Today, I am referring you to an article in Teacher Magazine written by Elena Aguilar. She gives some tips for surviving what she refers to as “October Exhaustion,” but the tips are excellent wellness tips for educators any time of year.
Click here to visit Teaching Secrets: Managing October Exhaustion
One of the people I began my teaching career with began to have severe, debilitating and bizarre anxiety attacks about five years into her career. It had been a stressful career to begin with – we were part of a large group of people hired to replace others our first year, and the staff went on strike our second year. I moved on after that, but she stayed, and I can’t imagine what else must have gone on in that setting. When I caught up with her, she was in a mental health facility, under strict supervision, and I could only bring her things that she could not possibly harm herself with. She did progress out of the facility, by the way, but I’m not certain she was successful at handling her anxieties. She unfortunately went on to have a whole host of health and mental health issues later in life.
Anxiety is a very real concern for educators. We work in one of the highest stress environments out there – right up there with nurses and police officers among others. I think it’s simply the nature of working with large numbers of people. How do you handle anxiety?
First of all, step back and assess your anxiety levels. Some people are comfortable simply being reflective of their state of being. Others like a more focused approach. Axis-One provides a free online anxiety assessment. There are others out there, but I like this one because it is ‘quick and dirty.’ (No comments from the peanut gallery, thank you.)
Start with that. Where are your anxiety levels?
Last week I found myself feeling a very strong need to fill back up. I hadn’t had time to get out with friends, go listen to some of the really amazing live music, see art work, interact with ideas other than the grad school courses I am taking. I felt like I was spiritually starving.
It was easy to fix that once I simply decided to be attentive to it. I started by calling a friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile, who also enjoys the local arts scene. We went to a movie. It ended up being a surprisingly good movie – one of those rare films that seems to be worth all the $$$ you shell out at the theater on a Friday night. That was an excellent start.
I threw something different into the mix this time. On Saturday, another friend joined me to attend a women’s health fair. It wasn’t the most outstanding health fair I’ve ever gone to, but it was a good outing. (While I get that we women like chocolate, I felt like there was way too much candy on the vendor tables! How does that promote good health?) The guest speaker spoke about “waking up your precious life.” She gave us some valuable reminders about embracing unpleasant things about life rather than trying to ignore them or cover them up. You know – the painful things like sadness, grief, or anger. Or the inevitable things like menopause. It was an excellent reminder about being genuine with one’s self.
Last of all, I made time to get some exercise outdoors. It won’t be too long before the rainy season hits here, and we’ll all be stuck inside pining for the sun again.
It was a good start. Now I have to practice what I preach – and make regularly scheduled time to do these kinds of things. I’m no good to anyone when I my reservoirs get depleted. Neither are you.
During your busy day it can be really difficult to find time to quiet your mind. A meditation session can be downright impossible to fit in. Here is a short little meditation activity I found that anyone can use no matter how busy the day.
This comes from a Prevention article by Sarah Mahoney.
“ Sit upright, focus on your breath, and pay attention to a physical sensation, such as the feel of air in your nostrils. When your mind wanders, notice the disruption, then return your attention to that simple sensation. Jha herself now meditates 5 to 10 minutes at a time, several times a day.” – Amishi Jha, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania
Give it a try. This professor says that she has encountered Marines who do this even while deployed in a war zone. If they can do it, you can too.
It’s easy to forget that we don’t stop developing just because we are adults. Indeed, we do continue to develop, hopefully creating a more colorful life for ourselves. This can be either intentional or unintentional.
Take a moment and take the pulse of your current life. This is a good exercise for writing down in a journal or on a piece of paper.
- What is your greatest achievement so far?
- What is the best thing about being your age?
- What is the worst thing about being your age?
Now, look over your responses. Take a few moments and think about where you are headed.
- What would you like to achieve yet?
- What are some things you look forward to in the coming years?
- What are some cycles you’d like to break?
This should give you some food for thought in goal-setting. Remember, if you never set goals, you will never reach them.
Teachers are highly wired professionals. Technology is a huge part of our job. We have to answer e-mails from students, teachers, parents and administrators, input grades and attendance in programs like gradebook and blackboard, update our class blogs, plan with and incorporate educational technology into our daily teaching. Then when we get home, we’re on facebook, we write personal e-mails, and we read our favorite education blogs. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it.
In a technologically driven profession like teaching, an intentional technology break is essential. If we don’t make the break intentional, we’ll default to checking facebook or e-mails when we have any downtime. We know that even when we take a walk there’s the danger of looking down at our smartphones or listening to our mp3 player instead of looking up at the sky and listening to the sounds of nature.
The technology break has to be intentional so that our minds can rest. Glenn Gould had a theory. He said that for x amount of hours he spent with people he would have to spend x amount of hours alone. I would say the same about technology. For x amount of hours you spend on your laptop you have to spend x amount of hours with human beings or by yourself apart from technology.
Here are four suggestions to build a peaceful mind on your technology break:
- Sit or lie down and let your mind wander. Get into a technology-free place (not at your computer desk), and let your mind go where it pleases. Don’t stop it, but notice it and let it go. Notice what you notice. Catch yourself thinking.
- Breathe. I learned this technique as a teenager from Dr. Weil. He calls it the 4-7-8. I practice this a little before bedtime as it is a relaxing exercise. It’s easy and it works:
· Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
· Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
· Hold your breath for a count of seven.
· Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
· This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
- Red tea. I discovered red tea (a.k.a. rooibos) when I was looking for a salubrious decaffeinated tea. I drink this at night. According to South African Rooibos Council, red tea’s chemical properties may help alleviate digestive problems, allergies, and anxiety.
- Walk. Take a technology-free walk. Walk with another beloved human or a pet. Leave everything else at home. Notice what you notice.
Now it’s your turn. How do you spend your technology break? What suggestions do you have for those of us who can’t pull ourselves away from a screen of some sort?
I know I can’t be reminded enough to slow down and take good care of myself. I’m one of those people who is a single mom, and have aging parents, so the plate gets pretty full pretty quick. Not as full as the plate of a practicing teacher though!
So this is your reminder to slow it down this weekend. Take the time to do something to take care of yourself in some way. Only you know if you need to quiet your mind, get some exercise (or more sleep) or if you just need a good laugh. Whatever it is, take some ‘me time’ this weekend. It’s all about refilling your reservoir.
I’d love to hear what you will choose to do.