe that we're spirits with bodies. So whatever you believe, please attend to your spiritual well-being.
Do Reflective Journaling
Another self-care strategy that has really made a difference in my life is reflective journaling. As a Freedom Writer, I still write in my journals. It has helped me process my thoughts and feelings. Journaling can help you, too.
Another self-care strategy that has really helped me is called Mindfulness. Mindfulness is just being honest about how you're feeling without judging yourself, without adding a positive or negative sign to what you're feeling. It's just sitting in silence and being mindful of how you're feeling in that moment.
Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones
How am I feeling right now, another amazing life-changing strategy that saved my life was spending quality time with people I love and people who love me. So after some really hard speaking tours, where I've spoken several days in a row, sometimes several times a day, I have learned that I need to make time to just be fully present with my wife, children, family, and closest friends. It helps me and can help you.
Another self-care strategy that has really helped me is laughter. I love to laugh. I love to clown around. I love pranks with my kids and my friends. Find some people who help you laugh.
Reflect on the Rewards of Your Work
Another strategy that has helped me is thinking about the rewards of the work that I get to do with students and educators. Think about the people you help. Think about the difference that you make. Think about the trajectories that you're altering. Think about the lives that you're changing. Think about the hope that you're giving people, and about the opportunities that you're making available to them. That can really help.
Set Realistic Goals
Another important strategy that has made a big difference in my life is learning how to set realistic goals for myself. Whenever I set unrealistic goals, I feel discouraged when I do not achieve them by my deadline. So I have learned to be more sober about what I can accomplish with the time I have. In the same way, set goals that you know you can achieve, and set realistic deadlines for those goals.
Take a Vacation
One of my core values is freedom. I love freedom, and one of the ways I feel freedom is by taking a vacation. I cannot recommend enough that you make time to travel, even if it is within your city or state. There are all kinds of vacations you can take on a limited budget. Be creative.
Practice Self-Care Daily
One of the most effective self-care strategies that I've learned it is to keep self-care on my mind. Self-care is not something that should be compartmentalized. It's not like a bandaid that you put on whenever you're wounded; and, as soon as the wound heals, you take it off. Furthermore, self-care is not like sunscreen that you put on when you're going into a certain environment and you only need it when you're in that environment. Rather, self-care is like a seatbelt. It's something that you take with you whenever you're going out of your house.
So those are the 15 self-care strategies that saved my life and have radically improved my quality of life. I believe that they can help you, too. if you're stressed out or burned out, please try to implement one or more of them into your daily routine.