Committee for Children Blog

Healthy Ways to Unplug and Unwind

A Psychologist's Guide to Winter Well-Being

Our second Winter Well-Being video  this year is all about how to unplug and unwind in a healthy way that supports your overall well-being. In this blog, I’ll walk you through some of the research behind the advice Dr. Tia Kim and I provided in the video.

To recap, the tips we offered to you, your family, and your colleagues and students are all designed to help you rest, relax, and make self-care a routine part of your day. As Dr. Tia explained in the video, while “self-care” may seem like a buzzword, the concept has been around for decades and has origins in nursing and other helping professions.1 Practicing self-care is not trivial: in fact, in a psychotherapy context, the modern concept of self-care is recognized to be essential for therapists’ well-being, the therapy itself, and patients’ well-being.2

As an educator, you’re also in a helping profession, and self-care can support the work you do. Research shows us teacher well-being is associated with better student outcomes, suggesting that as an educator, your self-care can benefit your students as well.3

It is now recognized that there are six domains of self-care: emotional, physical, professional, psychological, relational, and spiritual.2 These domains encompass all the facets of how you can take care of yourself, including caring for your mind, body, work-life balance, and community connections.

In our December video, we offered three self-care routines, related to the domains of professional, relational, and emotional self-care. Let’s dig into the research behind each of these suggestions.

Routine 1: Device-Free Time

Unplug from external demands by taking some daily time away from your phone and computer.

This routine relates to professional self-care, which includes managing your work-life balance. With all the ways we can now bring our work into our homes, it’s important to set some boundaries for quality personal time. If you’re resting on your couch but checking work emails on your phone, you might not be giving yourself the opportunity to truly let go of work-related stress and concerns. In our December video, Dr. Tia and I suggested that you designate a time window you can commit to each evening after work when you set aside your phone and computer. Use this time to go for a walk, read a book, stretch, draw, or do another activity that grounds you and calms your mind. Carving out even 15 minutes in your daily schedule for this screen-free personal time can support your work-life balance.

Routine 2: Connections and Community

Establish a regular time or day of the week to connect with your friends, family, or community.

This routine relates to relational self-care, which includes your connections with others. Research shows that social connectedness can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.4 Conversely, loneliness is associated with higher risks of depression and anxiety.4 So, while it might seem stressful to add more to your calendar, especially if you’re already feeling drained or overbooked, there are benefits to prioritizing social connections on your own terms. Having a robust network of friends, family, and community members can lead to better mental and physical health.4, 5 In our December video, Dr. Tia and I suggested choosing a recurring day or evening to connect with others, whether that’s a family game night, happy hour with friends, or an exercise group. Prioritizing activities that help you build community and friendships is a way of prioritizing your well-being by bolstering your social support network.

Routine 3: Emotional Temperature Check

Check in on your emotions with an emotion-labeling exercise.

This final routine relates to emotional self-care, which includes your connection to yourself and your emotions. In our December video, Dr. Tia and I suggested a classroom activity where you and your students choose colored pencils that match how you’re feeling, and then describe why they match. For instance, you could choose a blue pencil and say: “I chose blue because I am feeling calm, and this is the color of a clear blue sky, which makes me feel relaxed.” This exercise is a kid-friendly version of an important emotion-regulation strategy called emotion labeling. Emotion labeling is the process of identifying and naming your feelings and describing the situations that provoke the emotions.6 Clearly labeling your emotions can help lower their intensity, and lower emotional intensity can help you think more clearly and more easily address the causes of emotions.7, 8 Some of you may already be familiar with emotion labeling as a component of mindfulness practices, which have been shown to reduce educator stress and burnout.9

When you’re teaching, labeling your emotions can help you regulate them. If you label your emotions—both positive and negative—out loud, or with an exercise such as the one we’re suggesting, you will model strong emotion regulation for your students. An additional benefit: research shows that when educators are able to regulate their emotions, they can feel calmer, have more positive interactions with students, and be more satisfied at work.10, 11

Take Your Time

Last month, our tips for you all shared the theme of tracking progress to help meet your goals. This month, our tips are focused on being intentional with your time and communication. Scheduling time for yourself and for participating in your community are ways of prioritizing your well-being. And taking time to recognize and label your emotions—and help your students do the same—is a way of respecting your feelings and making space to experience them. I hope these tips are a useful starting place for you. If you’re interested in the other three domains of self-care, I encourage you to find more information about those and how you can nurture yourself in those ways, as well.


1. Denyes, M. J., Orem, D. E., & Bekel, G. (2001). Self-care: A foundational science. Nursing Science Quarterly14(1), 48–54.

2. Butler, L. D., Mercer, K. A., McClain-Meeder, K., Horne, D. M., & Dudley, M. (2019). Six domains of self-care: Attending to the whole person. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, (29)1, 107–124.

3. Harding, S., Morris, R., Gunnell, D., Ford, T., Hollingworth, W., Tilling, K., Evans, R., Bell, S., Grey, J., Brockman, R., Campbell, R., Araya, R., Murphy, S., & Kidger, J. (2019). Is teachers’ mental health and wellbeing associated with students’ mental health and wellbeing? Journal of Affective Disorders242, 180–187.

4. Weziak-Bialowolska, D., Bialowolski, P., Lee, M. T., Chen, Y., VanderWeele, T. J., & McNeely, E. (2022). Prospective associations between social connectedness and mental health. Evidence from a longitudinal study and health insurance claims data. International Journal of Public Health, 67.

5. Holt-Lunstad, J. (2022). Social connection as a public health issue: The evidence and a systemic framework for prioritizing the “social” in social determinants of health. Annual Review of Public Health, 43(1), 193–213.

6. Lieberman, M. D., Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M. (2007). Putting feelings into words. Psychological Science, 18(5), 421–428.

7. Barrett, L. F., Gross, J., Christensen, T. C., & Benvenuto, M. (2001). Knowing what you’re feeling and knowing what to do about it: Mapping the relation between emotion differentiation and emotion regulation. Cognition and Emotion, 15(6), 713–724.

8. Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Barrett, L. F. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of Personality, 72(6), 1161–1190.

9. Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., Oberle, E., Thomson, K., Taylor, C., & Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal of Educational Psychology105(3), 787.

10. Katz, D. A., Harris, A., Abenavoli, R., Greenberg, M. T., & Jennings, P. A. (2018). Educators’ emotion regulation strategies and their physiological indicators of chronic stress over 1 year. Stress and Health, 34(2), 278–285.

11. Sutton, R. E. (2005). Teachers’ emotions and classroom effectiveness: Implications from recent research. The Clearing House, 78(5), 229–234.