This is for all of you who are feeling stressed today (so everyone?). It's even harder to be stressed with little people who are around all the time. I will be very honest, I had a hard day myself today. I heard that the government was cutting funding to education (again) and panic caught me off guard. It's also why this blog was so late coming out today, because someone (me) was doing yoga and taking a long bubble bath. The good thing that came out of that however was that it reminded me of the importance of taking care of yourself.
Now, I know this is in no way a huge revelation for you. Everyone says that. How many times have we heard "oh make sure your taking care of you." I used to laugh when people told me that and looked over my shoulder to 30 small children who were running like a pack of untamed kittens around my classroom. Fact was, when I had so many little ones who had needs it was easy to forget my own. I made that mistake way too often. I can't even imagine trying to work a full time job and teach, that is insanity. However, for all of you awesome parents out there doing your very best here are my tips for self care from an insanely busy classroom teacher.
Make Sure your Physical Needs are Met.
This seems basic. It's not when you are caring for children, especially the little ones. They are little tornado's of energy and stamina and have the attention span of a squirrel. Some days it feels like if you take your eyes off them for 30 seconds they will know and use that single moment to destroy everything in their line of sight. This feeling, trust me is multiplied by 100% when you are not at your best.
Remember in my last article when I talked about the importance of setting a schedule for the kids? This will help you too. Use that as a time that you can remember to fill up on the essentials. I used recess to remind myself to have a healthy snack. I made sure I had something to eat at lunch and last year, I bought this water bottle from Amazon that has time markers on it that line up pretty much perfectly with the hour marks on my timetable. If I missed an hour no biggie, I would just catch up. It is a great reminder to keep drinking water throughout the day.
Also, sleep was huge. I can not stress enough how important it was and still is. Not getting enough affected not just my overall mood but my patience with the children as well. It only took one bad night to throw me off too. In a perfect world of course we would always get eight hours, but since that isn't the case, I even sometimes would take a nap when I got home.
Please remember you are a human and have physical limits. These limits will be stretched even further if you don't fill the basic needs of your body!
Okay I know, easier said than done. Here is the thing though, you are a rocking human being and you have got this. Really, I promise. There are also times when you are starting to feel that tension creeping up on you. This is the perfect moment to introduce your children to the things that help you handle stress during the day. For me, that was meditation, Yoga and deep breathing. So we started morning and afternoon with a 25 minute yoga session and a 5 minute calm breathing exercise before moving into another calm activity. If we needed another breathing session during the day, then we took one. All together. Once the kids got used to it they would complain when they didn't get to do yoga!
Now, yoga is my favorite, it doesn't have to be that for you. Maybe you want to go for a nice walk with the kids. Maybe you enjoy high energy Zumba. Take a moment and think about what helps you handle stress during the day and bring that into your schedule. There are a lot of kid friendly You Tube channels that include movement, but honestly you can just play music and dance like crazy around your living room. I'm not going to be grading your dancing, promise.
Don't Beat Yourself Up!
So, you didn't sleep well last night and this morning you are cranky. The phone is ringing with work calls and the kids are whining about having to read. So you snap and yell and both the kids burst into tears. Guess what, you have not damaged your children forever. Promise. Kids know when we are stressed and again we are humans not the magic teacher/parent/childcare fairy. There are going to be times no matter HOW patient you are that they push you to a breaking point.
The important thing to do here is to realize what happened. Apologize if you need to and think about why it happened but not to the point that you obsess over it. Being able to realize that no matter how well planned you are not everything will go perfectly will help you in the long run. Being able to forgive yourself is a very big thing. We do the best that we can with the resources we have. That is all anyone can do. Your kids will forget being yelled at in a few minutes and go back to trying to destroy the house.
And Finally, Ask for the Help you Need!
No matter what you do, no matter how hard to try, no matter how much water you drink there are going to be days where you need help. There are reasons teachers are in communities. It's because we rely on each other! Now I get that sometimes it's hard to get physical help, especially if you are a single parent and your family lives a good distance away, but the help we need doesn't always have to be physical. Sometimes it can be a phone call to friends, or a Counselling appointment.
Do not be afraid to reach out to people and get the help you need in the moment. Even if it's just a chat. I know some days are SUPER rough, do your best to roll with them and remember tomorrow is a new day. For those extra hard days I always keep a pack of face masks around to treat myself. Just a little relaxing thing. I have a male co-worker who swears by them too! Pick your treat and feel no guilt for indulging in it.