by Cynthia Hanna, NMAEA Treasurer
I recently came across the following internet meme. Make time to take care of your wellness, or you will be forced to take time for your illness. It spoke to me because I have been trying to avoid living this the second part of this meme in recent years...sometimes successfully, and in others not so much.
As I write this blog, I am beginning my summer break. I am letting go of the stress of the end of the school year and looking forward to some long, relaxing days of recovery. Over the last several years I have worked on taking better care of myself in terms of stress because it never fails that when the pressure is on all of those routines fall to the wayside and I become tired and snappish with colleagues, students, friends and family. I am doing better because I have come to rely on some habits that help me to manage my stress.
I consider myself a work in progress. I am always rearranging my inner composition to try and improve. Sometimes in the reorganization some pieces get lost and overlooked because they don’t quite fit at the moment. Currently, my self-care saving grace has been mediation. Most mornings in the last two years, I have woken and up and begun my day with 10-20 minutes of mediation.
Meditation helps me to begin the day with a blank slate, rather than being preoccupied with what is going on in my life. Being able to reset with students helps me to focus on reaching them rather than how that one student always manages to push my buttons. Sometimes I sit in silence and focus on my breath counting to 10 and if I get distracted, I acknowledge the distraction and start the count over again. Mindful.org has all kinds of articles about meditation and mindfulness so if this interests you check out this link. mindful.org.
I have also used the 21-Day meditation series produced by Oprah and Deepak Chopra which are generally schedule 3 or 4 times a year and are free for the duration. I believe the next one is scheduled to begin Monday July 15th—www.chopracentermeditation.com. You can also purchase the meditations if you desire. Currently my go to guided mediation is the Daily Calm from Calm.com. As a teacher, they have a special program that gives you full access to the website for free. And if a meditation retreat intrigues you, Vallecito Mountain Retreat offers a variety of week long retreats in the summer months—www.vallectos.org They will be posting 2020 retreats in the fall.
Yoga is my other current go to stress reliever. A couple of years ago, my spring semester was so out of control that I knew I needed something or I would not make it to retirement as a teacher. And I did not want to become the cranky teacher, going through the motions. I started to look for a yoga retreat to reset my outlook and ended becoming a yoga teacher. Now I have a weekly appointment with my co-workers to do some yoga once a week. It has been fantastic for keeping me on track with a regular practice and it has helped some of my co-workers with their stress as well. The program I went through is called Breathe for Change https://www.breatheforchange.com/. This program was developed by educators for educators. No experience necessary. Also a major component of Breathe for Change is SEL (social emotional learning) which can also help to foster some positive coping strategies for our students.
Exercise-walk, jog, lift weights, swim laps, whatever will make you feel good. I have to admit that this piece of my coping strategy has gotten lost in the last year. My goal this summer is to get back to a regular after school walk. I really do enjoy being outside and my dog Basil does to. I think we will both benefit from this.
Make some art. Since we are all art teachers sometimes we can use up our creative juices by continually creating brilliant lessons for our students, but we do need to nurture ourselves. So whether you have a studio space that you can leave a long term project out or you need to work small and portably, set aside some time in your schedule to nurture your creative self. The Art Journalist blog https://artjournalist.com/one-word-art-journal-prompts/ has lists of lots of different prompts to jumpstart your creative flow. This one about 365 One Word Journal Prompts looks like it might be a fun daily challenge without too much time commitment.
Looking for inspiration. Connie Solera constantly inspires me with her https://dirtyfootprints-studio.com/ Looking to share your art: Art Teachers Making Art https://www.facebook.com/groups/485587375252094/?ref=share
I want to encourage you to take the time for yourself now, and also to start some new habits like the ones I outlined or perhaps you have something unique on your self-care list to carry you into the next school year. Find what nurtures you and create the habit so that when the going gets tough, the tough keep on nurturing themselves so that that they can keep showing up in life as their best selves.