Teacher Connections: Taking Care Of You

In this post from API’s “Teacher Connections” series, Tyler, a current teacher in Colombia and API study abroad alum, talks about the importance of self-care.

Note from API – Tyler studied Psychology at Southern Oregon University before going on to work as a Mentor in a residential behavioral and addiction treatment program. During his college years, he also worked in a rock climbing gym, led outdoor excursions, and organized service events for his fellow students. His great advice in this post comes from years of education, professional dedication, and personal experience!

Self-care, or tending to one’s own health and well-being, is something everybody should think about. When we fail to take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we may find ourselves becoming ill, either physically or mentally, or both. Self-care is especially important for teachers. Our profession has one of the highest rates of burnout. Add to that the issues that arise when we are in a foreign country, such as cultural differences, language barriers, and being so far away from home–all of which can compound the negative aspects that lead to burnout–and you can start to see why self-care is so fundamental in this line of work.

In my mind, self-care boils down to two main categories: physical and emotional. Having two separate categories can help you stay on top of your self-care needs. It’s easy to think, “what have I done for my physical well-being today?” or “what do I feel I need to do for my emotional health?” However, if you tried to make a list of activities that fit into one of these categories, you would end up needing to make a Venn diagram because there is so much overlap! For example, exercising, sleeping well, and eating healthy all have both physical and emotional benefits. Additionally, something such as spending time with friends would intuitively be categorized as emotional self-care, but there are also many physical benefits to maintaining a healthy social life.

Perhaps what is more important than how you categorize your self-care is how you manage to do self-care regardless of the circumstances. For me, part of going to another country meant giving up some of my main methods of self-care. I had a routine of rock climbing and mountain biking. I ate certain foods. I had strong, healthy social connections. Not all of that was going to come with me on the flight to Colombia. Since arriving in Bucaramanga, I’ve found other ways to stay committed to my well-being. I’ve created new friendships, while also staying in touch with my family and friends back home. I’ve found a local rock climbing gym where I can keep up with one of my favorite sports. Every Friday, a group of English Teaching Fellows and locals gets together to play soccer. I’m not any good, but the routine, the exercise, and the time with friends leaves me feeling balanced and healthy after a long week of teaching. Also, I brought a guitar with me from the United States because playing the guitar is crucial to my emotional well-being.

Rock Climbing at La Mojarra near Bucaramanga, Santander, Colombia

Rock Climbing at La Mojarra near Bucaramanga, Santander, Colombia

So, if you’re already here in Colombia, how have you been taking care of your body and mind? Or, if you are on your way, what are you going to do for your physical and emotional well-being? The truth is that not every moment of your time here will be perfect, nor will you always be happy. Your experience will be nuanced and enigmatic, but you will have the tools to make it through all of the difficulties that teaching and cultural shock will throw at you. Just remember to take care of yourself!

Playing soccer with friends in Bucaramanga

Playing soccer with friends in Bucaramanga

To learn more about the Teach in Colombia program that Tyler is a part of, click here:

Applications for the March/April and June/July 2017 start are currently being accepted!


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