As educators, I have always thought we have been rather blessed to have at least 2 New Year’s celebrations a year: the one that comes every September, and the one that comes every January 1st. For me, both of these days brings about a slew of self-care goals: to exercise more, eat better, cook more, be more social, or even look more “put together”. More often than not, I start strong, and regress just in time to reset for the next new year.
After years of cycling through all of my “new years” – and never really ever making any permanent lifestyle changes – it occurred to me that I wasn’t putting enough effort into my own self-care. In fact, I mistakenly believed that self care was something that would be instinctive, or simply happen without any expenditure of energy. What I have realized is that real self care comes with work.
This year has been exceptionally busy and Meg, the gym manager invited me to the dreaded new year fitness and nutrition challenge. The gym manager, a very young, fit and enthusiastic woman probably about half my age texted me with a flurry of fire and muscle arm emojis.
“Book the challenge! Commit! Are you in? Yassssss 🔥🔥🔥💪💪💪”
I honestly couldn’t picture myself cooking a whole other menu of food on top of what I was regularly preparing for my own family, all while regularly attending early morning workouts and of course, doing a full time job.
“You can do this. 🔥🔥💪💪Train insane or never change ayeeeee ☠️”
In that moment, I realized that there would never be an “ideal” time to embark on a lifestyle challenge. I had always wanted to clean up my diet and increase my fitness, but always made sure I was way too busy to ever do it in earnest. I had bought into a narrative in which I was the busy teacher-mom that was way too overburdened to do anything for myself. This narrative, I decided, needed to end.
I relented, said yes, and promptly scheduled my body scan so I could get the cold hard facts on what I specifically needed to improve.
Sure, I can book a vacation, a spa visit or an evening at a favourite restaurant and be practicing a version of self care where I feel I have carved out some “me time”. But these moments are fleeting, and end as soon as the bill is paid. These one-off events are fantastic, but do not bring any transformation. The kind of self care that brings lasting change means being consistent, and rethinking the way I approach my work as an educator.
As teachers, it is all too easy to throw ourselves into an endless workflow. In schools and school boards, there are always more things to do than people to do them. The key is knowing when to stop so you can have the energy to funnel to attempt manifesting your own personal goals.
You may be wondering, did I succeed? Did I indeed manifest?
To be honest, it is too early to tell. What I do know was that it was indeed liberating to simply stop answering emails, planning lessons, and reading yet another book on assessment to get to bed early enough to make a 5:45 am workout and make a protein smoothie. And if learning how to interrupt my endless workflow is the only thing that comes out of this whole experience, I will have achieved something truly transformational.