self-care

Saying No As Self-Care

Saying No As Self Care

The final bell FINALLY rang last week, and just as I shuttled out my 7th graders and sat down to breathe in and take some self-care time to relish the quiet, a new teacher burst into my room. I use the word ‘burst’ intentionally, as she was quite out of breath and started rambling about something I had agreed to do for her, and how thankful she was because it apparently wasn’t going to be very pleasant.

“Wow,” I replied. “Can you sit down for a minute?”

She stopped mid-sentence, pulled out the white folding chair across the table from me, and sat. I was actually surprised she agreed.

Over the next 40 minutes, I began to understand her breathlessness. She shared her overwhelm with being a new teacher, her desire to do her best, her feelings of being completely drowning in lesson planning and accountability and paperwork and adjunct duties and university coursework…and this is only the fourth week of school.

“Do you have any personal obligations?” I asked, immediately wondering if I’d probed too far. I remember feeling like her – as if the choices I’d made to be an educator were completely wrong, that I’d never have a life outside of school, and that despite all my earnestness and time and devotion and HOURS I gave to my class, I’d never be enough.

She luckily, at this time, only has a dog and some chickens to feel guilty about ignoring.

self-care

And yesterday I found myself in yet again another conversation with two teachers, both more experienced in the classroom yet young mothers. They spoke of hectic schedules, dirty diapers, daycare, and not seeing their spouses. And they talked money – how hard it is to be a teacher and want the ‘American Dream’ of a house AND a baby.

Preaching Self-Care

On both these occasions, I found myself steering the conversation the way I too often do these days – towards realizing you are enough just the way you are, preaching self-care, and the old ‘oxygen mask’ theory. Towards putting your own kids first, and to never feel guilty about moments spent with your own babies over someone else’s. 

Maybe it’s just that with my empty nest, I’m realizing how precious moments with my children were – not for only selfish reasons, but because the energy I put towards them and took away from my classroom meant that my kids would become strong, competent adults. Creating boundaries, saying ‘no’ instead of ‘ok, I’ll do it’ meant that my kids knew they came first.

It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

self-care

It just seems that so much of being a ‘teacher-mom’ is about creating a strong work-home balance, and with technology allowing us to be notified every second of the day, finding ways to distance ourselves from what happens at work must become more and more intentional.

Teaching, it seems, is one of the only professions where we feel like we are disappointing a child whichever way we choose. Creating strategies to ‘disappoint’ with grace and ease are crucial to our self-care. I’m hoping these four tips might help you the next time you have to choose between whispering ‘yes’ and screaming ‘NO!’

Four self-care tips:

  1. Start with being aware of the predicament you find yourself in. Say it out loud, write it down, share how it feels. Owning our situations helps us feel in control, and feeling in control helps us respond authentically.
  2. Consider the flip-side. You have so much to be grateful for. There are many worse problems than putting your children first – just ask someone who isn’t able to be a parent. Try to put the situation into perspective, and realize that this too, shall pass.
  3. Find a way to say no. Don’t feel obligated to offer a detailed explanation of why you are declining. “I’m sorry, I’ll have to decline” is honoring the situation AND yourself. Life will go on if you say no. And it will also open up more opportunities to say YES to things you really want to do.
  4. Breathe. Deeply, and from your belly. Slow it down. Take a moment to yourself, to change your state. Making decisions when we are emotionally heightened usually doesn’t bring good (or true) results. Nearly every decision can wait for a few deep inhales and exhales to help you center. Check out this video for more breathing ideas: 

Anna Quindlen said, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” I’d bet that if you try these strategies, you’ll find your perfect self right there where you left her.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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boundaries

Boundaries For Strong Self-Care: Creating and Keeping Yourself Happy and Healthy

Do you struggle with boundaries?

This morning I woke up to a tweet from one of my favorite educators, Pernille Ripp. She asked, “What is one thing do you to take care of yourself as an educator?”

I was the first to respond.

I quickly tweeted, “Set strong boundaries between home and school”, and she immediately replied, “I need to do that”.

boundaries

Wait – what? This educator/mom/ author agrees with me? I just assumed someone as accomplished as she would have figured that out, but then, I remembered – when my kids were young, it seemed impossible to set (let alone keep) those boundaries.

