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14 Jul 2023 7:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Shelly Maldonando, ISCA Taskforce member, Elementary School Counselor, International School of Kenya

It seems like every week when I read educational journals and news there is at least one article that talks about more and more teachers burning out and leaving the profession. It made me think about counselors.  If teachers are burned out, what does that mean for counselors?  Not only are we tackling the social, emotional, and academic deficits in our school communities, we are often tasked or feel responsible for trying to uphold the teachers and administrators who are burning out at our schools.  Who is taking care of us?  

To be completely honest, after 15 years as a school counselor, I thought about leaving the profession last year.  I felt like I was working endlessly and, at times, fruitlessly, for months on end and asked myself, “Can I sustain this amount of stress and continue to be a school counselor for 10 more years?”  The answer to this question was relatively simple.  NO if I continued to work and live the way I was, and YES if I took better care of myself.

So, fellow counselors, I have made some pretty big changes that have helped me to find some balance and more happiness as a counselor and in life.  Here are some things I have tried that I hope can help you too.

Take things off your plate that are less important and get in the way of being successful.

I was on at least three committees, advising a student group, coaching a sport, and helping multiple grade levels with initiatives.  I realized it was too much. I wrote down everything that I was committed to and made myself think about what I could let go of and when to say “No”.  In one article, the author talks about the power of un-committing yourself to tasks (Littlefield, 2019).  It may be time to re-evaluate your goals and commitments to see if they are fulfilling you or even feasible.  Also, it may be more beneficial to delegate so there is less pressure for you to accomplish the task (Rockwell, n.d.).

Find time to do Mindfulness or Meditation

This is probably the greatest decision I made when realizing my life was feeling out of my control.  Daily mindfulness, for 5 to 10 minutes, has changed my life.  I have found that I am more patient, feel more in control, and live more in the moment than I was before.  I choose to do mindfulness before coming to work every day. There are many apps that are recommended for mindfulness, and most of them are free (Develop Good Habits, 2021), you can find many within the ISCA resources pages.  I love finding mindfulness sites on Youtube that are easy to use and can vary from one to thirty minute practices (Calzadilla, 2021).  Mindfulness has been proven to increase focus and improve sleep for people who have daily practice. 

Last week during International School Counselor Week, ISCA celebrated counselors ability to model self care. There are some useful resources on the ISCW website, including an 11-minute mindfulness practice by Lina Paumgarten, an ISCA Taskforce member and Wellness Coordinator. 

Get active and get fresh air

When feeling quite stressed or overwhelmed during the work day, I gave myself 5 minutes to leave my office and go outside.  I will take five to ten minute walks around campus to get my mind off of emails, meetings, and responsibilities.  After taking these brief breaks, I am better able to focus on and accomplish tasks.  I also find time in my day to move my body. I now have a standing desk, which helps me feel healthier and alert and I find time to take walks, swim, or do yoga at least a few times a week.  If you have never done yoga or do not know where to start, I recommend Yoga with Adriene on Youtube.  It is free and she offers many 30 day yoga challenges that are great for beginners and more advanced yogis.  I recommend starting with the 30-day BREATH series.

If you still do not know where to start…

Many people have been exploring more ways to find balance and wellness in their lives.  For those of us who are more social and like to work with partners or teams, try to find a wellness accountability partner (Heath, 2020).  This will help you stick to your goals towards wellness and finding balance and you can help someone do the same. If you like to stay organized and are task-oriented, you may want to create a weekly self-care checklist to keep yourself accountable (Pangilinan, 2020).  You can determine the things that are most important for your well-being and try to do these daily.  

We will always have a big to-do list and be busy as school counselors, but we have the ability to make some small changes that can help us feel healthy and more in control of our lives.  Give yourself a chance and stay healthy.


Calzadilla, S. (2021, March 25).  15 Best Meditation Youtube Channels for 2021. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/meditation-youtube-channels/

Centerstone. (n.d.) How to get your life back into balance, https://centerstone.org/our-resources/health-wellness/life-balance/

Develop Good Habits (2021, December 15). 15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps for 2022. https://www.developgoodhabits.com/best-mindfulness-apps/

Heath, E. (2020, August 4). Skipped your workout — again? An accountability partner can help you meet your fitness goals. The Washington Post.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/skipped-your-workout--again-an-accountability-partner-can-help-you-meet-your-fitness-goals/2020/08/03/a1b15202-d109-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html

Littlefield, C. (2019, February 8). The Power of Un-Committing: How to take things off your plate.  Thrive Global.https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-power-of-un-committing-how-to-take-things-off-your-plate/

Pangilinan, J. (2020, August 25). 11 Self Care Checklists to Take Care of Your Daily Needs. Happier Human.https://www.happierhuman.com/self-care-checklist/

Rockwell, D. (n.d.). 9 Ways to get stuff off your plate. Leadership Freak. https://leadershipfreak.blog/2014/05/17/9-ways-to-get-stuff-off-your-plate/

Scuderi, R. (n.d.) 10 Simple ways to find balance and get your life back. Lifehack. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-simple-ways-to-find-balance-and-get-your-life-back.html

Tanjeloff, J. (n.d.)    How to create a balanced life: 9 ways to feel calm and grounded. Tinybuddha.https://tinybuddha.com/blog/9-tips-to-create-a-balanced-life/

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