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Self-care for retiring education workers: How to do it and why

Retirement is an ideal time to design and implement or update your self-care system—it’s a time in life when your ultimate goal can be to take care of yourself.

Roles change after retirement. You might take on a second career that’s less stressful; you may find you have relatively fewer responsibilities with more time flexibility and possibly financial freedom.

Plus, many people retiring from education and other careers go through an emotional transition when they retire, and introspection and planning at this point in life can be very rewarding and helpful in the future.

What is self-care

Self-care is taking care of yourself! It’s taking ownership of your wellness and doing what you can to maintain and optimize your health and well-being.

According to the World Health Organization, self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.

It means different things to different people, and there’s no single right way to do self-care.

Why engage in self-care

Your self-care activities have a cumulative impact. As you develop and sustain a self-care practice, you will start to notice changes in how you feel. You will be more resilient and better able to cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.  You may have more energy, generally feel more positive and engaged in life, and you may feel motivated to try different things. And your self-care activities can also impact your physical health.

Myths about self-care

What do you think of when you think of self-care? Perhaps it’s expensive, you don’t have time, or it’s self-indulgent? These are some of the myths.

Self-care doesn’t have to cost a lot – there are many ways to care for yourself that are free. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. Don’t think of it as a major one-off activity, like a vacation or spa day, but rather the daily accumulation of small efforts to take care of yourself – from getting quality sleep to eating well, moving, being mindful, and maintaining positive relationships.

And self-care is far from self-indulgent – deep down, you know that. You’ve heard the phrase you can’t pour from an empty cup, right? And plenty of research also shows that taking breaks makes us more productive.

Critical challenges that prevent self-care

There are various reasons people don’t engage in self-care activities. These are some of the common ones.

  • Workaholism
  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Excuses – no time
  • Think it’s expensive
  • People pleasing
  • Perfectionism
  • Life transformations
  • Compassion fatigue

How to tell when you need more self-care

Some of the reasons you’re not engaging in self-care may also be indications to help you realize you’d benefit from focusing more on yourself.

Watch for these red flags to help you decide whether you’d benefit from more self-care in your life:

  • Loss of pleasure and enjoyment
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Concentration problems
  • Increased errors
  • Loss of objectivity
  • Isolation
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Relationship issues
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

If any of these are resonating, know you’re worthy and deserving of feeling well and enjoying life, and you can start today to make changes that will redirect the trajectory you’re currently on.

How to design a self-care system

Once you recognize your need for self-care, you can begin to take steps to add it to your life. There’s no single way to do self-care, and your approach can be based on your unique interests and goals. Here are some tips to help:

  • Accept that self-care is an investment and indulge in it daily—look for micro-moments to give yourself care. This can be as simple as a short walk, quiet time to listen to music, a brief meditation or a hot shower or bath. Consider the small things that give you a feeling of joy, comfort, soothing or support – it might help to make a list!
  • Try something new or return to an old interest – trying new activities is a great way to form new connections and find activities to get lost in. Schedule time for activities you enjoy. Check out our list of 50 things to do in retirement for some ideas.
  • Explore and practice – as you try new activities, recognize you need to do them more than once to start to see benefits. Things may feel uncomfortable initially, and you may try to talk yourself out of it. Remember that discomfort is part of growth.
  • Remind yourself why you’re doing self-care. It supports your overall longevity and helps you enjoy life. It also enables you to show up better for others. Recognize that you have support, but ultimately the quality of your self-care is your responsibility.

Share – tell others, and your experience becomes richer. Sharing the activities you enjoy can help inspire others and form a community.

Download the ultimate retirement planning resource bundle for Canadian education workers

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This post is based on a presentation to RTOERO members by Alka Chopra, a registered dietitian and self-care advocate.  Access to presentations with expert speakers is one of the benefits of RTOERO membership.

Do you work in any role in the education sector in Canada – or did you previously work in such a role for at least five years in your career? If so, you’re eligible for membership. Your membership is free until you retire or join our Entente Group Insurance Program.