The school year has been progressing both quickly and slowly, distorting all sense of time while teachers go in and out of online teaching and learning. At this point in the year, fatigue and burnout can set in. As a teacher, it’s important to try and prevent that from happening so that you can deliver great lessons to your students all year long. Caring for yourself and your mental health doesn’t necessarily require a big budget; there are many inexpensive ways you can take a break.
Art is one of the best (and cheapest) ways for teachers to blow off steam. It’s relaxing, generally low-cost and encourages your creative side too. Here are some artistic things you can try in your free time to see which ones work best for your mental health:
Immerse yourself in colouring books/sheets - You will need to fork out some money for the book and colour pencils, but this is a great activity to remind you of the carefree days of childhood. The best part is there are colouring books catered to adults so you can pick whichever one captures your interests. For a free option, try looking for colouring sheets online that you can print instead (see examples here and here).
Make beautiful origami - You can use scrap A4 paper to start if you want to keep this activity cost-free, but it may be more therapeutic to invest in origami paper that will create high-quality origami models. They don’t cost much and you can buy them on e-commerce platforms or even at your nearby stationery store. Some good places to learn how to fold origami are on YouTube as well as this website
Doodling in pen/painting in watercolour - Both these activities only require money for the materials, and are quite affordable. If you’re a very visual person, doodling/painting your feelings can help you effectively express them and may also help you identify solutions to challenges.
Creating aesthetic photos/entertaining videos - If you don’t like dealing with paper and materials, then turn to the digital world to help you with your artistic endeavours. Taking photos with your phone camera and learning how to edit them, or even creating TikTok videos can help you take your mind off work and centre yourself on creating the best artistic result.
A practical way to make your mind feel good is to keep your body feeling good. This extends not just to your physical health, but your physical appearance too. Whether male or female, taking care of your body and mind is a must; here are a few ways to do that on the cheap.
Make time for exercise - You don’t need a gym membership for this. You can find tons of free workout videos on YouTube for different fitness levels which you can use. If you want to increase the intensity of your workout, get a pair of dumbbells that's within your physical limits. Lazy to work out in the traditional sense? Just put on some songs and dance, because that’s exercise too!
Skip the spa, do your own skincare - Regardless of gender, skincare is important to keep away premature signs of aging skin (which tend to appear when you’re a stressed-out teacher). Paying for facials at the spa can be pricey, so keep them as a once-in-a-while indulgence and invest in a reasonably-priced quality facial care set to use daily instead. While the upfront cost of these items may seem high, you’ll be using them for months so the cost is actually worth it. Recent popular skincare brands include Some By Mi, Innisfree, La Roche Posay, and Paula’s Choice.
Silent sitting/meditation - In the busyness of school life, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the thoughts running in your head. Put aside 10-15 minutes a day to just sit alone in a calming room by yourself, just to acknowledge and let go of those busy thoughts. Optional: light some scented candles when you do this to engage your sense of smell. The idea is not to suppress your thoughts though; merely let them pop into your head and let it go. You can progress into meditation once you are comfortable with this process. Not the type to sit quietly for too long? An alternative would be to do some yoga and focus on your breathing and movement.
If there’s only one thing you can do in your personal life to take care of yourself, this should be it. Psychologists have long found social support to be a great mediator of anxiety and depression.
Even if you are an introvert, you do need a network around you to support you. Keeping in touch with friends and family can be done both in-person or online, and you can do more than just talk. Some activities you can engage in for free/cheap include:
If you’ve been struggling with work recently, just remember that it’s okay to take a break and prioritise yourself, even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day. You can only be an effective light of knowledge for students if you have enough oil to burn to begin with. So, top up on the ‘oil’ by doing something just for yourself.
As you can see above, self-care does not have to be expensive. There are so many fun things you can do with minimal cost. Stay happy, cikgu!
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