It’s getting darker earlier. The workload is piling up and the students aren’t cooperating like they should as holiday anticipation starts to kick in. It’s your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. All of the sudden it dawns on you – “How am I going to make it to Christmas break when I am so exhausted and busy?”
This is a common syndrome for educators, especially this time of the year, when the enthusiasm of the new school year has worn off and despite giving it our very best every day, we find that our personal energy is coming up short. So, in the spirit if honoring both your situation and commitment to being the best educator you can be, I offer the following “Holiday First Aid Kit” to help you make it through Thanksgiving and to the Christmas Break. The first aid tips are meant to be simple and easy to do but don’t underestimate their effectiveness in giving you the boost you need!
1. Use some cognitive therapy to ramp down anxious thoughts and nervous energy.
The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh recommends two simple techniques for getting our emotional energy under control: “Yes and . . .” and “Am I sure? What if?”
The “Yes and . . .” technique is particularly useful because we can openly acknowledge the difficultly of our situation AND also create a positive response. The technique is not about creating a solution but “being heard” by ourselves and recognizing that we have options in any situation. Acknowledge the situation and create a response. Here are some examples:
- “Yes, I am stressed out this morning AND I can take a walk with my dog this afternoon, that always relaxes me.”
- “Yes, we are having guests for Thanksgiving this year AND I can tell them we will be eating out for dinner at a local restaurant because I am too exhausted to cook.”
- “Yes, I am behind in my lesson plan AND I can take a half hour on Sunday to make sure I am teaching the most important concepts.”
Okay, it’s your turn – write or think a few “Yes and . . .” statements and see how it feels. Every time you feel anxious or overburdened do a “Yes and . . .” and see what happens.
Let’s try the “Am I sure? What if?” technique. When our minds become so worked up, we start creating “doomsday scenarios” about work, family and life balance. When these begin to consume us this time of the year, we can simply ask, “Am I sure? What if?” Just like the “Yes and . . .” technique, you aren’t necessarily looking for an answer but a response to interrupt the loss of perspective that often accompanies chronic overwhelm. Here are a few samples:
- “Am I sure I am getting enough rest? What if I go to bed fifteen minutes earlier?”
- “Am I sure that I can’t take a walk this afternoon? What if I call a friend and ask them to pick up the kids?”
- “Am I sure that I am eating foods that are bringing me energy? What if I pack some healthy snacks instead of eating the cakes and brownies in the teachers’ lounge?”
Okay, your turn, give it a try.
2. Try some aromatherapy.
What’s your favorite smell? Add some into your daily routine. Although scientific research is unclear on the exact benefits of aromatherapy, I find certain scents lift my mood. For me, it’s orange, lemon, cinnamon and mint. These are easily accessible scents and can be part of your lunch or part of your daily tea. I find that on a dull day, tantalizing scents lift my mood. Purchase a few herbal teas and bring them to school.
3. Shut your eyes for five minutes and breathe slowly and with intention.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have siesta time at school? Unfortunately, it;s not going to happen. However, when I am running from class to class, school to school, I have to be intentional on taking a pause to shut my eyes during lunch, planning or break to calm and gather myself. Even a short pause reduces stress and gets us ready for the next task. We are so used to being harried that we ignore our need for a “time out” so be sure to give yourself one in this busy season.
4. Look at positive pictures of your friends and family.
If I have a few moments, I often flip open my iPad and enjoy a few pictures of my wife and son playing. The photos remind me of WHY I am working so hard. I also think about the positive difference I am making for staff and students.
5. Success File.
Author Susan Ford Collins suggests “success filing” at the end of each day and it’s a great practice. No matter how difficult your day, choose one student or colleague interaction that was successful and replay it in your mind. Enjoy the fruits of your teaching, no matter how small!
So, there are a few simple tips to include in your emotional first aid kit this holiday season. We still have a ways to go until we get a break and with so little personal time, we have to seize the moment to make sure we aren’t the last on the list to be attended to. With a few simple practices, you can gain some control and perspective and cruise into a well-deserved break.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
Rob Levit, an acclaimed musician and artist and 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record, has created award-winning innovative “Life-Skills Through The Arts” programs for adults with mental illness, the homeless, adults in drug and alcohol recovery, youth in domestic/sexual abuse counseling, foster children, hospital patients, veterans and many more. He is currently Executive Director of Creating Communities and was the first Artist-In-Residence at Hospice of the Chesapeake, where he created and infused healing activities for the well-being of staff, families and patients. Email Rob.