April is here and so is spring and most importantly YOU.
You continue to give yourself permission through 2021 and your growth game is amazing. Perhaps, if like me, some days are hard to see how far you’ve come then take a moment to reflect, turn inward, and remind yourself that this month – this moment – is a new opportunity to begin again. You are amazing.
I invite you to take a pause before reading on and consider the following: How you are feeling? What do you need (a stretch, a deep exhale, a glass of water)? What would it be like to meet that need?
Let this moment settle. A pause and a reflection can remind us to slow down and compassionately listen to what’s really important.
Now that we’ve checked in with ourselves, I want you to know that I am so grateful you are here. Yes, I am so happy to picture you reading this month’s letter. So thank you for welcoming me onto your screen.
April is often a time of fresh starts. Spring is here and a renewed energy is upon us. It’s also often a time we reflect back and realize we get to reset our goals and start again. The energy of spring and new growth can rejuvenate us and give us permission to start again – especially with a practice or habit we have fallen behind on.
In this April month’s post, I share another new permission:
The permission to fall apart and start again.
This month, let’s focus back on our resilience and growing what we know helps us.
Do not judge me by my success; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
There was one year in my teaching career when I fell, not once but multiple times. I’m not talking figuratively fell down, I mean literally. I fell hard on the ground and struggled to get up.
The first time I fell was a dark, rainy October Sunday night, and I was inspired to go out for a run. It was one of those runs where I was in my flow. I was proud of myself for getting out on a cold night. My mind was full of good ideas and inspiration on how I was going to support the well-being of educators. I was mid-stride when my right foot came down on a pile of leaves, and under the leaves was a huge rock. My whole right ankle fell to the side, and I collapsed on the sidewalk. I tried to get back up, but I couldn’t walk. Luckily I had my phone with me, so I called my mom and then sat alone on the dark road crying, waiting for my mom to drive over and pick me up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last of the falls I would have that year. It left me feeling hurt, overwhelmed and resiliently low.
To build resiliency and increase our ability to bounce back when life gets tough, we must engage in sustainable self-care practices that promote our well-being. However, true self-care is not bubble baths and chocolate. It is choosing to build a life that cares deeply for you and that you don’t need to escape regularly. It is figuring out what practices keep you well at any given time: through report cards and parent-teacher meetings, through busy holidays and the end of the year. We need to have practices we can do in a moment of stress, like in our crowded classroom when everything is overwhelming, and then also have habits that we can use when we have time to care for ourselves.
For me, self-care involves incorporating many different habits into my daily routine that keep me well: meditation, exercise, good sleep, healthy food, and more. However, no self-care practice is going to be the same for everyone. And it doesn’t need to be. We all need self-care methods that are authentic and that remind us to be kind and gentle with ourselves during times of struggle.
So how do we create sustainable self-care practices in our busy lives, especially during the school year when the days are long and the expectations are high? When it’s only April and the end of the school year seems so far away.
The most straightforward approach is to discover how you already care for yourself and then remind yourself to do those things when your life becomes difficult. Toward that end, let’s start off by taking a bit of time to think about the components of well-being that already exist in your life and how you can create space to continue doing what you’re doing—or how you can make more space to grow a practice to care for yourself
When you practice self-care, it serves as a kind reminder to your body and heart that you love it enough to treat it well. Self-care should not be about increasing productivity but more about slowing down and checking in with what you really need. Self-care is that loving reminder that you too are important enough to care for in this moment of struggle.
When I’m overwhelmed and stressed, I always go back to my “quick six” as a reminder to slow down and fill myself with what is good for me. These reminders allow me to pay attention to what I need. When I ask myself, “What do I really need right now?” from a loving and kind place, it’s usually one of these six that solves the answer.
Which of these self-care practices will you prioritize as a loving way to care for yourself? You do not need to do all of them at the same time. This “quick six” is simply a reminder of what you could offer yourself to help you feel better at this time.
- Drink water. It’s a quick and easy routine to add to your day that will have instant effects on your body and energy.
- Breathe. Take a long deep breath that fills you and nourishes you on the inhale and releases you on the exhale. Do this often throughout your day. Big, juicy belly breaths.
- Get outside and breathe fresh air. Just the act of noticing nature and being aware of the environment will create a grounding awareness that reminds you to be well.
- Move your body—and bonus points if you do it with number 3. Get outside and go for a walk, do some stretching or yoga, or (my favourite) have a kitchen dance party with your favourite feel-good tunes while you make dinner—it makes the whole experience more fun.
- Be still. I know this is the opposite of what I just said, but to offset the constant movement and doing in our life, make space to pause. Take that bubble bath, meditate, or pet your dog. Just pause. Just long enough to notice your whole being settle and arrive.
- Invite a gratitude practice into your day. Notice all the things going well in your life. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “As long as you are breathing, there is more going right with you than wrong with you.” Pay attention to what is going well.
How will you give yourself permission to fall apart and start again? Can you allow April to be the month of caring for yourself in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re “shoulding” on yourself, but rather a way of supporting your resilience?
Email me and tell me, or even better join the Self-Compassion for Educators Facebook group and share your favourites with our community.
Stay tuned for information about the Year-Long Mindfulness for Educators Online program 2021/22 registration – details coming shortly. Get on the early-bird list now!
Be well, everyone.