Susan Riley | June 2014

How Are You Taking Care of You?

As educators, we are some of the last people that we take care of at the end of a long day (or even a long school year).  We make sure that all of our students are making progress, providing them with the highest-quality teaching we possibly can, and then showering them with encouragement and positivity.

We ensure that our colleagues and peers have someone they can turn to for advice, a shoulder to cry on, or just a listening ear.  We get the grading done, the projects set up and put away, and we attend the extra meetings, events and conferences.  And then…we go home and take care of our families and our friends.  Our passion is clear: we want to help everyone’s star shine its brightest light.

But what about you?

Are you shining right now?  How’s your star’s light at the moment?  My guess is that it’s a little dull and that the shimmer is just a little worn out.  Here is what I have had to learn the hard way: if you don’t take care of yourself, you have let down everyone else.

There have been times in my career where I was determined to wear the superwoman cape.  To change the world, one student at a time, and then come home, make the perfect dinner and take my child to dance class, music class and library time.  And it worked for a while.  But then, as it always does, exhaustion, frustration and even resentment reared their ugly heads.  I began to become more on edge.  My family would look at me and say “you need to chill out” and my daughter would catch me checking emails instead of watching her learn how to float in the pool.  I would cry more, eat less, and find myself wondering if any of this was worth it.

Sound familiar?  We all do this!  What’s worse is that I have done this more than once.  If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, then I am most definitely c-r-a-z-y.  After the last time, it finally sank through my thick skull that the only way you can be a benefit to others is to first take care of yourself.

How are you taking care of YOU?

It’s finally time for a break after what has been an intense year in education for everyone.  Now is the time to take some time for yourself – and to enjoy every moment of it.  I know that many of us work other jobs during the summer or have packed the summer schedules with activities for the kids, and that is totally fine.  But do make it a point to carve out some time for yourself and investing in some things that recharge your batteries.  Here’s a list of some things that may help to bring your sparkle back:

1. Sleep well.  Notice that I didn’t say sleep IN (though I was tempted).  Actually, your body does better when you have a regular sleep pattern, rather than maintaining crazy hours.  So, if you like to stay up late and sleep in during the summer, go for it!  Just make sure it becomes your regular pattern during the summer months and then slowly get yourself back into the school sleep pattern during the month of August.  That way, it’s not so jarring to your body when the alarm goes off for real.  Also – try making sure that your sleep area is cool, has limited distractions, and that you invest in some nice bedding.  Sleep really does make all the difference in the world.

2. Create first.  Start off your morning by feeding your creativity first!  Don’t check your emails or answer any phone calls until you’ve had a chance to create something for the day.  It will set you up for a better mindset and make you feel empowered for anything else that life throws at you.

3. Invest in Yourself.  I mean this in every sense of the word.  Take a class, attend a conference, or even design your own professional development with blogs, twitter chats and pinterest boards.  Go ahead and treat yourself to a pedicure, a new outfit, a yoga class or a new haircut.  Take some time to reconnect with nature and whatever spiritual center you believe in.  Invest in making yourself better with whatever time you may have this summer.

Create a new set of small habits that you can carry with you into the school year.  Hopefully, you’ll enter the next season with a new-found shine and ways that keep you at your best all year round.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan