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When Self Care Isn’t Enough: Musings on “Self Care Sunday” for School Psychologists

What do we do when we are practicing “self care” behaviors, but we are still stressed about our high caseloads as school psychologists?

As many readers know, I built a whole course and community around self care for school psychologists, because when school psychologists thrive, the students we serve thrive. I created the course I wish existed, because I was tired of spending my weekends writing reports instead of enjoying my life, and I was saddened whenever I saw incredibly talented school psychologists quit and leave the profession due to stress and disenchantment.

In the Thriving School Psychologist Community, we keep each other accountable toward our self-care goals, because information is not transformation. I’m sure there’s not a single school psychologist reading this who is thinking, “Wait, what? Self-care is important? LET ME GET A PEN AND WRITE THAT DOWN.” It’s not the what, it’s the how. That’s what we are learning in the Collective and what I want to share far and wide to all you talent school psychologists out there!

Another beacon of hope I’ve seen lately, is that #SelfCareSunday is trending on school psychologist forums, and I’m SOOOOO happy to see that. I’m ALL IN on self care for school psychologists. I love seeing people hopping in forums posting pictures of themselves on Self Care Sunday doing things besides working on a backlog of assessment reports on weekends…

…and yet…

Sometimes self-care isn’t enough to keep school psychologists from feeling burned out.

Watch this quick video to learn the second component of self-care that is ESSENTIAL to school psychologists’ well-being.


Hey everyone, it’s Rebecca from Thriving School of Psychologist and Notes from the School Psychologist Blog.  So I’m out here on a walk with my dog, Misty.  Misty and I had this epiphany that I want to share with you guys about self-care. So I just heard that the new NASP president is very interested in having self-care be one of the pillars that NASP focuses on, and I’m SO delighted about this.

Here’s the epiphany though: I have had a really hard time over my career engaging in self-care. And it’s not for lack of knowledge, right?  We all know that self-care is so important. So, when I’m out here walking Misty this morning, I was thinking about when I was first school psychologist…Let me take you back in time…

I decided after work, because I was so stressed from the day, I would just take the dog for a walk.  I would take him along the beach and this would be my “self-care.”  So that sounds lovely, and I’m sure all of you have self-care rituals as well.  The problem was, on that walk with my dog, my “self-care” behavior was in place, but what I didn’t have is the companion to self-care, which is self-compassion. So on that walk, instead of decompressing and thinking of the positive things that happened in the day, I was on that walk lamenting about who I didn’t get to test, and how I need to finish that, and ‘How am I going to finish this by next week?’, and I would start planning and plotting for how I was going to organize my way out of a dysfunctionally high caseload, right?  I mean I had so many assessments to do and not enough time to do it.

So my point is, while I had self-care, I was taking care of myself by exercising and getting in nature and all that, I didn’t have self-compassion.  Right? This is a huge difference, so self-compassion is being aware of how you feel, understanding that’s a common challenge in connecting with others around that challenge, right?  School psychologists all across the country are telling me all the time that they’re stressed and they have too many students on their caseload.  I think that the latest NASP figure was that there’s an average of 1 to 1,400 is our ratio, when the ratio should really be like more to 1 to 700, and even lower in high needs schools.

So part of that self-compassion equation is activating the self-care network, but treating yourself like you treat your own bestie school psych friend, right? So I would never advise a fellow colleague to be like “Go on a walk with your dog and ruminate about what you didn’t get to.”  Right? We wouldn’t do that!

So it’s taken me a long time, but I wanted to share with you that self-care is important and it’s a great break, but it’s a behavior, that without the mental exercise of having self-compassion that you’re doing the best under the circumstances you have, then it can be wasted.  So again, self-care and self-compassion are equally important.  They’re twin engines of the same thing that’s going to keep us from getting burnt out.

So those are my morning musings with Misty my dog.  Thank you for listening! And I would love for you guys to share out your self-care rituals, or mantra: the things that you tell yourself to cultivate your own self-compassion.

And if you haven’t had a chance yet, I’m going to share also some links to some great videos on self-care and self-compassion, so have a great day everybody and I will talk to you soon! Bye!

Watch leading expert, Dr. Kristen Neff, chat with me about the difference between self-care and self-compassion by clicking here.

Watch CEO of, Nataly Kogan, chat with me about the Three Myths of Self-Care by clicking here.

Rebecca Branstetter is a school psychologist and the creator of the Thriving School Psychologist Collective™, which provides online professional development for school psychologists and a community dedicated to thriving so we can better serve our school communities. To learn how to spend more time with actual students rather than spending time with students’ paperwork (and earn NASP-approved CEUs doing it!) visit


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Comments on When Self Care Isn’t Enough: Musings on “Self Care Sunday” for School Psychologists

  1. Andrea says:

    Thank you so much for this insight. I do practice the self care but you are correct it involves festering about work or planning and even after excruciating I can work in the door overwhelmed and take it out on my family. I appreciate this insight, I often felt you excercised and got it out or festered now move on but really it just heightens my anxiety.

  2. admin says:

    Thank you for sharing, Andrea. One mental exercise I do now on my walks is to think of all the things I accomplished during the day, no matter how seemingly small, instead of all the things I will need to get to tomorrow. I also allow myself to think about work on the walk all the way up to this one bridge on my walk, then I make a conscious effort once I’ve crossed that bridge (literally!) to start being mindful about my walk, not ruminating about work. It’s a nice mental exercise. It can also be done when you walk through your door to home, like you’re crossing a threshold and transitioning from work brain to relaxing brain. Over time, it becomes a habit and easier and easier to do.

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