Teacher Wellness Series – Part 3: Spring has Sprung!

Article by Tammy Metcalf

It takes only two words to make almost every educator happy: Spring Break. By the time we’ve made it to spring break, most of us have convinced ourselves that we can indeed make it to the end of the year. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and we’re relatively certain that light’s not attached to a train!

If you’ve been following your Teacher Self Appreciation Plan, you may notice that spring break is a little different this year. Instead of staying home and sleeping, you may instead be gardening, visiting museums, or traveling (or for ELA teachers, reading a book for pleasure!). When you practice self-care, breaks become more meaningful and productive.

Last year was the first time I really developed and implemented my own Teacher Self Appreciation Plan. I started by moving closer to work, which cut my 90-minute commute in half. Then I added yoga and massages, and a nutrition counselor who has helped me achieve many of my goals, including drinking a gallon of water every day (it’s not as hard as you think), regular journaling, and, of course, modifying my diet so I can stop taking several medications. I’m not there yet, but I can proudly say that McDonald’s is no longer my breakfast buddy, and I’ve made my peace with spinach and kale in my morning smoothies.

Just as important has been my reactions to daily stress in my professional life. In the past I would respond to unfavorable news with a healthy spike in blood pressure, followed by several minutes (sometimes hours) of smoldering anger and/or resentment. This, of course, led to sugar cravings (emotional eating is NOT my friend) and then the self-recrimination of having once again failed as a professional and as a person. Now, however, my responses are different. Now I take a moment to process the information, formulate a plan, and move on with my day. I may still take a moment to wallow in anger or resentment, but that time is much shorter. If I find myself staying stuck, I revisit my Five Minute Journal, take a short break, maybe meditate (there are some great free meditation apps that can easily be used at work), and then resume my day. My blood pressure is lower, my pulse is lower, and my cholesterol is headed in the right direction. Once I realized and accepted that I am responsible for my own wellness, things turned around—not overnight, but slowly and progressively.

Assuming responsibility for my wellness has brought about significant changes in my professional and personal lives. I have a level of focus I’ve not experienced since college (in the last millennium!), and I’m able to help teachers in ways I never could before because I was too mentally and physically exhausted to think straight, much less help teachers implement instructional strategies to improve student learning and make their own lives easier. But my personal life is also better. I’m no longer sick every break and my husband no longer takes the dogs out of the house while I’m grading. After 20+ years in education, I’ve finally found a LIFE-work balance. All it’s taken is believing that I am worth all the time and energy I spend on everyone else.

Here’s hoping your journey leads you to a more balanced life!

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