Self-care during the winter: A time to pause?

It’s official. 

I’m sick of winter.

I’m tired of sunless days, endless snow shovelling, frigid temperatures and ongoing sniffles and sneezing.

I think most Canadians are feeling like I do right about now. 

Self-care is always challenging but it’s especially tough during the winter.  All I want to do is be under a blanket, drink tea and watch Netflix.

But is that such a bad thing? 

Years ago, when I worked in the international development field, I met a brilliant, young agronomist from Ethiopia.  We met in February and when I asked him how he was getting through his first Canadian winter, he explained that we were lucky to experience winter because it gave the earth time to rest which resulted in better crops.  He eloquently explained that snow was a blanket from Mother Nature as a way to protect the earth and regulate the temperature of the surface. Also, melting snow filled rivers and lakes.  How could I argue with that?


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HAPPY in Oregon - An example of student & school staff well-being

Great things are happening in the David Douglas School District in Oregon.  Really great things for both students and school staff specifically at Menlo Park Elementary School. 

If you are wondering how a Canadian educator learned about this school in the US, I was the keynote speaker at the recent ORTESOL conference where I spoke about teacher self-care.  When I asked the audience of approximately 100 educators who had a teacher well-being initiative at their school, only ONE teacher raised her hand. A loud gasp from the audience followed! Immediately teachers asked where she worked!

I was curious to learn more about Menlo Park Elementary School so I arranged a phone call with principal Kellie Burkhardt who has been at this school for 6 years.  The school is very diverse - 25 languages are spoken by the student population.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, possible text that says 'Happy Principal's Appreciation Week! Menlo Park is lucky to have Mrs. Burkhardt. Help us celebrate her this week!'

How it started

First of all, the David Douglas School District is committed to employee health and wellness with the goal to create a...

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7 reasons why teacher self-care is not a thing

teacher self-care Nov 20, 2019

Teacher self-care is a thing.  An important thing.

I attended the TESOL Convention earlier this year where I had a conversation with a teacher about the work that I’m doing and the book I wrote about teacher self-care. She had a strange look on her face and said: “teacher self-care is a thing?” I wasn’t surprised when she responded that way because a few years ago, I would have said the same thing.

In 2015, I left classroom teaching after a 20-year career due to professional burn-out. Sadly, self-care was not part of my vocabulary especially during times of excessive stress when I should have been taking care of myself. I had no idea what the signs of burnout were so I’m now on a mission as a teacher self-care crusader and advocate to talk about its importance. I hope that by speaking out, I can help teachers avoid what I went through and sustain their careers.

Why don’t we think teacher self-care is a thing? I believe there are seven reasons...

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Is email your biggest distraction?

If you answered yes, then you are part of a growing group of people that feel email is their single BIGGEST distraction. 

Not only does email impede our productivity, according to Jocelyn K. Glei, author of Unsubscribe – How to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions and get real work done, it also impacts our creativity. 

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky are Google employees and the authors of Make Time - How to Focus on What Matters Every Day. They describe the downside of hopping on the “busy bandwagon” and offer ways to optimize our habits and routines to have more time each day including how to manage email.

Glei believes that we have a love-hate relationship with email because we treat it like a task and not a tool.  For example, if your goal for the day is to get to “inbox zero”, then you are just adding stress to your already busy day. Glei, Knapp & Zeratsky agree that having an empty inbox is unrealistic.


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An unexpected "Canadian gift": First Nations, All Nations, One Nation

The standard protocol for presenting at TESL conferences in Canada is that the presenter receives an honorarium and a card expressing thanks from the organizing committee.  It's a nice gesture and I always appreciate it.   

So when I received the most beautiful bag last week for presenting at the TEAM conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba I was moved when I learned about One Nation Exchange,  my bag, and Angela.


First of all, let me start with information about One Nation Exchange (O.N.E.)   It's a not-for-profit organization that promotes unity by creating opportunities for intercultural experiences, training, and employment for women who represent Canada's diverse cultures.

