First Things First

Well, I can’t say I’m sad to see 2018 end. It was a year fraught with difficult decisions and experiences, not just for me but for many people I care about. Personally, I have been in a fog, or funk as I like to call it, for the last several weeks, maybe even months. The holiday break could not have come at a better time. It was desperately needed. And I know I am not alone in that sentiment. My sister and I were talking recently about how it felt like this school year was already more tense than years past. All the educators and colleagues I work with seemed unusually exhausted heading into this break.
However, as we all know, good can come from enduring challenging times (and there are definitely a few highlights from 2018). It gives us opportunity to build our perseverance muscle, to grow in our tenacity and frequently learn valuable lessons, including what (& who) really matters in life. As obvious as this may sound, I’m glad a new year starts after an old year ends. It provides the chance to reflect on all that has taken place; personal progress made, growth that has occurred and take that into a new year, hopefully with new resolve.
During the holidays, after all the hustle and bustle has died down, most people typically do a good job of prioritizing family and relaxation. Theoretically, we shut out the world and all its distractions. We turn our time and attention to being with those we love the most. And if we do it right during this time, we rest, connect, laugh, eat, sleep, read, veg, exchange, interact, nap, talk, share, reminisce, give, get. All things that feed our souls. It’s a perfect way to end a year and begin a new one. We can start 2019 refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to forge ahead.
There is a sense of fresh start or do overs with a new year. Another chance to do things a bit better than the year before. Anticipation of what lies before us (and in all honesty I always wrestle with a little trepidation about what lies ahead as well, “fear of the unknown” so to speak. But this blog is intended to focus on the positive, so back to that…). A new year is like a clean slate, you get to write this chapter in your life’s story. My hope is that as you scribe your future, this new year, you put first things first. (The “S” in S.L.O.W.)
What are the things you value most? For me some of the first things that come to mind are; family, hard work, legacy, laughter, sleep, love, friendships, quiet-time, health and well-being (those are not in any order of importance…ask my family and they would say sleep comes first). It is easy to shift back into auto-pilot when the break ends, and all the distractions begin. Old habits of mindlessly joining in the rat race kick in and we can easily find ourselves drained and frazzled again. All of the rest and relaxation gained during a break, quickly dissipates and we are back to where we started. What would happen if you held to your values and prioritized the things that matter most, including you? Our work is important, there is no questioning that, especially as educators, shaping young lives for the future. However, we will only have the greatest influence on those young lives if we ourselves are healthy, mentally, emotionally and physically. I firmly believe we cannot have the impact we desire if we do not put our needs first. I also am realistic to know that sometimes self-care can seem unattainable or too time intensive. However, I know that even small steps toward taking care of you can make a big difference.
Consider listening to relaxing music on your way to work in the morning, or maybe listening to nothing at all and enjoy a quiet commute. Think about sitting outside for a few minutes during lunch to enjoy the sun (or close your eyes and pretend you are somewhere sunny, if you are like me and live somewhere like Michigan, where its freezing and rarely sunny during this time of year). Perhaps you can take a few moments to write down all the things you love about your job, your family, your life, gratitude always helps to replenish our spirits. Maybe send a note (or text/email) to a friend telling them how much you appreciate them. Ironically, giving to others also returns good to us (the energy you extend comes back to you). There are numerous easy and quick ways to go S.LO.W. (that feels contradictory in nature, “quick ways to go SLOW”, but it is true). I encourage you to begin this new year, putting first things first and experience all the many ways you benefit throughout 2019. Happy New Year!

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