It’s time to be rethinking self care – something that frequently lands at the bottom of educators’ to-do lists, and even more so during our current health crisis. Part of an occasional series featuring educator perspectives on school reopening and distance learning.
Jennifer Hettel is a school psychologist and intervention counselor at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, CA. As a New Jersey native, she has been missing bagels every weekend for the past five years. However, she hasn’t worn a winter hat or a pair of gloves in the same amount of time and therefore, has accepted sourdough is a decent substitute. She can be found on Facebook and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s time to rethink self-care. I imagine we are all feeling inundated with emails and responsibilities and wondering when and how life will ever be the same.
Even without my Dumbarton commute, I am back to that place where meetings consume my week and I am left with a long to-do list at 4pm. And this is primarily because my first grader started school last week and needs a great deal of help.
Side note, I wish I could record one of their zoom sessions because it seriously captures every issue one has experienced in a virtual meeting. It’s great comedy, but time consuming and distracting. My friend Ming had to remind me to schedule lunch into my day as I was late to meeting so I could eat some food…
Anyway, I realized that one of the things I have so enjoyed about being at home is that I can spend more time with my boys in the morning and finally take care of the sleep deficit I have been dealing with since March 2014 (when my older son was born).
The other day, I was over-caffeinated; a feeling I haven’t experienced since my barista days at Borders. I felt liberated and now I only need one travel mug’s worth of coffee to start my day. However, I am writing this at 6:00 a.m., because this is the only time I have now and I have to start waking up super early again just to take care of the work I cannot get done during the day. And that’s why this post is so long, sorry….I don’t want to touch those emails….because sharing this is more important!
What does this all have to do with self-care, and how is this helping me, you ask? Well, I read this article from the Crisis and Trauma Research Institute and it made me realize that I have to look at self-care differently during this time. Self-care for me was always exercise. If I was getting exercise, I was feeling like I was taking care of myself and if I wasn’t then I would feel like a failure. That’s it. Forget about trying to set work boundaries and not take on too much…still working on that…
So, let’s take a look at the different areas of self-care so you can either: 1) Realize that you are taking care of yourself in some ways without you knowing it or 2) Help you to realize that you can focus on some other things that will have the same effect.
Helpers are often focused on the results they are achieving with and for others. Self-care involves focusing on yourself and taking time to rest, reflect, replenish, and renew. Self-care includes taking stock of your own needs, goals, health, and accomplishments; taking time to nourish and nurture all of who you are. Imagine your self-care in four key dimensions of well-being: mind (mental/psychological), body (physical), heart (emotional), and spirit (spiritual/essence).https://ca.ctrinstitute.com/blog/4-key-dimensions-self-care/
Physical also means taking time away from screens and the news cycle. Emotional is not exclusive to setting boundaries; it can be giving kindness to others and giving love. Psychological doesn’t just mean understanding your feelings through self-introspection, it can be developing self-awareness by seeking help from others through supervision or asking for feedback. And Spiritual doesn’t mean just prayer or meditation, it can be just taking a moment to consider what is meaningful to you and spending some time in nature (when the air is clear.)
Because I am someone who desperately needs structure and a schedule, I can then easily get stuck in routines. So, once my time was taken over by 1st grade I resisted losing my morning time with my boys, but was acutely aware it had to come to an end and I had to go back to spending time with them after school.
Instead of making dinner the other day, I went outside with my 6-year-old and found my husband playing tag with our neighborhood kids (we live in a condo community with a green belt and lots of kids, so many kids.) They convinced me to join them and we spent the next hour running around and then playing capture the flag (bike helmet).
I ran through trees, ran through little pathways I didn’t know existed and snuck around buildings, My boys and our neighborhood kids were ecstatic we were playing with them. I felt more alive and in the moment than I have felt in a very long time. That one hour was so restorative that it was okay that toys were left out overnight, I didn’t make a normal dinner, and didn’t watch any news.
In short, self care can be re-imagined to fit what is right for you right now. Part of self care is being kind to ourselves, but also being reflective about what is working and not working as the events in our lives change beyond our control.
Hopefully you are in more of a routine and the day-to-day is becoming a little more regular. If so, perhaps you can think about what you can do to take care of yourself a little more so you don’t start to quickly burn out.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed by it all, reach out for help! You are surrounded by people who truly care about you and want you to support you, but…not sub for you because really, what would that even be like? The horror…