Teaching can feel like a 24/7 job.

And while dedicated educators always seem to have their next-most-awesome lesson idea simmering in the back of their mind, or are hoping that one special kid has a decent afternoon/night/weekend and comes back to school the next day, just like the old cliche about the oxygen mask, we really MUST practice strong self care to be at our best for our life-altering jobs as educators.

boundaries

Life can be tough, there’s no denying it. There are so many negative things in the world that can really get us down – even turning the tv on nowadays is depressing enough. Having said that, there are also so many incredible things around us that unfortunately, we miss because we are so preoccupied with the bad, but that’s where we need to focus and engage. Don’t let yourself be consumed by things that don’t deserve your time and attention. Instead, learn to unwind and do something that is worthwhile, like finding a hobby – something that you are truly passionate about.

It didn’t take teachers long to share their self-care tips; here are some of the best ideas:

Creating Art

Art is a tool that allows us to capture things and freeze them in time, in our own unique way. The beauty of this is that there aren’t any rules. Essentially you can do whatever you like, and no one can tell you whether it’s right or wrong, because that just doesn’t exist. You are in total control of what you do, so let your creative juices flow out onto a blank canvas with colorful paints and see what you’re able to create. Free your hands from tension and let them sculpt and mold clay into a structure that makes sense to you. – Whatever your form and medium may be, express whatever you are feeling at the time. Be honest and open, as that is when true magic happens.

Create & Construct

Listening and Playing Music

Music is a beautiful thing that not only stimulates our ears but our soul. It has the strength to bring back fond memories from a time that feels like centuries ago, even smelling the air from that very day. It’s exceptional, and it helps us to get through some of the best times, and some of the worst times in our lives. So think about being able to create that very same experience by playing an instrument yourself. It doesn’t have to be as hard as you may imagine either, for example, there are sites out there like easyukulelesongs.com that give access to what you need so that to play your favorite tunes. Why not stretch a bit, explore the world of music and pick up an instrument?

Music is a higher revelation...

Read, Read, Read

Reading is an underrated hobby that everyone should adopt. It allows us to delve into a world that is so different to our own, giving us the chance to live vicariously through the characters in books. People don’t realize how far stories can take them until they pick one up, only to find themselves not being able to put it down unless absolutely necessary. It’s a way of escaping reality for a while and drift off somewhere else. The best thing about it is the fact that reading can happen anywhere: on the sofa at home, on a bench in the park, under a tree in the forest, on the bus to a destination, in the bath eating strawberries, or in bed snuggled up (my favorite).

boundaries books

Another one of my favorite educators, Kelly Hilton (a co-creator of #hyperdocs), shared this hyperdoc lesson focused on TEACHERS, not students – but I can see the possibilities for making it apply to kids, too. Heck, every person who struggles with boundaries could benefit!

Why not share this with your teaching staff/friends/favorite educators who need a reminder to find ordinary things in life to discover the extraordinary pleasures that are right in front of us?

boundaries hyperdoc

Click HERE to make a copy of Kelly’s “Self-Care for Educators” hyperdoc, including a self-care plan, compassion-satisfaction-fatigue self- test, and self-care ideas.

What do you do to practice self-care and set boundaries between work and your personal life? Please share your tips below, or tweet me at @mamawolfeto2 .

I’d love to learn from you, too!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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How To Know If You’re An Optimist – And 6 Easy Ways To Become One

