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Summer Reading and Self-Care

By Katy O’Grady | April 2020

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Taking care of ourselves is paramount in this time of upheaval, and school counselor leaders from across the country have shared the self-care methods that they find most helpful. Self-care can include professional development, so we asked which books they recommend – or plan to read themselves – for school counselor professional development this summer.

Our Summer Professional Reading List 

  • “The Obstacle is the Way,” by Ryan Holiday, “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama and “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin
    I use these books as professional reading because they furthered my understanding of human behavior.
  • “Limitless” by Jim Kwik
  • “Dare to Lead,” by Brene Brown
    The best leadership book I think I’ve ever read. If you’re looking for a book on how to lead with empathy, care, and understanding this is the book. It’s an easy and calming read!
  • “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
    I would recommend this as a part of a summer professional learning community as the true impact of this is greater if done in concert and discussion with others.
  • “Interrupting Racism: Equity and Social Justice in School Counseling,” by Rebecca Atkins and Alicia Oglesby
  • “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court,” by John Wooden
    I’d recommend it for anyone who want to be a better person.
  • “We Got This,” by Cornelius Minor
  • “Stress: The Psychology of Managing Pressure,” consultants: Diane McIntosh, MD, FRGPC, and Jonathan Horowitz, Ph.D.
    Practical strategies to turn pressure into positive energy.
  • “The Harvard Business Review Guide to Office Politics,” by Karen Dillon
    As school counselors, we often get stuck in the political drama within a school building. This book offers some great insight and suggestions for handling different power dynamics and issues.
  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey
  • “50+ Tech Tools for School Counselors,” by Angela Cleveland and Stephen Sharp
  • “Motivational Interviewing for School Counselors,” by Reagan North
    He was a presenter at ASCA in Boston last year and it was by far one of the best sessions I attended.
  • “The Make-or-Break Year: Solving the Dropout Crisis One Ninth Grader at a Time,” by Emily Krone Phillips
    It focuses on the research and importance of ninth grade while providing valuable stories and strategies you can implement today.
  • “Unselfie,” by Michele Borba
  • “Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids,” by Chris Biffle
  • “Activities That Teach,” by Tom Jackson
  • “School Talk,” by Mica Pollock
  • “Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness in and Out of the Classroom,” by Meena Srinivasan
  • “Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership,” by Jennifer Casa-Todd
  • “Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them,” by Ross W. Greene
  • “Better than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management,” by Dominique Smith, Douglas B. Fisher, and Nancy Frey
  • “Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom,” by Heather T. Forbes
  • And of course, “ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs,” 4th edition

Our Effective Self-Care Approaches

Please note that many of these were submitted before school closures and social distancing across the country.

Performing with my improvisational comedy troupe, the Fearless Fools, is a huge stress reliever and outlet for me. It serves as a psychological sublimation for engaging in characters or situations that can be exaggerated and heightened outside of the parameters of socially accepted/pro-social professional behavior.
Matthew B. Tolliver, West Virginia

Monthly massage and 15-minutes naps at lunch.
Joy Stanley, Alabama

I do not check or answer emails at home. I don’t have email notifications on my phone so when I’m not at work, I’m truly not working. The work will be there tomorrow. I used to have a fear that there would be a crisis in my district, and as the district director, I would need to know. We set up specific protocols on how to handle a situation so we know that students are safe, but we are able to recharge our batteries so we can be present with students during the school day.
Summer Martin, Texas

Taking at least a 30-minute walk, every day, rain/snow/shine. Easy to do - can go at the pace I'm feeling (I tell myself that to motivate, but always push once I get going and jog often).
Lyn H. Bush, North Carolina

I really enjoy running. I also find that putting on a good audiobook or podcast and diving into a home improvement project really helps me relieve some of the stresses that comes with my job.
Donnie Payne, Alabama

Listen to music that inspires you.
Maria Grovner, Georgia

I love to take my dog for a walk. I love to be at the lake when it is warm...the sand and the water is very rejuvenating. I like to go camping with my family. I like to take a glass of wine and soak in my hot tub. Sometimes I need people around me to recharge...and sometimes I need to be alone.
Amy Mason, Wyoming

Making sure I am staying active and getting enough exercise – I can't control my sleep with kiddos who still frequently wake up, but I can control taking time to exercise so I can be a better parent and a better professional.
Randi A. Brattin, Idaho

Exercising helps me tremendously to decompress, relax, and feel good about myself which in turn helps me to be better available at school for those who need me
Grace Christian, Alabama

Phil Leitner, North Dakota

Mindful meditation.
Estela Calata, Guam

My self-care technique is to garden. In South Carolina we have a pretty mild fall and spring. Those are my favorite seasons to be outside and "play" in the yard planting and tending my flowers and vegetables.
Leigh Eubanks, South Carolina

My mantra when overly stressed is to always “Make the decision that gives me peace.” This may require self-discipline to take some nagging element off my plate or say no to requests for my time or energy. I use it constantly and pass this on to my graduate students regularly. Only I know what will sooth my soul at any given time.
Judy Williams, Michigan

Sleep more (try for 8 hours), hydrate more (try for 64 ounces) and exercise every day (at least 15-20 minutes). My morning mental health self-care ritual includes gratitude for my overall health, family and occupation in which I have a positive impact. I then jot three "must dos" for the day and keep three ideas in my mind:
  • Things don't usually go exactly as I plan them; listen and accept the outcome or course of action.
  • When I begin to feel overwhelmed, and consequently guilty for not accomplishing anything, I commit to doing one small, doable action, and I celebrate that I did it.
  • To break a pattern in my behavior, I first recognize that I do not like the behavior then find a replacement that makes me happy and proud.
Eileen Melody, Connecticut

Exercise and gardening.
Sheryl Smith, Alabama

My self-care technique is what I call “walk therapy” where I take a leisurely walk, especially if the sun is shining! Feeling the warmth of the sun on my face really recharges my battery.
Melanie Hayes, Oklahoma

I love a good hot bath for some "me" time!
Jillian Shadis, New Jersey

Staying active and getting outside. Whether it be running, hiking, walking, kayaking, boating or just sitting in nature near the water or mountains is my self-care. Doing these activities with my family and/or friends is extremely important in taking care of myself. I also like to throw in some spontaneous day, afternoon or evening outings to see new or revisit places locally and around the New England region.
Bonnie Robbins, Maine

Vacationing in the Adirondack mountains where cell service is sparse, and the water and scenery are magnificent! For more general self-care, I've started leaving my phone at home or in the car when we go out. It's very liberating to be without it and allows me to be much more present in the moment!
Shari Sevier, Missouri

My favorite self-care activities are doing a mindfulness exercise through the 10% Happier app (the free portion is plenty usable) and I work out every morning to produce endorphins.
Matt Liberatore, Illinois

Taking time to unplug, with no technology, social media or television. Even better when that is coupled with a trip or traveling with family or close friends.
Michelle Grimm, Ohio