Self Care: Beyond the Pedicure

After almost a quarter of a century in education, including 15 years of teaching middle school language arts, I have been thinking about what self-care means for a long time.  To me, it is more than just an event or an activity – though the pedicures and massages certainly serve their purposes – self care needs to be a way of being.  As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”   For me, this looks like a whole host of practices which have become my daily routine.  These practices have become so ingrained, my day is worse if I skip any of them.  A consistent, self-care affirming morning routine is backed by research. This newsletter from Panda Planner called ‘Routine Hacker’ profiles a different person each week, explains their routine, and the scientific benefits of it.  It is quite inspirational!  So, here’s mine: 

  • As the alarm goes off, I name 3 specific things I’m grateful for.  It’s a way to start the day with positivity.
  • Drink a full bottle of water.  Re-fuel the past 8 hours of dehydration. 
  • Exercise – immediately.  At LEAST 30 minutes of something.  On my best days, I’ll run for 45 minutes; others require a gentle yoga session.  But there is movement of SOME kind, each morning.
  • Post-exercise:  Breathing.  Just 4-6 minutes.  
  • Drink a cup of warm lemon water with honey before coffee or breakfast. 
  • Scan the newsletters I receive, and send a few key articles to my Google Keep to be read later.
  • Hold off on a protein-rich breakfast until 9 or 9:30 (depending on meeting schedule); it’s not 100% intermittent fasting, but it works for me. 
  • At this point, I’m ready for anything!

Maybe this isn’t your thing (yet!).  How about the ‘word of the year’?  A ‘word of the year’ helps you keep central that which is most important to you.  It can serve as a reminder on days you feel out of alignment and validation when you are living your values and guided by your purpose.   In 2016, my word was ‘Intention.’  It was so crucial to me that I had it stamped onto the band of a ring I wear everyday.  It is still a reminder to be proactive rather than reactive and to enter into all endeavors with clarity and perspective.  

Not sure how to choose? This blog post from Elena Aguilar offers step-by-step guidance to choose a word. 

OR – here’s a fun way to let a word come to you! Artist Morgan Harper Nichols shared this post on Instagram (no account needed to access it!).   With her beautiful backgrounds, she shares a video loop of several different words.  She invites you to take a screenshot to see which word you attract.  I landed on ‘uncover’ which aligns very nicely with the two words I have been letting simmer: ‘focus and clarity.’ 

OR – how about this idea: 

In 2020, Literacy Coach Stephanie Affinito moved to a ‘word a month’ in order to keep things fresh and ‘not lose steam.’  

Is there a version that resonates more with you? 

Regardless of how you embrace the wonder of a new year, remember that whatever you choose should reflect your commitment to self-preservation and being your best self.  Not only is this essential for you, your students and teammates will also reap the benefits. THIS, to me, is the heart of our social and emotional identity.

Here’s to an amazing 2022!


With more than two decades of experience in education around the globe, Kristen Moreland is committed to bringing humanity back to education. A former middle school English teacher and Instructional Coach, she is currently serving as the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Littleton Schools in Littleton, New Hampshire. You can follow her on Twitter @kmorekin and on Instagram @educatorsforhumanity