SLOW and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve really wrestled with what to blog about this month. There is so much consternation around “returning to learn” and how things will be for schools in the fall. The race is on and planning is underway. Concern for students’ and educators’ health and well-being is paramount. Can everyone adhere to safety measures if in person instruction occurs? Conversely, there is worry about academic progress (or lack thereof) and other implications for families with remote learning. There are valid points to each perspective, pros and cons galore. Everyone has an opinion and often those are made public (as is the way of our world these days). It can become all-consuming and is easy to get caught up in the swirl of the conversation and is equally easy to be drained by it. It feels like this is no win situation.

At times, I’ve had to step away from social media and the ongoing dialogue. (or even while writing this blog and reflecting on this topic, I had to step away for a piece of chocolate rum cake my sister made me…see how I practice self-care?!) It can become anxiety producing to play through all of the various scenarios. I asked my 10-year-old niece what she hoped would happen in the fall and she was divided. She said, “I want to be at school with my friends and teachers, but I don’t want to have a wear a mask all day.” Then she added, “I don’t think I could sit in front of a computer for 5 hours every day and I don’t really want to.” Additionally, I’ve asked teachers I interact with how they are feeling about the fall and their perspective about the different options. So many of them also see both sides. They love being with the students (their reason for going into this profession in the first place). But also realize the difficulty of ensuring everyone’s safety in the building.

Regardless of how things play out, and it seems like it will be different depending on location, now more than ever the need to attend to self-care is essential.  It can seem impossible to prioritize self-care during “crunch time” but that’s when it’s needed most. It is easy to get caught up in all of the noise and stress of the to do’s and neglect ourselves. I know I’ve been guilty of that many times (and shared about those times via previous blogs). But my encouragement to you is to find those moments to go SLOW and steady.

It can be difficult to do that, while racing (or zooming) through the day. There are requests and deadlines and emails in addition to our own personal anxiety about the unknown future. However, I’m learning new ways to ensure that I go SLOW and steady myself while the world spins around me. I have recently started to set boundaries with my schedule. I am intentional about how many meetings I will schedule in one day or if I have an unusually full day, I lighten the load for the next day. I look ahead and think about how much I can handle depending on the intensity of the meetings at hand. Do I have time built in for a bathroom break, to walk the dog at lunch, to even eat lunch? (sometimes I take a 10-15 power nap during my lunch break if I have a full afternoon of meetings). I have also begun to ascertain my level of involvement in certain meetings. I’ve begun asking if or how much I’m needed for certain meetings? Or maybe I am not needed for the whole meeting? Perhaps I stay for the first 30-45 mins to contribute and then bow out. (But note, IF I do that then I am truly present and participate during that set time). I have also established “hard stops” at the end of the day especially on those days I’ve gone back to back.

Lastly, I’m continuing to work on staying in my lane. I am realizing I don’t always have to “fix” everything (which is completely unrealistic anyway). I’m practicing staying quiet and letting others do some problem solving. I’m finding that I don’t always have to insert myself and not everyone needs to know my opinion and sometimes my opinion really doesn’t matter. It’s good to stay quiet and listen and learn. These strategies have helped me reserve energy and are allowing others to grow and develop as they take on leadership roles.

Last week a colleague said “Lauren, I’m impressed because I’ve noticed you actually do make sure you build in small self-care activities for yourself”. That was one of the best compliments. I hope the same can be said of you by your co-workers. Let them take notice of the ways you ensure you go SLOW and steady, so just like in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, you win your race, whatever the course.