MSEA’s Educator Self-Care Toolkit

“Self-care is not a luxury. It is a human requisite, a professional necessity, and an ethical imperative.”

— John C. Norcross and James D. Guy

Educators Need to Take Care of Themselves

As a dedicated member of the education profession, your interactions with students and their families mean that you often become aware of and help address students’ needs that stem from traumatic events in their lives.

When teaching and supporting students experiencing trauma, the challenges that they bring and the empathy that you feel can begin to take a physical, mental, and emotional toll on you. This is called Compassion Fatigue.

This MSEA resource can assist you if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Take the time to assess the source of your stress, and whether it is due to burnout—the cost of doing your job—or compassion fatigue—the cost of caring.

Two Types of Stress

Burnout vs Compassion Fatigue

Being stressed out can make it feel as though life is unmanageable. Yet identifying the type of stress and its root cause can help address the stress itself.

Burnout is often caused by increased workloads, expectations, and responsibilities. It comes from institutional stress.

Compassion Fatigue is emotional strain resulting from exposure to working with others who are suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. Adults who have unresolved trauma in their past are even more vulnerable to compassion fatigue.

When you have identified the source, you can initiate steps to reduce or alleviate the stress:


Compassion Fatigue

Adapted from The Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators (NCTSN, 2008)

Resources for More Detailed Information on Self-Care and Tips for Addressing Compassion Fatigue



Where You Can Turn for Help

If you are experiencing deep feelings of trauma or depression yourself, please seek professional help.

Employee Assistant Programs (EAP)

Most school systems provide an EAPto assist all employees (and in some cases family members) with counseling and support on mental health issues. These are provided, free of charge, as an employee benefit. These services may be beneficial in coping with trauma or overwhelming feelings of stress involving work and/or personal events, whether past or present.

To access this service, go to your school system website. You may be able to use the search box to look for the Employee Assistant Program or you may need to look under one of the following tabs:

It may take several clicks and some hunting, but don’t be deterred from this important resource! If you have trouble finding or accessing your county’s EAP, contact your local association.

Maryland’s Public Mental Health System (PMHS) 

All services within the PMHS are provided based on eligibility and medical necessity criteria.

If you have questions, call 1-800-888-1965, a toll-free number that is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Getting Immediate Assistance

If you believe you need urgent or emergency care, please contact your health practitioner and/or seek assistance at your local emergency department.

These resources are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide support, guidance, and assistance: