A Time For Self Care

A Time For Self Care

As educators, we face an unprecedented time where we are not working, waiting to be called back to work when the Covid 19 outbreaks subside. Waiting, not being busy, watching the numbers of confirmed cases grow has been very unnerving for me.

As a teacher, I thrive being busy. I thrive being with my students. For 14 days, I’ve been  socially isolating (with my patient,understanding partner). In two weeks, we have only left our place to get groceries. I can only do so many puzzles or watch Netflix so many times.

And I know that as educators, you worry about students and miss being at your school. Your work is part of you. It is part of what defines you! Your work, that provides structure to your life, has been suspended.

Ironically, the stress I am feeling is opposite to the usual stress of being physically, mentally, and/or emotionally worn out due to our role as caregivers to our students. This is caregiver stress is referred to as compassion fatigue and has been referred to as “the cost of caring” (Charles Figley, 1995). An even without dealing with students, being away from them causes educators’ stress.

I’ve been regularly practicing self care since the day last week where, I went “a little squirrelly” … looking for things to do. I don’t sit around well!

As busy educators, some of you are also having to care for children and elderly relative during this time. If you feel overwhelmed, there is a reason for this as this moment in time and its repercussions is a lot to deal with!

As educators we do more than “just teach”, we care for our students and our colleagues. Teaching is about relationships and caring. I became a teacher to make the world a better place one student at a time and one day at a time. This exceptional time in the world is challenging for me.

If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out the medical personal or a mental health professional.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of others – Take each day one day at a time.

Wishing best health to you and your family,

Deb Weston

Some excellent resources from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Challenging worries and anxious thoughts

Talking to children about COVID-19 and its impact

Dealing with problems in a structured way

Attend to self care

  • self care is an effective way to guard against burn out from compassion fatigue or stress
  • self care helps educators deal with challenging workplace stress
  • key self care strategies include eating well, sleeping well, exercising, taking a break during the workday, taking time to self-reflect, making time to de-stress
  • know your triggers for stress

Build Resiliency

(Adapted from CAMH Resiliency & Short Term Self Care, n.d. )

Resilience is frequently described as the capacity to thrive and fulfill one’s potential despite (or perhaps because of) stressful circumstances. All of us are resilient in one way or another, but some people seem to be more resilient. These people are inclined to see challenges as learning opportunities which can result in healthy emotional growth and development.

Factors that are characteristic of resilient people include:

  • a sense of closeness and connectedness to others
  • strong, dependable support from at least one significant other in their lives
  • attention to their own personal health and well-being
  • high self-esteem, a strong sense of personal identity
  • a sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected and smile through the unbearable.
  • a realistic and balanced awareness of their strengths and limitations
  • the ability to be assertive and emotionally tough when necessary, but also sensitive and compassionate
  • a playful, lighthearted approach to life
  • a sense of direction and purpose in life
  • the ability to turn difficult experiences into valuable learning opportunities
  • the capacity to pick themselves up, shake themselves off and keep moving forward after traumatic and upsetting situations
  • the ability to adapt to and live comfortably with uncertainty and unpredictability
  • the ability to laugh at themselves. Resilient people do not “sweat the small stuff.”

Short-term Strategies: Putting on the brakes to relieve stress

Short-term strategies that help ease anxiety are unique to each person. List the quick wins that might be most helpful for you, and add to your list when something comes up that you find pleasant or re-energizing.

Here are some simple ways to relieve stress:

  • phone or email a colleague
  • take a walk
  • eat well
  • ask for help
  • ask for advice
  • drink at least two glasses of water a day
  • if you can, take in some nature
  • stretch
  • 4-7-8 breathing 4 in-7 hold-8 out
  • bake something and share it with others
  • make jam or bread … it always helps me

Making it Personal

Here are some quizzes you can do to help you know yourself and how you deal with stress!

Self Assessment for Stress and Burnout

“How Resilient Are You?” by A. Siebert (resiliencycenter.com)

“The Resiliency Quiz” by N. Henderson (resiliency.com/htm/resiliencyquiz.htm)

Making a self care plan that works for me

References

Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Secondary traumatic stress disorders from treating the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 7.

Mayo Clinic Staff, (n.d.) Stress management: Know your triggers  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-management/art-20044151

O’Grady, C. P., & Skinner, J. W., (2007) MSCAMH A Family Guide to Concurrent Disorders (CAMH Resiliency & Short Term Self Care) Downloaded from  http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/concurrent_disorders/a_family_guide_to_concurrent_disorders/selfcare/Pages/shortterm_selfcare.aspx

Stress Cat (n.d.) http://www.lessons4living.com/stresscat.htm

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Updated: March 27, 2020 — 7:13 pm

The Author

Deb Weston

I love teaching. I’ve been teaching over 20 years in Ontario. I’ve taught grades 2 through to grade 8, including split and contained Spec Ed classes. I am an advocate/ally for issues dealing with Workplace Health & Safety, Special Education, Mental Wellness, LGBTQT, and Aboriginal topics. I have qualifications in Special Education, Reading, Technology, Mathematics, eLearning, and Integrated Curriculum. I hold a PhD in Education Policy & Leadership. I am learning disabled! I believe that when working collaboratively, teachers are better together. My opinions are my own, usually supported by peer-reviewed literature and law. Follow me on Twitter @DPAWestonPhD

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