The hussle and bussle of the holidays can create stress and overwhelm as people prepare for the giving season. When you consider that many educators feel stressed and overwhelmed already, you may ask, “How can we prepare to give to others, without totally diminishing the bit of emotional and physical energy we have left?” The answer is found in hope! We can ignite it in our own lives and in the lives of others. Let’s focus on three specific ways to ignite hope during our school break.
1. Renew Our Why.
I often ask educators to reflect upon why they chose their vocations in the first place. This reflection helps to rekindle our vocational meaning and purpose. We can also apply renewing our why to the holiday season. Why do we look forward to the holidays? Is it to share quality time with family, celebrate our faith, or relax into the time away from work? Perhaps, it is all three?
Regardless, determine the reason why this upcoming holiday or winter break is important to you and then celebrate that. For example, if it is about spending time with family, let them know how important they are to you! Write individual appreciation notes, carve out time to hike, bake, or play games together, or give a token of love. For example, during our pandemic-necessitated physical separation last year, our family had rubber bracelets made for the more than fifty family members who typically gather for Thanksgiving. On each bracelet was imprinted: “Not where I am, but where I love, I live.” We may not have been together, but we renewed the reason the holiday was important to us. When we renew our why, we rekindle hope!
2. Be Intentional.
During the school break, be intentional about taking a break! Take a break to breathe, to rest, to laugh, to read. Take a break, and find hope in the moment. I realize you may be thinking, “I don’t have time to take a break!” My response: Make time. We have high expectations at school for our students, let’s have high expectations for ourselves as well! We can dedicate 15 minutes in the morning to take a cup of coffee or cocoa outside as we listen to the sounds of the day beginning.
When our kids were little, my mother-in-law would take them on a walk and ask them to notice what they could see, hear, and smell. It was an amazing way to be intentionally present and to appreciate the beauty of nature. They would come back excited and in awe! Such a simple excursion, yet joy was found in the intentionality of their walk. And where there is joy, there is hope! Joy for you may not be a walk in nature or 15 minutes in the morning with a cuppa Joe; maybe it is finding quiet corner to read for a few minutes or to just be still. Maybe it is watching a movie that makes you laugh or sneaking away with a friend to share time together. Whatever it is for you, turn intention into action and cultivate hope.
3. Create Connections.
The holidays are an ideal time to connect with others. I realize that the pandemic is not behind us by any means, and the current surge in hospitalizations related to COVID remind us how important it is to protect one another. That may mean maintaining physical distance from those who are most vulnerable or unvaccinated. Yet we can still create emotional and social connections!
During our school break, we can engage in random acts of compassion. This might look like making a phone call to someone you haven’t spoken to in ages, or writing a note to say “I’m thinking of you” or “I appreciate you!” It might look like sending a thoughtful card or fresh flowers to someone who is alone or grieving during the holiday season. Perhaps raking leaves or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor is your way to demonstrate connection and care for humanity.
Likewise, take time to create connections with those with whom you are closest. During the work week, we often get so focused on cultivating relationships with our students and colleagues at school that we sometimes forget the importance of nourishing our relationships within our own families. Use this break away from school to ignite hope by connecting authentically with your family. In my family, this connection looks like baking pies, playing spice jenga, laughing a lot, and sometimes celebrating with song and libation! What does it look like for you? Whatever it is, immerse yourself in it, and share the hope that is found in connection!
When we choose to renew our why, be intentional, and create connections during the holiday season, we will be renewed, intentionally connected, and prepared to give to others! What will we give?
Please consider giving the gift of hope to educators this season. Visit thrivingthroughadversity.com to learn more about Thriving through Adversity: Powerful Strategies for Educators to Ignite Hope, Inspire Students and Transform Schools. You can also order Start With the Heart: Igniting Hope in Schools through Social and Emotional Learning and pre-order Social Emotional Well-Being for Educators at corwin.com.