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Friday / May 29

Strategies for Sustaining Your Well-Being: How Long Are We Supposed to Do This?

Week five-ish of social distancing (and sheltering at home) and the bloom is off the rose.

After the initial panic and confusion, it seems that people are settling in. Zoom classrooms are up and running. Teachers, parents, and students are slowly moving into a rhythm after spending countless hours working out technology kinks, lighting, microphones, curriculum design, and finding space in the house. Those of you with children of your own at home have figured out a way to get them up and running while providing a virtual classroom to the students you are responsible for teaching—all while figuring out how to get groceries, do laundry, disinfect everything, care for elderly parents, pay bills, and get outside for a little exercise.

All of this, with no actual spring break. No rest. No rejuvenation. No space. No ease.

Week five, and maybe you feel a little more confident. And in the same nano-second of time that you feel like you are just arriving at “I got this,” there is another feeling snuggling right up to your new-found confidence. It feels something like dread. How am I going to do this until the end of the school year? Is this really sustainable?

The answer is no. Probably not in the current iteration. You must allow for flexibility, patience, self-compassion, and change in order to sustain in this new “normal” for as long as it takes.

How do you cultivate those qualities while still orienting to the ever-changing landscape? Here are some tips to the stave off the dread that you may be feeling right now.

Increase your awareness of your own mind games:

Your brain is a powerful tool that is always intending to work in your best interest (survival). However, in the absence of awareness of your own thoughts and reactions, the mind can go rogue, pointing you towards a fear-based response. (Don’t be mad at your brain, it just wants to keep you alive.) Where the brain goes, the body (physical and emotional sensations) follows (and vice versa). They are not distinct from one another, but deeply interconnected.

Increasing your awareness of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations can be cultivated by small, frequent check-ins. It looks something like this:

  • Take 3 deep belly breaths
  • Notice your thoughts
  • Notice what sensations are present in your body
  • Notice your current emotional state

The more you practice this (I suggest setting an alarm on your phone a few times a day), the more you are able to adjust or attend to any needs you have versus moving through the day in a constant, unconscious state of ________ (fill in the blank).

Mindset. Mindset. Mindset:

  1. Mindset awareness is increased by frequent check-ins and daily meditation practice. It can be short, but it should be consistent.
  2. Radical acceptance means that we must accept reality. No matter how hard it is to accept, this is happening. There is a lot outside of our control. Accepting what is, not how you wish it was, enables you to focus on where you can positively impact people and things about which you care deeply.
  3. Shift your mindset towards innovation, possibility, and opportunity for growth.
  4. Celebrate all victories and accomplishments.
  5. Most importantly, you must be flexible. A flexible mindset that can be open to change, stay curious, and remain positive will be your greatest asset in times of uncertainty.

Reconnect to your purpose:

  • Why did you choose to become an educator, parent, leader, or spouse?
  • What do you value most?
  • Identify the people in your life with whom you share these values and connect with them. You are in the trenches together and can support one another. You are not alone in this.

Expand your gaze:

In times of high anxiety our minds get singularly and internally focused. We lose perspective. Things get small, internal, limited. Gently move towards expanding your gaze and you’ll see how everything becomes more possible.

  • Look up and away from your zoom screen, phone, television, or computer.
  • Notice the world around you.
  • Tune into your peripheral vision (both literally and metaphorically).
  • Get outside. Look up at the sky. Gaze at the trees. Track the birds that fly about the yard.
  • You are connected to the bigger world around you. Feel yourself being a part of it, not separate from it.

And as always, less is more. I know you are feeling stuck between the expectations of your job, your students, their parents, and your family, and your own internal critic has a lot to say about what you are not doing well right now. Breathe it all out. Find your center. Accept what is. Choose only what is necessary and possible. Be flexible. Simplify.

Written by

Beth Kelley, MA, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been working in schools for nearly 20 years. Additionally she has a decade worth of experience both as a consultant and a clinician in private practice and continues to provide ethical, professional training and supervision to new counselors in the field of psychology. Her specialty lies in working with adolescents who have experienced trauma and chronic stress and helping schools to best serve students through the trauma informed school lens. Although highly skilled in evidenced based therapeutic treatments, she believes that the relationship is the foundation for growth, healing and success. Beth is the co-author of Teaching, Learning, and Trauma: Responsive Practices to Holding Steady in Turbulent Times.

[email protected]

www.bethkelleyconsulting.com

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