Eight Ways to Care for Yourself in Winter | Mentoring in the Middle

Eight Ways to Care for Yourself in Winter

I love winter.  I love snow and the way it magically coats the earth.  I especially love when it stops the world for a while, and as a teacher, when I'm gifted by a day off without having to write sub plans.

But, by the middle of February, I'm done.  Winter has lost its charm.  Kids are getting more restless, we go to work and come home in the dark, and we're all ready for a soft breeze to bring on the promise of spring.

Many of us still have two months to go to get there.  So, what's a teacher to do?


In my first job out of grad school - I wasn't a teacher back then - my supervisor said to me,

"If you know that you're going to come to work and be cranky, stay home.  
Call in sick. 
These children need you at your best, so give them your best."

Thank you, Terry.  Those were the best words of advice I could have been given.

So, how do you do that as a teacher?  Here are some things that I've found work for me.  Maybe they will for you, too.

1.  Get Away

It doesn't have to be anywhere nearly as gorgeous as this place.  It could be a cabin in the woods, but it needs to be somewhere away from the day-to-day expectations of your regular life.  Read a book, sit and stare at a fire in the fireplace, just s-l-o-w your world down a bit.

2.  Get a massage

Why do we wait so long to get these?  Massages have a way of working out the kinks of needy kids, papers waiting to be graded, people who want/need you more than you can give them at the moment.  It's less expensive than a get-away and doesn't take nearly as much time, but its benefits are worth it!

3.  Get together with some friends

Make sure you don't talk about school!  Talk about what you enjoy, what you dream about.  Laugh, tell stories, giggle.  Your heart will be grateful and you'll feel your shoulders come down from your ears.

4.  Get some exercise

Exercise gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing!  If you can't get outside, do it inside.  I need fresh air, so unless the roads are icy, I'm walking or running with a friend in the mornings.  Yes, it's dark and I hate getting out of bed.  But I'm a different person because of it.

5.  Take a class

Do something completely different, not anything related to teaching.  Take voice lessons, or a floral arranging class.  Look to your local community or library and find classes that are free or cost a minimal amount.  Do it with a friend for a WIN-WIN of friend time and a fun learning experience!

6.  Do volunteer work

For a number of years, I volunteered at a women's' Winter Shelter, offering snacks and a welcoming smile to women whose lives had taken a turn for the worse.  I always felt like I received more than I ever got - I was inspired by the resilience of women, and their tenacity to get what they needed.  Those experiences humbled me, and fed my soul in small ways.  Fire Departments are desperate for volunteers; Habitat for Humanity and other building nonprofits are always looking for an extra hand.

7.  Claim an hour for yourself

If you have small children at home, I realize a lot of these are harder to do.  Find a way to claim an hour for yourself.  Go to a local coffee shop to sit and read a book.  Or maybe, just maybe, get up before anyone else in the house and breathe a little, easing yourself into the morning.

8.  Meditation and Mindfulness

Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath.  Stay that way for a while.  
There are meditation and mindfulness apps you can use to visualize calm.  And there are spiritual disciplines of centering prayer, if you're a person of faith, and prefer that.  Each provides you with a way to leave the world behind, even for 10 or 20 minutes at a time.

In the United States, especially, we seem to pride ourselves on how busy our lives are.  We don't need to be.  There's no badge to be earned for busy-ness, in fact, our bodies and our psyche need us to slow down.
I hope you can find a way to claim some time for yourself. 

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