This New Year Resolve to Make Time for Mindfulness and Self-Care
How many of us have New Year’s resolutions or plans crafted to make this year the best yet? A quick google search of the most popular resolutions includes living healthier (exercise, nutrition), losing weight, financial stability, personal happiness, career/job ambitions, pursuit of a new hobby, among many others. And yet, even with the best intentions, study after study (University of Scranton, Statista) report that only a small percentage of us are successful in achieving these resolutions. While our intentions are hopeful and optimistic, life and its stressors often get in the way. As we begin this new year, I challenge us to resolve to make time for mindfulness and self-care as we navigate the stresses of education.
Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as “living in the present moment, on purpose, non-judgmentally… as if our lives depend on it.” Mindfulness is not about replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts or forcing our thoughts to stop, but rather taking the time to shift and be aware of our thinking. This kind of presence is very important because we are responsible for many students, situations, and stresses throughout our days. For example, if a lesson plan for the day does not go as planned or students arrived unprepared for the day or student behavior begins to escalate things could start to feel out of control. How many times have we gotten caught up in this stress and failed to recognize what our mind is doing, allowing our emotions to cause us to act? What would happen if we took that moment to stop, be present, and quietly observe? By becoming aware of our thoughts, we demonstrate mindfulness and better manage our stress leading to better well-being for ourselves and the students we serve. This new year I challenge you to take time for mindfulness in your personal and professional lives.
Additional Mindfulness Resources:
“SELF for Teachers: The Role of Mindfulness” video explains how educators can use mindfulness to manage stress inside and outside of the classroom. This video is a part of the Social-Emotional Learning for Educators two-part video series from the Broadcast Educational Media Commission, the Department and WTPO Dayton.
“Mindfulness in Schools” is a an information brief from Project Aware Ohio and contains school-based mindfulness interventions and suggestions.
“Garrison Institute 10-Steps to Mindfulness Meditation” is an infographic from the Garrison Institute which provides steps in becoming more mindful.
Education is full of complexity: never-ending demands, test scores, curriculum, community context, students, and the ever changing world. As educators we carry both positive and negative stress usually related to uncertainty, loss of control/perceived control, and lack of information. To add to this challenge, much of our stress is mental and, unlike physical stress, does not go away. In our profession, we often hear the words burnout and empathy/compassion fatigue which over time can be a professional hazard. As Amy Waibel, PhD (Founder and Director for Compassion Education Alliance) explains, “empathy fatigue can lead to burnout” which is a long term psychological and physical state which can lead to depression. Self-care is a critical component of managing stress that could otherwise lead to somatic concerns and other common ailments and health conditions. By caring for yourself, you may not feel the same empathy fatigue. Take the time this year to be aware of your needs and limitations; find the balance and make it intentional; become aware of your stress signals; take time for mindfulness; take deep breaths; give yourself at least 15 minutes every day for YOUR LIFE; connect with others; practice reframing; show gratitude; laugh (even if it is forced, it still has an impact); find what creates your sense of peace (drawing, listening to music, meditation, cooking, gardening, walking, etc.). Remember, self-care is not a one-size fits all intervention; it takes practice and patience and may even feel a little uncomfortable at times but can make all the difference. I challenge us all to resolve to make time for self-care this year.
Additional Self-Care Resources:
“SEL for Teachers: Teacher Stress and Burnout” video explains the often conflicting demands on teachers and why so many of them burn out. This video is a part of the Social-Emotional Learning for Educators two-part video series from the Broadcast Educational Media Commission, the Department and WTPO Dayton.
“ABCs of Mental Health Resource” is a resource from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide assistance and strategies for educators who experience stress.
“Self-Care Strategies for Educators” is a brief from WestED which offers practical information and guidance on self-care in these challenging times.
“5 Strategies for Teacher Self Care” is a resource from ASCD which provides five strategies that teachers can start using right away that will lead to better self-care.
“Self-Care for Educators” is a resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) providing tips for educators.
Cheers to a very Happy New Year and the best of luck in achieving those resolutions! Please take some time for yourselves and continue to reach out to us with any support we may be able to provide to allow you to better make time this year!