September is over and it was a whirlwind. Not only am I at a new school this year, but I’m also in a new role; out of the classroom and back to instructional coaching. While the day-to-day pressures of teaching are no longer upon me, a much more pressing and broader sense of responsibility has befallen me. I’m at a high poverty school where less than 20% of students scored proficient on the state math and reading tests last spring. While these challenges are the very reason I chose to take the position, the burden is very real.
Transitioning to my new role has also been challenging; when you’re a teacher, you give and give and give to your students because those are the components of teaching, but what teachers often forget is how much they take and take and take from the other administrative adults in the building – namely a position like mine where I am there to lend an ear, find a resource, or solve a problem. No one ever goes, “So how was your day?” and while I’m happy to listen, it is just as exhausting (if not more) as working with students.
On top of that, I’ve also taken on a new role of teaching a night class at Concordia University to a great group of incoming teachers. That means that yesterday after working a full day, I taught a four hour night class. PHEW!
But if there’s one thing I’m really good at – it’s self-care. I’ve learned to really listen to my body and mind when it comes to stress; sure, I still feel stressed (all the time), but I treat myself like crazy to make up for it. Unfortunately, most teachers that I have known do not practice self-care, and thus their classrooms lose their luster just like the person running it.
My Top 5 Self-Care Strategies
Exercise – Do I feel like working out or running after a long day at work? Not so much. But I do it anyway, and 99% of the time I feel significantly better, physically and mentally. In addition, I’m always blown away that teachers don’t utilize their school gym- it’s an amazing resource! The only perk we actually have! I bring my jump rope, a mat, and a medicine ball and have a killer workout.
Massages – Two a month, for reals. One is covered by insurance, the other isn’t. Some people think massages are expensive, but if $50 can improve my health and well-being, I see it as a total bargain. And I need it…neeeeeeed.
Stretching and Foam Rolling – Yeah, I stretch after every workout, but somedays when I’m super stressed out – I force myself to push pause and stretch for 5-10 minutes. Before bed, I attempt to foam roll every night (still working on that goal). I’ll be blogging about my Yamuna Foot Wakers very soon………
4-Square Breathing – Last year my doctor suggested that I work on some stress management breathing; I laughed because I thought she was joking. “I’m not stressed out!” I said. “Aren’t you, though?” She replied. I admit I was super skeptical; I don’t need some hippie-dippy breathing in my life, I thought, but I gave it a shot. It seriously helped me fall asleep way faster, and at work it helped me stay grounded. I even had my students doing it after lunch and they calmed down, too. (hint hint)
If you don’t know what it is, it’s incredibly simple:
Get My Nails Done – Akin to massages, getting a manicure has a more lasting effect. You are forced to sit for an hour and just let someone else take care of you, and then you’re all like, “Damnnn my nails look good!”
So there you have it: I’m a spoiled, privileged brat. If you would have told me ten years ago that these would be the essential components of my life, I might have just thrown myself off a bridge right then. But for real, yo, this stuff works – and without it, I might not be able to wake up and be the best me every day.
**NOTE** You did not see “have a glass of wine” or “splurge on a fancy dinner” on my list. These are occasional INDULGENCES that I believe mask the issue of stress, and fundamentally cause more down the road (i.e. feeling guilty about calorie binging). While I might meet a friend for happy hour, it is NOT for stress management and instead see it as a special treat.
Want to read more about Self-Care? Here’s a good list that I didn’t write: 10 Self-Care Strategies for Overall Stress Reduction
Now get out there, burn some incense, rub some magic crystals, and try some 4-Square breathing.