Strategy 2: Promote Staff Self-care Within Your Program

Head Start staff often have many professional responsibilities. Prioritizing and making time for self-care can be challenging for them. As a supervisor or program leader, you can raise awareness of the importance of staff wellness. You also can offer regular opportunities for staff self-care. These opportunities can take the form of stress management support for individual events and training in techniques that promote long-term wellness.

Be sure that family services professionals and home visitors are included in your efforts to provide self-care opportunities. Survey them (formally or informally) about the types of activities they feel would be most helpful to them. Activities could include:

  • Creating a place for rest and relaxation. Staff may benefit from quiet time to relax and recover from work-related stress, even if for just 10 minutes during the day. Family service professionals and home visitors, however, may not have easy access to a quiet space. Work with staff in these roles to identify or create a space they can access while they are in the field. Supply relaxation tools and materials that staff can use to rest and relax in different settings. Then promote the use of these tools and materials (e.g., yoga or meditation apps, comfortable furniture).
  • Providing formal and informal opportunities for staff to socialize. Family services professionals and home visitors can benefit from opportunities to socialize in ways that help them combat work-related stress and social isolation. Organize regular times and spaces to socialize, as well as special events to help staff get the social support they need. In addition, consider adding a few minutes at the beginning of meetings to check in or share celebrations.
  • Providing tools and activities to support healthy eating and exercise. Staff can experience high levels of stress and may spend most of their time on the road or meeting with families. Under these conditions, finding ways to eat nourishing foods and to exercise can be especially challenging. To address these challenges, you can do such things as distribute pedometers, create friendly competitions to promote movement, set up regular times for staff to be physically active while socializing (e.g., "Walking Wednesdays"), and support healthy eating through a recipe exchange. You can also support the well-being of staff, families, and children through approaches designed to increase physical activity and nutrition in early childhood settings. I Am Moving, I Am Learning offers one approach. You also can make sure that staff have scheduled breaks during their workday to support mindful eating and physical activity.
  • Modeling self-care by participating in wellness-promoting activities. Staff need to see that you, as a program leader or supervisor, are committed to wellness. Demonstrate this commitment by offering and taking part in self-care and other wellness activities.