Mindfulness has been a practice that I have been working on for a number of years now. I say that I have been working on it because as I have evolved, so too has my practice. In the beginning, I thought it was about being still or being quiet. About quieting my thoughts in order to be calm or to navigate a situation. Now I’m thinking of it more as what brings me into the here and now. What makes me present and what makes me feel like the best version of myself in a particular moment.
As we move into month 2 of virtual learning, I’m definitely realizing the need for the strategies in my toolkit even more. I find that at the end of the day, I am completely tired and my eyes literally burn. I also find that my mind is all over the place and that it takes a while to just unwind. Perhaps that might be because there is no longer a commute. It’s amazing how much that 15-minute car ride did for me to unpack the day and move into a different part of my life. I know that I’m not alone in this feeling and that there are thousands of educators at this moment experiencing the same sort of feeling. While everyone seems to be talking about mental health and well-being – the emails are literally filling my inbox – what is really being done? I know that I’m having conversations with my students about their own mental health and well-being and I also worry about my colleagues who I know are burning out. In this post, I share a few tips that have been helping me over the last few weeks. I share these not as an expert but as a colleague wishing you well as I know this time is challenging for us all.
Is it just me or are the mornings coming sooner these days? I sometimes wake up thinking that it’s still night and yet my alarm has already gone off and I quickly realize that I turned it off a while ago. Often in shock that yet again I have “missed” the alarm, still tired and sometimes in need of some motivation for the day, I have found that meditations help to calm the anxious feeling and center me as I start the day. One app that I have found and love is My Life. With great suggestions based on how you are feeling, I’ve often used this app to get me going in the morning. I’ve also used some of the breathing techniques with my students who have also enjoyed the focus that comes from sometimes having a minute to check-in with how they are feeling.
When meditation doesn’t get me going in the mornings, I know that there are some tunes that are proven to get me up and moving. Music has a way of speaking straight to the heart and if we think about it, we can identify that one song that does just that and has the power to get us ready for the day. Over the years, “my song” has changed based on where I am at in my life. What’s your song or songs? Consider creating a playlist for yourself. One with songs that motivate you and get you going feeling positive. While I know that a song doesn’t have the power to change our circumstances, I’m amazed by its power to start shaping how I feel.
I consider myself lucky to be able to walk and over the last couple of years, I have really enjoyed walking. In the past, I would try to walk for at least one hour a day but with the cold here, I’m happy when I get in 30 to 45 minutes. I often grab my music and head outdoors to enjoy some fresh air. Finding paths in my neighbourhood has been one way that I’ve tried to get away from a sense of monotony in my day. There’s something about breathing in the air outside that allows me to feel more grounded and my back certainly appreciates the opportunity to get moving. I think I’m over my “office chair”. There’s tons of research on the benefits of walking but for me, I just feel so much better when I have the chance to get moving. I know that with Covid it’s hard to move in the same ways in which we may have in the past but are there ways for you to get outside and connect with nature? Today is sunny and the sunshine definitely makes all the difference for me. In fact, I’m going to head out there once I’ve posted this blog. How does movement impact you? If you are able, what steps can you take to get moving today?
My dad used to say that, “Laughter is the best medicine”. I don’t think he made it up himself. I’m certain that I saw it in a Reader’s Digest Magazine once but I’ll credit him for sharing it with me. My students keep me laughing and I owe them big time for it. Every day, I can count on someone sharing something with me that will get me laughing on a deep level. I am adding this part because I have noticed that on the days when we have laughed the most, the time seems to pass by so quickly and these are the days that I felt that we connected the most. I know for myself that I need to build more laughter into my day. Today we had a brief Connect 4 tournament. A student wanted to play against me and of course, he won. He laughed because I was so focused on where I was going to win that I didn’t notice that he was sneaking up on me with a win of his own. We laughed so hard and at that moment I realized that this is the feeling that I want to have more of and that I am missing as we are learning virtually. It has me thinking about ways in which I can weave more opportunities for laughter into my day. How might you weave in more laughter in your day with students or with friends or family?
I know that there’s so much information out there about tips and strategies for mental health and well-being. I hope that you take some time this weekend to sit and think about what works best for you. I also hope that you can take some time and devote it to doing the things that make you smile and feel your best. Meditate. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Laugh. Whatever it is, please take care of yourself.