As a teaching practitioner, you spend a huge amount of time giving out to others and, hopefully, getting a great deal of joy from this. Seeing children grow in all sorts of ways is incredibly fulfilling. In order to sustain this commitment, you need to keep well. With the summer offering a little space, here are 10 top tips to help you maintain your energy levels, motivation and health.
Do not tackle them all at once; instead take small steps in the areas that you feel will most benefit you. Starting small is easier to sustain, especially if you find a specific time for whatever you decide to do. Having a set time will help you, as will putting a tick on a monthly chart each day you achieve your goal. Forming a habit takes time and keeping a record will help.
While the tips are numbered, this does not denote a hierarchy. Select ones that strike you as helpful. You can always try others subsequently.
A staggering 60% of your body consists of water. It is not surprising that staying hydrated is very important as it helps to replace the water you lose during the day. The National Health Service’s Eatwell Guide (www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/) recommends 6–8 glasses of fluid per day, with water being the main percentage of this. It is essential to pay attention to your body, drinking when you feel thirsty. This can be tricky, so try keeping a bottle of water to hand to sip from while working. Take advantage of breaks and do not skip a drink.
Not everyone loves getting up early to hit the gym before work (or are able to). While maintaining flexibility and strength benefits our health and emotional wellbeing, fitting exercise in can be a challenge. Exercising with others is a great way to feel encouraged and stay motivated. A walk with a family member, friend or colleague is good, as is going to a fitness class with someone if that appeals. Whatever you decide to try, it is important to do what is manageable and to work with your body’s capabilities. You can always build on this subsequently.
Who are the people that accept you warts and all? Whose advice do you trust, and who are you confident is for you? These are the people to keep in contact with, even if this might not be easy to do, especially if they are not local, work full-time or are busy for other reasons. We sometimes substitute face-to-face conversations with social media versions. While this can help to maintain relationships, there is something immensely restorative about spending time with those we hold most dear and letting conversation flow. Set aside a small amount of time to give someone a call or catch up with them over a cup of coffee (or glass of water to keep your hydration levels up).
Mindfulness is often described as paying attention to the present moment, and by this we create space for ourselves. By being aware in this way, we can increase our understanding of how we respond to different experiences and people. It can also help us to enjoy the world more fully. All these facets of mindfulness will help to increase our mental resilience and wellbeing.
Here’s a method for you to try:
Find a comfortable sitting position. Take a deep breath to loosen any tension in your body. Focus on your breathing, enjoying its rhythm. If you notice your mind wandering, simply allow it to come back to the present moment and resist the temptation to judge yourself. Continue in this manner for 2–3 minutes, increasing the duration over time (see www.mindful.org). With experience, you might find that you are more able to be mindful in your approach to situations without needing to follow the breathing technique in that moment.
Be curious/Take note
Being present in and savouring the moment can help to reaffirm one’s life priorities. As we increase our self-awareness, we are more able to make positive choices based on our values. This heightens our sense of connection with others. Take a moment to enjoy the environment you are in. Clear your mind with a few deep breaths and reconnect with yourself. Consider how those alongside you might be feeling. You might want to discuss how your respective days are going. Start a curiosity journal, jotting down new or interesting things that catch your attention during the day. It is interesting to read through your jottings and sketches as your journal grows.
Keep learning and creating
Learning something can be energising and dynamic. It takes us into a new space and our experience broadens. There is evidence that setting learning goals has a positive impact on our wellbeing. Similarly, creating something can give us a sense of achievement. This is as much for the process as the result. What do you want to learn about or do? If you enjoy reading, choose a book from a genre you do not usually select from or ask a friend for a recommendation. Join a dance class, do a puzzle, learn to play a musical instrument. Feel the buzz of learning and creating.
While the desire to contribute positively to something beyond ourselves stems from a concern for others, there are benefits to our wellbeing too. We learn that it is immensely rewarding when we participate in an act of charity or engage in something bigger than ourselves: thanking someone, exchanging an understanding smile, participating in a community project enable us to connect with others and our environment, enriching their wellbeing and our own.
Celebrate and have fun
Celebrations are fun, which is vital for our wellbeing. With life being a serious business a lot of the time, we all need opportunities to relax and enjoy ourselves. Try making a list of the activities you enjoy and pick a few to engage in over the summer. Have a picnic, go to the beach, eat lunch with friends, tell jokes and stories, and laugh. Smiling not only releases tension in our faces, it also lifts our mood.
Sleep and rest
As a practitioner you probably work long days and certainly carry a lot of responsibility. This can often result in unsatisfactory sleep, leaving you feeling ill-equipped for the following day. Experts in sleep hygiene encourage us to develop a rhythm and set of habits or rituals. These include no screen use before going to bed, lighting a candle or dimming the lights as we get ready to go to sleep.
Finding times to rest in the week is very important too. Opportunities to lay aside some of the busyness and engage in things we like to do. Time when there is no agenda and no pressure on us to perform – when we can simply be.
Some people get energy from interacting with others, finding that it helps them to process their thoughts, emotions and responses to events. Others do not need such external stimuli, finding extended conversations draining. However, there are times when sharing our thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend is important, particularly if we feel anxious. We build genuine friendships through trusted conversations, and such strong relationships help to build our resilience and ability to bounce back when life is difficult. Why not begin by asking a friend how they are and really listening to their answer. Showing such empathy will also help to nurture a relationship in which you might feel more comfortable sharing concerns too. Be wise in your choices, start small and see what develops over time.
This blog was written by Space to Breathe, a community interest company based in Sheffield, England. They focus on striving to help people to live well, live fully and live deeply, whatever that looks like for each person. They aim to help enhance the wellbeing and mental resilience of individuals and communities, using a variety of approaches, including exploring the creative arts. Much of their work involves supporting school staff through wellbeing days and coaching.