Are You There Yet?

Welcome to July! Schools out and summers in (although it took it a minute to get here, for those of us in the Midwest).
How are you doing? Have you found your slower pace? Have you unplugged and begun to relax? Are you there yet? If you are anything like me, it takes some time to switch gears from going full force during the workday to embracing a break. It can be challenging to turn off your mind, to put down the “to do” list and to enjoy the freedom of vacation. I’ve noticed on social media sites, many educators, both teachers and administrators, are posting lists of books they want to read this summer, in preparation for next school year. All of that is admirable and the books on their list are well-known to help improve conditions for learning of students. However, I’m hoping that through all the good, positive, extra learning, that people are also taking advantage of some down time and focusing on their own wellness and self-care, too. There is benefit to improving our professional practice and yet there is arguably equal benefit to making/taking opportunities to refuel ourselves. Summer is a great time to do just that.
If we aren’t careful, these couple of months can be easily overrun with graduation parties, camps, trips, visits from family and friends and potentially appointments no one had time for during the school year. Before you know it, the break is over, and we are still a harried, hectic mess being thrown back into the fray. It’s easy to continue on the frantic path we are used to for nine months of the year and really miss the opportunity to go S.L.O.W. I also know that sometimes it seems like we don’t have a choice and life forces us to live fast, but I really believe there are moments we can capitalize on for our own wellness, if we are attentive and intentional.
Typically, everyone takes at least one vacation over the summer. Load up the kids (and/or pets) and hit the road for some type of adventure or excursion. We may think “I’m taking a trip so of course I’m refueling or getting some down time”. But those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. There have been numerous times I’ve come back from a vacation feeling like I needed another vacation, especially if you have small kids. Consider ways (especially before you leave, if possible) to safeguard some time for yourself to refresh. What are the things you enjoy doing that feed your soul/spirit? What helps to rejuvenate you? Personally, I need time away from people, to be alone with myself, reading or writing or napping or people watching, in silence. That helps me to regain energy. So, I try to plan early morning walks by myself or time alone by the pool reading. I have to communicate and plan accordingly to guarantee that little bit of “me time” otherwise it may not happen.
Or perhaps during these months off, you have friends and family who, knowing you have “more time” available, have numerous ideas of ways you can fill up that extra space with things they want or need. It is easy to simply slide into or revert back to our “caring for others” default mode and unintentionally neglect our own needs. It really does take a conscious effort, at times, to stop and think about what we need and then prioritize that. It is ok to establish boundaries and to assert yourself to ensure you are taking care of you. I did that recently and initially I felt guilty about limiting my availability at a friend’s event, but she didn’t mind that I left, and I felt good about having energy to do other necessary things. It went much better than I had played it out in mind. I think it was a good example to set as well. Be mindful of what you can do and for how long, so you don’t burn yourself out.
My hope is that before the summer flies by, which it always does, we will intentionally plan time to do things (or not do things) that rejuvenate us. Can you set aside time in the mornings before the day gets going to do some reflection or meditation? Can you build in time for a nap during the day or take a walk or meet up with friends? Whatever it is that feeds your soul, figure that out and prioritize it, for yourself. And hopefully before too long we will be in the habit of going S.L.O.W., looking out for our own wellness and we won’t have to keep asking, “Are we there yet?”