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SEL Spotlight

‘Tis the Season: 12 Days of Self-Care

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self-care

Everyone knows it’s the season of giving, but for educators who give 100% of themselves to others every day, winter break offers an opportunity to re-charge and give yourself the care you deserve.

If you think that sounds selfish, THINK AGAIN! The truth is that by taking care of yourself, you will have more to give to others. In the long run, making time to take care of yourself is the greatest gift you can give to everyone you care about.

In the spirit of the season, we’ve turned our guide to self-care into a re-mix of a classic holiday song. Get ready for it…

The 12 Days of Self-Care

Forget the partridge and the pear tree.  Click each day below to reveal all new lyrics you can sing to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas” (please note: this guide is for EVERYONE, regardless of what holidays you celebrate).

On the first day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

A nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the second day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the third day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the fourth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

4 hot baths (or showers!), 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the fifth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

5 long walks,  4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the sixth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the seventh day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

7 mindful moments, 6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the eighth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

8 binge-watched episodes, 7 mindful moments, 6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the ninth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

9 deep breaths, 8 binge-watched episodes, 7 mindful moments, 6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the tenth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

10 painted nails, 9 deep breaths, 8 binge-watched episodes, 7 mindful moments, 6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the eleventh day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

11 favorite songs, 10 painted nails, 9 deep breaths, 8 binge-watched episodes, 7 mindful moments, 6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

On the twelfth day of winter break, my true self gave to me…

12 tech-free hours, 11 favorite songs, 10 painted nails, 9 deep breaths, 8 binge-watched episodes, 7 mindful moments, 6 hours of reading, 5 long walks, 4 hot baths, 3 healthy meals, 2 chats with friends, and a nap with my favorite blankie!

*note: all ideas to be enjoyed over the course of break, not just on one day!

How to Get the Most Out of Your 12 Days of Self-Care

Remember that the point of self-care is to reduce stress, so the number one guideline for success is to keep it simple and do the stuff that you truly enjoy. Keep in mind that our list was compiled to give you ideas and inspiration – it is by no means prescriptive. Feel free to sub in different activities for those we suggest, and do the things you love on the days when you can.

All of this said, for most people, self-care only happens when you plan and set aside time for it. Make a plan at the beginning of break about when and what you can do for yourself each day and try to stick to it. If you miss a day, don’t be hard on yourself, just try to get back on track the next day.

Lastly, get creative and use the ideas in our song for inspiration. Nearly all of them can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Below we offer a bit more detail about how you can customize each idea to suit your personal preferences and needs.

Day 1: Sleep

A new study from Boston University highlights the way that sleep physically washes toxins from your brain. To give your brain a deep clean over the winter break, luxuriate in a few afternoon naps and get plenty of sleep every night. 

Day 2: Connect

Human connection with friends and loved ones is one of the best things you can do to boost your spirits. Getting together in person is ideal, but a phone call can also work wonders. Reach out to someone you don’t spend enough time with and re-connect for a while.

Day 3: Eat Well

Now that you’re away from all the tempting treats in the teacher’s lounge, make a plan for a healthy and delicious winter break. Nourish your body with whole foods and just enough indulgence to make it feel like vacation!

Day 4: Soak

A long, hot bath or shower can melt away layers of stress. If you can, invest in some special body wash and lotions and take time to let it all soak in.

Day 5: Walk

Even if it’s cold out, taking time to get outside each day and breath in fresh air can go a long way towards combating stress. Plan for a few long walks over the break, whether it’s around your neighborhood or in a nearby park or forest preserve. Make sure to dress for the weather and get out there! Need more inspiration to get over the cold? Read about the Norwegian Secret to a Long Winter.

Day 6: Read

Do you encourage your students to read a book or two over the break? Be a role model and do the same! Set aside a little time each day, get cozy with a blanket, and escape into the pages of that new bestseller or all-time classic you’ve been meaning to read.

Day 7: Be Mindful

Use the break to explore mindfulness in whatever way appeals to you. Whether it’s a yoga class, a guided meditation app, daily journaling, or just a few moments of quiet reflection, find time to turn inward and reflect.

Day 8: Watch Something Good

We live in a new age of entertainment, and it’s quite likely there are a few great Netflix/Amazon/Hulu series you haven’t had a chance to watch yet. No guilt required – many of these are high-quality programs and, in any case, you deserve the escape that a great session of binge-watching provides! Best of all: most of the entertainment subscription channels offer free trials, so winter break is the perfect time to take advantage and check out what you’ve been missing!

Day 9: Breathe

How often do you feel like you need to slow down and catch your breath? Whether speaking figuratively or not, learning to spend just a minute or two a day on focused and intentional breathing will work wonders for your physical and mental health. One of our favorites is the 4-7-8 technique (breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold breath for count of 7, exhale through your mouth for a count of 8).

Day 10: Self-Pamper

Self-pampering is a great way to treat yourself and can range from an inexpensive D-I-Y pedicure to a full-blown trip to the spa. If you go with D-I-Y, take care to create an atmosphere of pampering. Play soft music, light a candle, pour yourself a glass of something bubbly, and enjoy taking time to focus on yourself!

Day 11: Favorite Tunes

Got a favorite album or playlist you haven’t listened to in a while? Give your spirits a boost by cranking up the volume and listening to the whole thing.

Day 12: Unplug 

In our always-connected world, it’s surprising how refreshing a “technology vacation” can be. Commit to unplugging from all technology for one full day and see what happens! Let people who call or text you frequently know ahead of time so they don’t worry about you. Of course, you can leave your phone on for emergencies but try not to use it for anything else! And turn off Alexa, while you’re at it. She’ll still be there tomorrow!


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Margot Toppen

Margot Toppen

Margot Toppen is a visionary educator who works at the intersection of SEL, arts, and physical education.

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