Over the past two years, I’ve worked diligently to balance my various life roles — mother, teacher, friend, fitness instructor, blogger, etc. Inspired by feelings of complete exhaustion and overwhelming emotion, I’ve been intensely driven to reduce the anxiety I often feel. I was tired of feeling pessimistic and frustrated and wanted nothing more than a feeling of calm and peace.
Worry overwhelmed my mind — Was I right for this job? Should I stay in education? Could I handle the pressure as an educator? And so, the past two years have been full of reading, working out, purging material items, and indulging in caffeinated beverages. Ultimately though, my solace and calm is finally within view.
I've been introspective and I've learned a lot on my teacher wellness journey, and I continue to work on the following ideas:
Mindful Social Media
I’ve been an avid user of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I love the ability to connect and celebrate my life’s momentous occasions. Sure, I use it to collaborate and access new ideas, but I’ve been so engrossed in these online conversations that I’ve been pulled away from my family and free time. As such, I’ve greatly reduced my use of social media.
I now use social media intentionally, when someone asks me a question or when a conversation is started that I feel compelled to speak to. I’m no longer concerned with the number of likes or followers I’m accumulating. I’ve intentionally decreased my curiosity about the lives of others. This is not to say I don’t care about my friends and colleagues, I most definitely do. But I’m allowing myself space and protecting my time by limiting the time spent on these platforms. If my presence on social media isn’t completely authentic, I no longer engage in activities that may absorb my time and inadvertently create an imbalance.
Fully Embrace “No”
I used to be a “yes” girl. Extra school committee — sign me up. Leadership team member — yes, please. Dance chaperone — yes, of course. The list goes on and on. For my own children I did the same, saying yes to every play date and family activity I possibly could. Every invitation was a "yes" RSVP. Quickly, my calendar was completely full. This left me feeling exhausted and resentful.
Now, I analyze an opportunity that comes my way to decide what my interests and responsibilities are and where I want to invest my energy. I understand that I can only commit to so many opportunities and I carefully decide where to spend my time and what to spend it on. At the beginning this wasn't easy — it took a lot of time to carefully think about which activities I really wanted to be a part of and which I could let pass. However, over time I’ve gotten better at responding with a “no” to that which does not align with my responsibilities or available time. I’ve come to understand that overfilling my calendar has many unintended consequences.
The Passion Colander
I have many passions. I’m passionate about mathematics, inquiry, feminism, STEM, advocating for single-moms, dance fitness, and the list goes on. A creative mind, I continue to add to the number of passions I have. I began thinking about which of these I really want to put my time and energy into.
This year, I felt called to talk about the narratives of women leaders. Perhaps next year I'll focus on a different passion or topic of interest. As I think about my focus, I know that the more narrow I make my objectives, the more I can accomplish — resulting in a feeling of pride and empowerment. I’m choosing to think about what I’m most passionate about, in the moment, and speak to those ideas. I’m working on reminding myself that I have to sort my passions through a colander as I decide where I want to spend the largest amount of time and energy.
Cherish Non-Work Relationships
I can get over-dedicated to my job. It’s taken some time for me to really work on my relationships outside of school. Spending time with my kids means leaving meetings earlier than I would like or saying no to extra committee work that would pull me away from them. Making time for my friends means not always bringing up every school-based challenge I face when we hang out.
As I focus and build my relationships outside of school, I’ve had to redefine the kinds of conversations I might have. I try to leave the mathematics talk for other times (I’ve killed a number of party atmospheres with oral dissertations on the value of Common Core Standards). Instead, I’m working on being present and asking questions of others. I’m getting to know their values and their lives rather than lamenting on my work challenges or sharing my advice on education.
Balance is not a wish. I once thought that I could wave a magic wand and simply wish for balance and it would somehow magically appear. But what I know now is that it takes hard work and sacrifice. Much like home organization doesn’t happen magically, you'll need to purge and re-evaluate all that's on your plate to free yourself to the possibility of balance. And just when you feel balanced, know that life will throw you another challenge. Yet, the more you continue to practice and reflect on what brings you balance, the better you’ll be able to recover from the moments of imbalance.
I wish you a great and healthy close to your school year. Thank you for joining me on my journey into teacher wellness this year. And as you enter into the summer, may you be able to continue to focus on your wellness.