Self-Care: A Process AND A Practice, Part 2 

  • Why do helping professions need increased self-care?
  • How can work cultures prioritize both employees and teams, elevating self-care?
  • What are some practices to help us better care for ourselves?

Part 1 of Self-Care: A Process AND a Practice defined self-care and its evolution. We looked at different models of assessing our self-care that I encourage you to revisit for your well-being. Let’s close out this series by highlighting a few segments of our helping professions with significant self-care needs, reviewing how organizations can make self-care easier to practice, and identifying what translates as effective self-care for each of us. 

Increased Self-Care Needs for Healthcare Workers

081023 - Dawn Blog Image 1Even before the pandemic, nurses cited stressful work environments as the most significant reason for burnout. According to the 2018 NSSRN data, almost 69% of nurses who left their job because of burnout reported the reason was stressful work environments. In general, hospitals cause the most stress for nurses, who are 80% more likely to cite burnout as a reason for considering leaving their jobs. As of 2022, Emergency Room nurses and those in behavioral health positions were most likely to leave their jobs. 

What is a stressful work environment in healthcare?

  • When individual caseloads are perceived as too high.
  • When one is expected to work varied schedules and long shifts with intense demands.
  • When there is a lack of strong leadership to influence the culture more positively.
  • When one is unable to determine resource allocation where most needed.
  • When one is compensated too little for the work.
  • When administrative burdens are too great.

All these reasons continue to influence healthcare workers’ burnout and give evidence to the lack of a prevalent self-care process and practice.  


Increased Self-Care Needs for Educators 

55% of educators were considering leaving the teaching profession, according to081023 - Dawn Blog Image 4 The National Education Association 2022 Survey. Teaching, like health care, has always been exhausting and exhilarating, with teachers committed to their students’ learning, hoping to refresh in their summers off. But now, the double whammy of the pandemic effects on education and the political pressures on current schooling issues have K-12 educators and students in the middle of a pressure cooker. Teachers are not just facing burnout but, perhaps even more disturbing, are said to be demoralized. “Demoralization occurs when an educator believes she is unable to perform the work in ways that uphold the high standards of the profession.” (NEAToday) Can self-care restore and sustain teachers’ ummph’ for their role? 

What is a stressful work environment in K-12 education?

  • When working too many hours with planning, instruction, community interaction, and administrative duties results in unpaid overtime
  • When current political battles over how or whether to teach aspects of our nation’s history and discerning between what is building mental health in children and what is part of a feared “woke” curriculum distract from educating
  • When the reality is working with more and more opinionated students and parents
  • When disciplinary and policy inconsistencies don’t support teacher instruction
  • When expectations of equitable learning opportunities exist across widespread financial incomes with varied resource availability
  • When there is a lack of decision-making opportunities that affect one’s classroom
  • When there exists insufficient Administrative and Support Staff support
  • Where students are present with increased learning and developmental needs with insufficient resources
  • When skilled teachers and especially teachers of color, leave the profession at a greater rate


How can work cultures prioritize self-care?

Helping professions such as nursing and education care for others directly. It’s easier to put off what’s best for oneself when the object of your intention is a living, needy human being. How does one’s workplace build a culture of self-care?

081023 - Dawn Blog Image 3In healthcare, a self-care environment can be built by example from each unit’s top leader. It must be stressed that excellent care for others can only be practiced when those caregivers also care first for themselves. A mindset of this base understanding is paramount for any policies and procedures of self-care to be present in the grind of healthcare roles. The literature suggests that increased time spent on reflective practice and building positive emotions and relationships are key to setting and keeping the boundaries needed for self-care for healthcare workers. The importance of leaders taking the time to build a culture of recognition can not be overstated. 

In education, again, the principal of each school must create a culture where each school member sees the value of their integrated wholeness to help each other successfully navigate each day’s stressors. Seeing one’s building head as an ally instead of a foe is critical to developing a  web of strong teamwork across both grade levels and systems. But many educators feel that scheduling extra personal days or non-duty lunches are simply bandaids on broken systems that instead need to be fixed. School climate, staffing numbers, and available resources such as relevant professional development and onboarding mentors are legs of a sturdy stool that increase self-care possibilities for educators.


How can we ‘care’ for ourselves?

Only 6.7% of the U.S. population practice a form of health self-care daily. But a 2020 survey found that 7 in 10 Americans know their need for self-care. Knowing something is important, but prioritizing its practice is where our good intention to care for ourselves too often falls flat.

Believe the research that shows us the most effective leaders prioritize practicing self-care. You are not an outlier who does not need self-care. We’ve learned that no size fits all to revive your spirit and your colleagues. What brings you refreshment to lead more effectively and positively tomorrow and beyond? Make self-care meaningful and rejuvenating to you. Consider discovering your reactor type to pinpoint what self-care actions are most beneficial for you. Or you might take the free rest quiz and find which type of seven suggested modes of rest you most need to increase to better your self-care.

Stacking self-care practices at work is effective as both a tool for building resilience081023 - Dawn Blog Image 6 and a model for your employees’ personal lives. Keep meetings to specific days and less than an hour with pointed purposes and communication. Use walking meetings for 2-4 team members or gather outside in nature for a standing meeting. Use silence for creative brainstorming. Plan in transition time in each meeting for employee minds to catch up to their body and genuinely offer the chance to take a few deep cleansing breaths. Demystify rest rooms (other than for elimination) for 15-30 minute power naps with relaxing music available. Model reflection, vulnerable emotions, and failure showing your ability to learn and grow. Communicate boundaries to your consumers when your staff is available and thank them for helping you keep your team well. Don’t send evening or weekend emails to help your staff not feel pressure to do so.

You are not too busy to care for yourself, but you must first choose yourself. As a leader, you must set the tone and be an example in prioritizing self-care at work and in your personal life.

Some people find the following avenues of self-care helpful. See what works for you. Consider adding an extra 10 minutes a day after a month. Self-care is indeed a process and a practice. Work cultures need to prioritize the wellness of their employees. They do this by providing ample opportunities baked into their workplace processes by caring for their healthcare workers’ and teachers’ mental, social, emotional, and physical wellness. Only then will each organization’s mission thrive when staffed with holistically developed healthy members. Plan the processes of self-care in your organization. Practice more self-care yourself as a leader. Your clients, patients, customers, students, and family depend on you.   

Transforming influence alongside you, 

Dawn Signature


Resources Used in This Month’s Blog:

Additional Resources on Self-Care Process and Practice in Nursing and Education:

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Dawn Yoder Graber
Post by Dawn Yoder Graber
August 10, 2023
Coach to Rising Women Executives & Energizing Educator for your Team’s Targeted Learning Opportunities.