optimism

(ˈɒptɪˌmɪzəmn

1. the tendency to expect the best and see the best in all things       2. hopefulness; confidence
      We’ve all heard it before – are you a ‘cup half full’ or a ‘cup half empty’ kind of person. Me? I never knew – and still don’t know – quite how to answer that question. Am I an optimist? A pessimist? Does it depend on the size of the glass and what it’s full of?
     If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, I’d have to say you are an optimist – at least most of the time.
     Optimists don’t always have all the answers. They aren’t always smiley and cheery and living life on the edge; right there, it would knock me out of the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ group right there.
 optimist
     And where would that leave me? Pessimist? A “person who habitually sees or anticipates the worst or is disposed to be gloomy?” Well, sometimes, but not always. Sometimes life is gloomy. Sometimes really, really bad things happen – things so bad that we struggle to find a reason, to make sense, to ground ourselves in a place of security. When we fight the inner critic that tells us that we’re no good, that people are mean, and that evil exists in the world and unless we have superpowers, we can’t fight back.
    We wonder why bad things happen to good people. Why earthquakes and tsunamis and tornadoes wipe out thousands of innocent lives in a single moment. We ponder suicides and mass shootings and children who die and parents who have a terminal disease….when you think about it, being an optimist requires an antidote to kryptonite.
     Optimism requires hope. It expects good to triumph over evil. It obliges us to believe in heroes, in the rewards of virtue and that every cloud has a silver lining. Optimism requires us to believe that we can make a difference if we just put one foot in front of the other, even on those days when we feel like curling up into a ball and closing out the world.
     Therefore, I proclaim myself an optimist.
     Think about it – when was the last time you heard someone say they were ‘blessed’? This morning? Last night?
     I hear it every day, multiple times. In fact, I hear it so much I wonder if the true meaning is being lost. I wonder if what they really are saying is ‘I-know-this-is-hard-but-I’m-aware-that-I’m-luckier-than-most’.
     Is that being an optimist? I would argue, yes.
     And I’ll admit – I have it luckier/better/easier than most people in the world. Travel has taught me that.
     I’ll also admit that I’ve had some challenging shit happen to me in my life – and to those I care most about.
     Last summer, when Cameron broke his leg and we had to figure out what to do next, I decided that every day we would look for ‘silver linings’. I used those exact words, and when we were in the hospital, or stuck on a couch far away from home, or trying to navigate a full leg cast in a wheelchair or attempting to understand why-this-happened-to-him, we would stop, and say three ‘silver-linings’. And I have to say, it helped.
     Recently I was asked to review the book, 10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People: Power Your Life With The Positive by David Mezzapelle. And I’ll admit – I was a bit apprehensive. Could I truly make it through 288 pages of being ‘blessed’? Would my inner skeptic manage to stay positive?
     Happily, it did, and I found stories of real people peppered with optimistic quotes and ideas and actual nuggets of inspiration – some that I’ve regularly practiced in my daily life, and some that I’m working on embracing on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I found many of the themes here were ideas I’ve written about before: change, gratitude, small moments, value, self-care, inspiration, and service.
     Because I loved these ideas so much, I’m running a giveaway for the book  10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People: Power Your Life With The Positive. Viva Books has generously offered to send three copies to the winners – please enter, and share it with your friends who you think would benefit from reading stories inspired by these ideas:
1. Embrace Change
2. Appreciate Those Around You
3. Savor Every Moment
4. Believe In Yourself and the Value You Possess
5. Find Yourself In Service To Others
6. Have An Attitude of Gratitude
It’s simple to enter – just click the link below and choose your options.
Winners will be determined on May 3, 2015 – enter now! a Rafflecopter giveaway

photo credit: Better Future Ahead Sky via photopin (license)

photo credit: Things Will Be Fine via photopin (license)

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Fill Your Own Bucket on BonBon Break

This week I’m publishing a brand new essay exclusively on BonBon Break – it’s called “The Days Are Long”, and you can read it here.

For the month of March, BonBon Break accepted submissions for their theme, Fill  Your Bucket, and I was happy to have my post selected. As moms, so often we neglect ourselves in order to take care of everyone else…my post offers some tips on how to find fulfillment and happiness at every stage of motherhood.

Thanks for clicking over to BonBon Break to read “The Days Are Long” – and while you’re there, treat yourself to some of the other amazing essays:

Living By Example,

Why Moms Should Run Away

Waging The Gun War, One Hug At a Time

To The Empty Bucket Carriers

Five Ways Moving Helped Our Family

Mini-Meditations for Busy People

Can I ask you a favor? mamawolfe has been nominated by KCRA as one of the Best Local Bloggers, and I’d love your vote. If you could take a moment to click over and send my blog some love, I’d really appreciate it! Just click here!


Go ahead – fill your bucket with some lovely words this weekend!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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