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We probably don’t need to make the case for wellness practices, but in the midst of challenging times we are fatigued and it might feel overwhelming, if not impossible, to establish new habits to thrive physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. Also, let’s truly acknowledge that many of us are more than fatigued, we are really struggling. Simply telling ourselves things like “think positive” or “failure isn’t an option” won’t help and could possibly do more harm than good. Negative emotions serve a purpose so we don’t want to completely avoid them, but we do want to regulate so we don’t stay in those negative emotions for extended periods of time. We have found that if we are intentional, evaluating our current needs and priorities, we can pick a focus and develop small habits that can have a big impact on our well-being. Spoiler alert: Eliminating unproductive habits can also make a big difference!
THE RIGHT BALANCE FOR YOU RIGHT NOW
While most people are familiar with the term balance, using it to address work and life implies that we should have 50% attention on each at all times. While this is great in theory, it clearly doesn’t account for report card time. We simply cannot spend half our day on work and half our day on personal 100% of the time. Balance is more about a feeling of being able to confidently handle what is going on in your life at any given time. Sometimes, that means work takes priority. Other times, it means that family takes priority. Balance is about finding your ideal state of being, and that can be different for everyone.
When we build healthy habits by practicing self-care, we are implementing strategies to keep ourselves in balance. For a more holistic view on building healthy habits, consider these four categories of well-being:
- Physical: Taking care of your body.
- Intellectual: Taking care of your mind.
- Spiritual: Finding your center.
- Emotional: Finding your balance.
Addressing our health and well-being helps build your ideal version of balance in your life. It gives you the tools you need to find more enjoyment in happy times and deal with stressful times.
GETTING STARTED WITH HEALTHY HABITS
We are facing compassion fatigue, initiative fatigue, decision fatigue, and every other kind of fatigue. Where do we start? How about at the beginning… of each day! Okay, before you stop reading thinking this is being written by “morning people”, rest assured it is not! We do not identify ourselves as morning people. At all. And you don't need to focus on the start of your day, but mornings do set the tone for our entire day. Consider auditing your mornings and think about the incremental changes you can make to bring healthy habits into your routine. Even in the best of times, change is hard so we want to focus on bite-size practices that we are likely to stick with.
Equally important, think about the habits that don’t promote physical, intellectual, spiritual, or emotional well-being and how you could remove, or at least delay, those. For example, waking up and checking messages on our phone while lying in bed is a habit that many of us have, but it can lead to losing track of time and making us late. Not a great way to start the day!
We suggest making a chart with the four categories of well-being:
Using practices you may already do or know about as well as the lists below, brainstorm habits that would have a positive impact on your life. Please keep in mind, not every practice is right for everyone and you may notice that some practices fit into more than one category. For example, going for a run while listening to a podcast promotes physical and intellectual health. Who doesn’t love a twofer? You may also notice that many of these practices can happen with our students and/or peers. Win-win!
- Breathing exercises
- Stay hydrated
- Do a household chore that requires movement
- Walk your campus twice
- Go for a run and listen to a podcast (Check out suggested podcasts here and here)
- Work on something that you would otherwise need to work on afterschool
- Journal to reflect
- Practice gratitude
- Tap into your spiritual beliefs through meditation or prayer
- Watch the sunrise
- Do a check-in on your emotions
- Use permission slips to set an intention for the day
- Get to work early to connect with those who build you up and make you laugh
PICK A FOCUS AND MAKE A PLAN
Looking at your chart, pick just one habit to start with. Focusing on that practice, make a plan and stay consistent for at least two months. As Carol Dweck shares in her book, Mindset, “Research by Peter Gollwitzer and his colleagues shows that vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. The next day comes and the next day goes.” Instead, think about it in vivid detail:
- When will you follow through on your plan? Consider setting a recurring reminder on your phone so you don’t forget.
- Where will you do it? Is this a habit that could happen at school with your students and/or peers?
- How will you do it? Visualize it.
Full disclosure, the first week will be the hardest, but it will get easier over time and gradually, you can bring more self-care practices into your life. You can do this!
4 Ways We Can Fight Fatigue & Improve Our Well-Being was authored by:
Mandy Froehlich consults with school districts and post-secondary institutions in the effective use of technology to support great teaching, mental health support for educators, and how to create organizational change in education. Her first book, The Fire Within: Lessons from defeat that have ignited a passion for learning, discusses mental health awareness for teachers. Her second book, Divergent EDU, is based on an organizational structure she developed to support teachers in innovative and divergent thinking. Her third book, based on educator engagement and mental health, is titled Reignite the Flames which has a companion guide/workbook titled The Educator’s Matchbook.
Lainie Rowell is an educator, international consultant, writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. She is the lead author of Evolving Learner and a contributing author of Because of a Teacher. An experienced teacher and district leader, her expertise includes learner-driven design, community building, online/blended learning, and professional learning. Since 2014, Lainie has been a consultant for the Orange County Department of Education's Institute for Leadership Development.