At the end of a busy, draining period at work, how do you reset for a new week? Aimee Blazek, a history teacher from Mount St Patrick College in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, says you can’t pour from an empty cup, and shares her strategies for filling her cup back up.

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Teaching takes a lot from my cup. Every day, I pour a little bit of my emotional self out in the form of helping students who are experiencing problems with their friendship groups, home life and all things teen. It goes without saying that my intellectual self is wholly committed to teaching and is poured freely into the all-important task of educating young minds.

And then there are the physical needs of teaching, constantly being on my feet, walking to, from and around classes, not to mention the time sitting at desks to complete all the administrative tasks of the daily grind. I am constantly pouring and emptying my cup for others.

I’ve emptied my cup completely several times. It always creeps up slowly, but surely, in the background under the guise of contributing to the greater good. And every time there has been that nagging feeling of overwhelm and fatigue, with the thought of taking time out inducing feelings of guilt and anxiety. But the thing is, if I took the time to draw a breath and re-align myself, the whole situation would have been averted. And everyone, all the demands, could have been met if only I had put myself first.

Filling my cup, and making sure it is full is now very much a priority. It doesn’t mean that I’m selfish or uncaring. Far from it. And it doesn’t mean that I am 100 per cent successful at putting my needs first either. It’s a daily struggle, but one that I am now winning.

So, what does filling my cup look like? For me, exercise is my number one go-to for personal wellbeing. Yes, I love a little online shopping and getting my hair and nails done, but the benefits of these activities are short lived. Exercise, on the other hand, provides me with so much more than a short-term happiness injection.

Firstly, endorphins. The hit of all those happy hormones coursing through my body makes a morning run worthwhile. Do I run every day? No. Let's be real here – I also like and need sleep too. But running, walking and moving in any way shape or form, is a priority.

When I don’t move I feel sluggish, physically and mentally. When I do move with purpose, not just the incidental walk to and from the classroom, I am a happy human being and I can give so much more with a smile on my face.

Strength training is my main wellbeing squeeze. I like to lift heavy things. There are still endorphins, but there is the added bonus of knowing that I can take on the weight of the world (with correct form), and completely own it. The physicality of an exercise such as med ball slams or deadlifts are particular favourites, providing an emotional outlet for any pent up feelings from a day in the classroom. I’m not saying emotions are bad, far from it. But the ability to move any negative emotion out of my body in a positive way always puts a little bit of magic back into my cup.

Lastly, the clarity that yoga provides for me on all levels – emotional, physical, mental, and to some degree spiritual – cannot be overlooked. Over the past 12 months, when COVID-19 restrictions have allowed, I’ve attended a weekly Sunday afternoon yoga class and it set me up for the week ahead. It is an opportunity to reflect, focus purely on myself, and reset. As my yoga teacher Clare says, it's my yoga practice and it’s an opportunity to nourish my body. It ensures that my cup is full, ready to pour for the week ahead.

Are you an educator working in a school setting? If so, are you interested in submitting an article for publication on Wellbeing by Teacher? We’d love to hear about how you care for your own wellbeing. Reach out to the team by emailing with your story idea. We’ve also put together a handy guide to help you get started.