You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

-Eleanor Brown

It is widely quoted and accepted that you can’t pour from an empty cup. But how many of us actively practice replenishing ourselves?

With the welcoming break of Thanksgiving vacation for educators it should bring about the reset button to relax, enjoy time with our friends and families, catch up on TV shows/movies, and start holiday shopping. However, sometimes this is not necessarily the truth. True we may spend a few days relaxing but then our brains go back to thinking about work and then we start working on our next great adventure for our classroom/school, grading papers, writing evaluations..etc. We begin to repeat the vicious cycle of not truly taking time for ourselves.

Last month myself and a fellow educator friend facilitated a professional development session for instructional coaches on incorporating self-care into the coaching role. In speaking to the coaches, what we discovered was that the biggest factor that they had to overcome in their roles was guilt! Guilt for taking the time for themselves and guilt for saying no.  

I can think back to many times where I began to feel incredibly unwell, but continued to push myself out of guilt and the fear of saying no.  Until one day two years ago, I had an epiphany (a coming to Jesus moment), that although I was pouring into to others, I wasn’t pouring into taking care of myself.  In the process I was losing site of my why; my core values and beliefs. When I finally decided to take time out for myself, it felt like I had woken up after being asleep for a long time.  Was it easy? No. I still a work in progress. However, once I started to take the steps for self-care, it awakened and renewed my spirit to be able serve others in a healthier mindset vs. an unhealthy mindset.

When we are stressed out, self-care is often the first thing we let go in addition to losing site of our why (our core values and beliefs).  We begin to take on other’s core values and belief systems rather than living by our own. Why is it we let go of self-care when we are stressed?  Barbara Markway, Phd explains in Psychology Today a few reasons that that is the case.

  1. Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows.
  2. We’re so busy trying to solve problems that we’re stuck in “doing mode
  3. We may not have a “go to” list of self-care activities.

So once we wake up, so to speak, how do we practice self-care, what can we put on our list of self-care activities. For those of us that can, a retreat is a lovely way to have time and space for self. But if that is not an option at the moment, here are a few simple suggestions:


Are your drinking enough water? It sounds simple, but being hydrated is important for health and feeling good. Dehydration can lead to headaches and feeling tired among other things. So self care tip #1 is getting the recommended 8 glasses of water a day.

Eat Well

Start your day fueled up. You’ll have more energy and be in a better frame of mind to deal with whatever comes your way in the classroom/at work.

Get Moving

Exercise is important to health and it can boost moods, but has time? Try one of these:

  • Start a walking club before, during lunch, or after school with other teachers.
  • Have a surprise dance party with your students to burn off some energy.


We all know teaching is a stressful job and it’s critical to find ways to release stress and relax. One thing you can use anywhere and in just a few minutes is deep breathing.


Join a group of like minded individuals who can understand what you are going through.  It can be either for professional, personal, and/or spiritual self-care. As Helen Keller states-“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  Find your PLN and/or personal tribe to collaborate, reflect, and learn and grow from one another.

Have some fun!

Get out of your classroom, office, or off your couch at home from working, take a day off from prepping anything, and do something you love. Taking the time for things we are passionate about (besides teaching) helps refill us so we have more to give and avoid burnout. So hangout and laugh with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Read a book for pleasure. Make a list of 5 things you love to do that energize you. Pick one-do it today.

As we begin to wind down the last quarter of 2018, think:  How do you define taking care of yourself? Think about that and then, create a new self-care practice, starting today!

In the words of writer Audre Lorde— self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. Take care of yourself, start today, you are worth it!

PS: This blog post was inspired by the presentation my fellow friend and I put together for the Illinois Council of Instructional Coaching.  Thank you to my professional development presenter partner in crime Meagan Dillon for working to put together our presentation You Can’t Pour From and Empty Cup: Incorporating Self-Care into the Coaching Role.  The presentation is below for your viewing pleasure! Enjoy! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s