Personal and Professional Reflections: Practicing Self-Care to Fully Recharge as a High School Counselor

As high school counselors, we’re always preaching about “practicing self-care to recharge” to our students (and basically anyone we come in contact with)! But how often are we reflecting on that advice to ourselves?

I will be the first to admit that practicing self-care as a means to recharge actually makes me feel lazy. I always feel like I should be doing something with more efficiency than practicing self-care. I want to see results from everything I do in a practical, tangible, and visible way.

However, I am learning that just because I don’t see instant results from practicing self-care does not mean that it was a waste of time or that it’s not something I should pursue.

Practicing self-care in personal and professional settings can result in a powerful reflection on your role as a high school counselor and keep you moving forward in the midst of hard seasons in this career. Here are 3 ideas for practicing self-care personally and professionally to keep yourself recharged and motivated as a high school counselor.

1- When you change your mindset, you’re practicing self-care.

This is not some fluffy positivity pep talk. This is real talk. You get to choose every day if this is the career for you and if you’re ready to impact students in a meaningful way.

You must decide that practicing self-care is important. It’s a mindset shift of all mindset shifts. The world will keep fighting for your attention, and you will always be able to find excuses for not pursuing self-care in your personal life. Instead of thinking, I don’t have enough hours in the day, you have to decide to prioritize your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. No one else is going to do that for you.

In your professional life, too, there are things that make the mindset work tough, too. I think the 3 hardest things I’ve encountered in this career are: counseling students through grief, holding my own with mean parents, and changing the minds of unsupportive staff. If your work burdens are toxic, it might be time to look for a new setting to practice school counseling in.

However, if you know that working with students still brings you life (even if you’re tired and drained), you’re still in the right place. If you need to do some “thought work” to get yourself in the right headspace to remember this, now is the time!

Read through your thank you notes from students. The skills you’ve taught students are seeds that you’re planting that will help them months and years down the road. You may be surprised who you hear from later.

Sort through your kind emails from parents. Don’t have emails like this? I bet you’re just not saving them. Time to create a “good things” folder in your email for encouragement when you need it most.

Look at pictures from graduation. If you haven’t taken pictures at graduation before… I recommend doing it! It’s so fun, and students feel so special. You’re instantly human to them when you connect in this way.

You’ve impacted more students and families than you can even remember! In the hustle of your hectic every day, you’re not pausing long enough to remember these things. Students are different because of what you do as a high school counselor! One minute of changing your mindset and remembering your why with students and families is an amazing opportunity for practicing self-care.

2- When you’re willing to grow and learn, you’re practicing self-care.

Growing and learning as a high school counselor can mean a variety of things. Any way that you look at it, you’re practicing self-care.

This could mean picking up a hobby that forces you to put down your phone like knitting, crocheting, painting, or reading. (I thought I had given up on reading, but I have recently been inspired to get back into reading fiction. It’s been amazing for my imagination to be captivated in a meaningful way!)

Maybe you need to move your body just to get your heart rate up. It doesn’t have to be a life-changing commitment. It can be 15-30 minutes each day of popping a podcast into your earbuds and taking time to recharge in a physical way. When I move my body, I am growing in a way that helps me honor my commitment to my health and my future self.

On the other hand, this can be in a professional setting like joining a high school counseling membership/community or attending a counselor fly-in conference. It could mean digging deeper to find relevant professional development that you’ll use, learn from, and love.

3- When you prioritize your time, you’re practicing self-care.

I’m the queen of “I don’t have enough time” or “there aren’t enough hours in the day” as my number 1 excuse for just about anything! My to-do lists are miles long, and they never seem to end.

I’m a fan of tech tools when it comes to the school counseling world, but in my personal life… the old-fashioned iPhone reminder list on my phone has been a game-changer.

A recent strategy of mine has been grouping my tasks by the physical location they need to be completed. For example, I have a reminder list on my iPhone for errands that require me to leave my home (for example, running to the UPS store or dropping something off at a friend’s house). I also have a list of personal things that need to be done at my computer. (This helps me not get distracted by online shopping when I sit down at my computer to work.) This has given my brain permission to relax when I’m not completing those tasks in that place. Grouping my tasks by their physical location has been monumental in helping me prioritize my time.

In my school counseling life, my world ran on Google calendar. I used Calendly to sync appointments which valued everyone’s time because it creates such an efficient system. I had our clerk set up my 504 meetings and put them on my Google calendar that I shared with her. (These meetings were the bane of my existence, and I realized that scheduling them was the thing that put me over the edge.) Running efficient, time-saving systems in my school counseling program made me a better (and a happier!) school counselor. When my time was prioritized towards seeing and serving students, I was reminding myself of how much I loved my job… practicing self-care even while at work!

Prioritizing yourself as a high school counselor is the only way you’ll make it in this career for the long term. If you burn out personally or professionally, you will not be helpful to students. You’re practicing self-care when you change your mindset, when you’re willing to grow and learn, and when you prioritize your time. Don’t let anyone (even yourself) tell you otherwise! Decide where you need to make a change, and get to it!

Download this free Self-Care Goal Sheet, and set a self-care goal in six different categories!

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