What is the first thing that goes out the window when you are totally absorbed in your work?
That’s right… self care.
I think that’s something we are all guilty of and when you look at the situation objectively you realise that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. How can we expect to think straight and deliver excellent work if our health isn’t in tip top condition?
I strongly believe that self care is the top priority if we want to have the strength and energy to live life to the fullest, be in a good mood and connected with our creative side.
After working with many different clients over the past 10 years or so I have collected a huge repertoire of excuses for skipping workouts, eating rubbish food, not sleeping enough, going on benders and so on… however they key to success here is to recognize that we have given in to unhealthy habits, not beat ourselves over it, and instead make a commitment to ourselves to turn the situation around.
It’s as simple as replacing dodgy habits with healthier ones, one at the time, slowly slowly but surely. It doesn’t matter if you stumble here and there, just take responsibility for your own self care and take the crucial first step today. But remember: just thinking about it won’t bring any improvements, you have to actually do what you say you are going to do. I promise you that keeping your word to yourself is one of the sweetest feelings you can experience, especially at times of stress and work overload.
Even better: it rubs off on others. They see you happier, healthier, more energetic and having that “je ne sais quoi” factor that radiates positivity. They want to be around you more and they want to be more like you.
You plan for it. It’s that simple. But not many teachers take the time to do it.
When you sit down and start planning your day, your week, your month or the school year self care should have a prominent place in your busy schedule.
It’s exquisitely easy to do and this is how:
You take a planner, preferably one of those that give you a week at a glance so you can “see” your whole week.
You start claiming the time slots that are non-negotiable. If you teach in a school (as opposed to being a freelancer) you will have a strict work schedule that you have to adhere to. Claim that time in your planner.
Do the same for your family time.
Now we are going to add self care to your schedule.
One of the first aspects of self care that I look at when I meet a new client is his or her sleeping habits. If you re looking at making improvements to your health your bedtime is where you start.
Did you know that sleep deprivation kills you faster than starvation or dehydration? Your body detoxes when you sleep and that’s why you feel drunk when you don’t get enough zzzzz’s. This dulls your reactions and affects your metabolism negatively depriving you of your daily opportunity to reset your cortisol levels ready for another day.
I know many teachers who don’t benefit from a good night sleep on a daily basis. They fall prey to insomnia for two main reasons: irregular working hours with frequent all nighters and not being able to shut off their busy minds.
They are never “off duty”. They become overwhelmed with all the things they think they have to do and when they don’t all get done they berate themselves. On top of this they are constantly thinking of new and different ways in which they can help their students thus never getting enough of a break to be able to get some good restful sleep.
The problem is that insomnia can be really difficult to fight. But not impossible. Unless you have an underlying medical condition that causes you to not sleep eventually your body will want to shut down and go to sleep but in the meantime there is plenty you can do to help yourself.
In your planner mark down the amount of hours you feel you need to sleep in order to be full of beans at the start of your next day. Then add a little bit of time before your sleepy time for your bedtime rituals.
I cannot stress the importance of rituals enough: they are like classical conditioning for your sleep. As soon as the rituals start your body begins to get ready for sleep. When you get to bed make sure there’s no TV, no playing with your smartphone and no reading (unless that helps you fall asleep). It’s lights out.
Once you have planned your sleep it’s time to plan your meals so that you are always well nourished. You make this step is unnecessary but if you go with it you will see how much time you have to make each day in order to shop, prepare and consume a few good meals. Planning ahead in this manner will prevent you from giving in to the temptation of eating food that is nutritionally poor. It’s funny how I don’t eat biscuits when I don’t buy any. 😉
Stocking up on healthy foods that help when suffering from morning grogginess will help you with the brain fog and keep your energy levels steady for hours is a good place to start. For this purpose is best to skip the breakfast aisle at the supermarket and head for the butchers and/or the green grocery aisles.
If you can’t avoid buying convenience food make a habit of reading the nutritional information on the packaging. It’s easy to think that you are doing “the right thing” by buying a protein bar but often times when you read the label you realise that the product is nothing more than a sugar bomb that will give you a short energy fix only to leave you down in the dumps craving for more shortly afterwards.
Think about allocating time for batch cooking your meals at the weekend so that during the week you always have something healthy available.
Something else to bear in mind when planning your meals is to make sure you eat enough to support you throughout the day. You can use one of the many calories counters that you can find free online. This is especially important if you feel sluggish and tired more often than not. The most likely reason is that you are not eating enough and your metabolism has slowed right down.
Whether you eat twice a day or several times a day is down to your personal preference and no frequency is better than the other unless it works better for you. Whichever works for you, make sure to practice good eating hygiene: sit down and take your time eating your food, chew it properly and relax. Avoid stressful conversations and pity parties with your colleagues if you can.
Mark those time slots in your calendar.
Now that we have taken care of the needs of our body (nutrition and detoxification) it’s time to move our attention towards the activities that bring you joy and claim their rightful place in your schedule.
Perhaps you love gardening, taking dance classes, going to the gym, singing, making music, crafts, walking, reading, socialising and so on. Doing something that makes you happy outside of your work is so important for recharging your batteries. It gives you a complete break from your work time and keeps you sane.
When you are caught up in stressful events unfolding around you the only way you can stop the vicious circle of ruminating the same thoughts over and over again is to have an “outside intervention” to break that cycle. Hobbies give you the chance to get that break. And with the break comes enough distance to look at the stressful situation from the outside in hopefully helping you find solutions.
Mark the time slots for your hobbies in your calendar. Include periods of solitude too if you so wish.
By now in your planner you should have time slots for work, sleep, food and fun. Everything else has to fit around these time slots. NEVER the other way round.
See? I told you it was simple.
Here at The Calming Zone we have made things even easier for you by making a Self Care Planner that you can download here: SelfCarePlannerA4E
Personal Trainer. Thai Yoga Massage Therapist. Mental Health Ambassador. Martial Artist. Animal Flow Instructor. Social Scientist. Blogger. Sometimes Vlogger. Maid to the quadrupedals in my life.
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