We did it! We made it to 2021! I realize that turning the page to a new year does not necessarily mean a switch will be flipped and life will go back to “normal” and quite honestly in some ways I hope it doesn’t. As people have reflected on “lessons learned” from 2020, there are recurring themes; realization that we can get by with less (except for those folks who stocked up on toilet paper), the joy of spending more time at home and with family, a greater appreciation for educators and health care staff and other essential workers and a recognition that our “normal” life was good and yet could be improved. It will be interesting to see how things adapt and adjust as we transition from our current way of life to our new way of life. I hope we have learned to prioritize the right things, to live more healthily, physically, and emotionally. It’s a great way to start a new year!
I knew almost immediately what I was going to focus on for this month’s blog. I didn’t want to do the stereotypical “new year’s resolution” blog, although I think it’s beneficial to have a goal for the coming year. I like what some people do in picking a one word “resolution” (i.e. focus on being patient) or one commitment for the year (i.e. “the year of yes”). So, I encourage you to do what works for you. For me, I’m taking the idea of “self-preservation” into the new year. Ironically (or not) as soon as I shared this commitment with my mom, later the same day, “self-preservation” came up twice in two different conversations with two separate people. I just chuckled to myself and said “Ok, universe I get it. Self-preservation it is”.
January is the birth month of my first born. He was born prematurely (at 31 weeks) and weighed a beefy 3.2 lbs. He was in the NICU for 5 weeks until he was healthy enough to bring home. Those 5 weeks were challenging to say the least. It was very emotional to come home from the hospital without my son. But when he did come home, we were thrilled and terrified. Not only were we first time parents, which is unnerving on its own, but he was so little, just over 4 lbs. at that point. Everything about him was fragile, his actual size, his little legs, and hands, plus all his organs, which were still forming. We had to be SUPER cognizant about keeping him healthy. We sterilized everything (which first time parents tend to do anyway) and we didn’t let anyone around him if they had a sniffle or cough. Our friends and family got used to us inquiring about their health status before allowing them to come over to visit. We were on vigilant “son-preservation” duty. By the way, he’s just ready to celebrate his 23rd birthday!
Sounds familiar to our current environment these days, doesn’t it? I’ve had my temperature checked more times in the last couple of months than I probably have my whole lifetime put together. We are all on high alert for anyone who coughs or sneezes or doesn’t feel well. Isolation, confinement, and separation are all commonplace for most of us. All of this done in hopes of preservation, either for ourselves, or others or both. We are going to great lengths to protect our own health and the health of those around us (loved ones and strangers alike). It’s admirable to realize our collective commitment to save one another from suffering, as much as we can. We have it in us, we do it automatically now (well almost, I still forget my mask in the car sometimes).
We go to extraordinary lengths to protect our physical health, why not our emotional health? Why can’t we make that same commitment to preserve our own emotional and mental well-being? I have started inserting self-preservation practices into my daily routine. It takes some forethought and sometimes a little maneuvering, but it pays off in the end. I’ve started taking “walking meetings”, if the weather is nice, I take my headphones and walk and talk (as long as I’m not needed in front of the screen). I try to schedule 15 minutes in between meetings so I can regroup, stretch, get a drink/snack, etc. I ensure I have time to do some type of physical activity (if I don’t walk) and I also include “down time” to unwind. My best friend and I (both Type A personalities) have learned if we schedule time for self-care it’s more likely to happen. Save time in your schedule for you, even if for just a few minutes. Think about what you need?
As professionals who work in the field of education (or any field for that matter), now more than ever, it’s vital that we prioritize our own self-care. It doesn’t have to take a lot, small acts of kindness you would naturally give to others, also turn and give to yourself! We need you; you need you. Save your time, save your energy, save your well-being, save yourself! Happy New Year!