It all started in 2014 in Winnipeg, a city with the highest urban indigenous population in Canada.  That year, the province welcomed the highest recorded number of refugees per capita in the country.

The idea to bring First Nations women and...

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Why I finally told my story of burn-out


By the time I saw this quote on social media, it was too late.  I needed this advice at the start of my 20-year teaching career, not when it was over.  I never practiced self-care even when I experienced some major life events.  Self-care was just not part of my vocabulary.

When I left teaching in 2015, I didn't realize at the time that I had actually burned out.  Jokingly, I told my colleagues I was retiring.  To be honest, I felt weak because I couldn't and didn't want to teach any longer but I also felt sad because teaching ESL was a career I had loved.  

Sometime in 2017,  I started to read about teacher stress and burn-out. I had no idea that there was actually a Maslach Teacher Inventory to measure burn-out!  Nor did I know how frequently teachers were leaving the profession. I wasn't alone but I wondered if there was something I could have done differently to avoid burn-out.

When I googled teacher well-being, it lead...

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Can we really reclaim 2 hours a day?

I’m a big fan of The Blue Zones - an organization that helps people live better and longer lives based on research from some of the world’s longest-lived cultures (  Perhaps you're familiar with the founder Dan Buettner’s best-selling 2017 book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World's Happiest People.

When I saw the latest Blue Zones blog post headline Free Up 2 Hours a Day with This Exercise today, it caught my eye. Blog titles are meant to grab our attention, make us stop what we are doing and read. But is this title misleading?  (Read the full article here:

In my work as a teacher well-being and self-care advocate and writer, the number one reason why teachers tell me they can’t practice self-care is they don’t have time. I was an educator for more than 20 years and never practiced self-care, so I get it. People seem to be busier and more stressed due to growing personal...

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Teacher wellness rooms - timing or trending?

In the past few weeks, I’ve read several articles on social media about teacher wellness or self-care rooms in U.S. schools.

The abundance of these articles makes me wonder whether it’s timing (schools are back in session in North America) or trending.

I wanted to take a deeper dive into teacher wellness rooms to see why schools are jumping on this bandwagon. 

First of all, here is a bit of research on teacher stress as a backgrounder:

- teachers experience as much stress as paramedics and police officers (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald, Taylor & Millet, 2005).

- 80% of Canadian teachers feel their stress levels have increased over the last 5 years (Froese-Germain, 2014).

- students are negatively affected by teacher stress and burn-out (Arens & Morin, 2016)

- the chronic use of empathy and depletion of emotional resources are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout for teachers (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).

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What teachers need to know about introverts


What was on your summer reading list? 

Did you find the time to read everything you wanted to read? 

Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain ( has been on my bookshelf for years. I finally read it this summer and I loved it! Even though it was written in 2012, the content is still relevant and can be applied to teaching.  

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As a self-proclaimed introvert, I could see myself over and over again in the many examples provided throughout the book. According to Cain, at least 1/3 of people are introverts. (If you aren't sure where you fall on the scale, take the survey in the book).

Cain defines introverts as

“people who prefer quieter, more minimally stimulating environments".

She further explains that

"extroverts feel at their best and crave a high degree of stimulation but for introverts, the optimal zone is much lower".

In Western society, extroverted...

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What I learned from digital detoxing


I’ve seen a lot of articles in the past year or so related to digital detoxes – why we should do it, how to do it, the benefits, etc.

It’s no surprise that people are writing about this topic because we have become reliant on technology and at an earlier and earlier age.  (Just this morning while walking through the beautiful trails near my home, I saw a parent riding a bicycle pulling a child in a basket while he/she played on a cell phone. Now I’m a parent so who am I to judge, but there seems to be something wrong with spending time in nature while staring at a screen!  And it’s not just kids!)

So, what exactly is a digital detox?  The Oxford Dictionaries Online added this definition in 2013:

a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world. 

e.g. "break free of...

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