Recharge

Take Care of You

May is a challenge.  So many things are tied to a school year that most of us, whether we work in schools or not, are somehow impacted by the craziness of May.

The time commitments in May are staggering.  The emotions as children graduate and as things come to an end, as they always do, can be over-whelming.  The work to wrap up school years or legislative sessions or college careers can exhaust you if you are not careful.

So I encourage you to be careful.  Now more than ever, you need to take care of yourself.  I have learned a real truth over time that I am not the best version of me when I do not take care of myself.  When I snap at people, when I am easily offended by people, when I am rude or scared or sad for little reason, I can almost always trace it back to not taking care of myself.

HALT is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  I like to add sick, so I usually refer to HALTS.  These are physical and emotional states that wreak havoc on our well-being.  We do not make our best decisions or behave in our best ways when we are experiencing any of these.  May is a great time to control what you can control.  And we can control much more than we realize.

Eat.  It sounds crazy to say that but there were two days this week when I did not eat lunch, and of course I was less effective in the afternoon.  Any advantage I gained getting work done (and I did get a lot done in that “extra time”) was offset by my mood in the afternoon.  Of course eating healthy is even better.  Avoiding the food coma and brain fog that come with bad choices at a meal or a snack is always a benefit.  But first, just eat.

Sleep.  Again the busier we get, the more tempting it is to knock out two or three extra hours of work at the expense of sleep.  Never a good idea!  There are times in our lives, having a newborn comes to mind, when sleep is a luxury we cannot afford.  But those times are rare.  Sleep is one of the most powerful tools for our well-being that is almost entirely in our control.  Go to bed an hour earlier tonight.  Your physical and mental state will thank you tomorrow.

Exercise.  You do not have to train for a marathon to be active.  Just move.  Will you feel better physically?  Of course!  But you will also feel better emotionally. There will be people right now saying that they are too busy to both sleep and exercise.  Something’s got to give.  But that’s not true.  You are entirely in control of your ability to do both.  Some of the busiest people I know find time to do both, and they are far more efficient and more effective because of it.

Angry and lonely are more powerful than hungry and tired, and they can feel harder to control.  But you can.  The greatest secret in life is that we are all in control of ourselves to a much greater level than we realize.

Take gratitude walks.  Practice mindfulness.  Cultivate friendships.  Volunteer to serve others.  See a movie by yourself.  Turn off your phone.  And for heaven’s sake, seek help when you need help.  There are amazing professionals trained to help us cope when we cannot do it ourselves.   Seek them out.  The strongest people I know ask for help when they need it.

May can overwhelm, but if it does, we miss out on all of the fun.  Life is crazy.  Take care of yourself, so you can enjoy it!

Pause

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I’m back! And it feels good. I really missed writing these past few weeks, but it was time for a break. Breaks are good for us. They give us time to recharge, reconnect, and re-energize. Our bodies, our minds, and our souls need time every once in a while to just…pause.

Pause was not the word I used when I decided to stop writing a few weeks ago. Someone else used it, a friend. He told me that he was glad I was pausing…that I had given myself permission to pause. He said that by extension I had given some other people permission to pause as well.

His words struck me as profound- this need to pause. This need to give ourselves the grace to stop what we are doing, or thinking, and to just breathe.

I tend to do things at high speed. My conversations, my actions, even my thoughts move quickly. I’d blame our fast-paced world, but the truth is it’s how I’m wired. I like to be in constant motion. It’s thrilling…and it’s exhausting.

Years ago when I got my first teaching job, my principal told me that he hired me because I didn’t pause before answering his questions. I just jumped in with an answer. He thought that meant I’d be decisive and have authority in the classroom, fewer issues with classroom management. My department head, who had also been in the interview, told me she worried that it meant I didn’t take the time to pause and reflect. She may have been right.

It has taken me decades (and let’s face it, I’m still learning) to appreciate the importance of a good pause.

In conversations, there is power in the silence. Susan Scott calls it letting silence do the heavy lifting. When you pause, you allow other voices into the space. You allow for other perspectives, other ideas, other beliefs. When you sit in the silence, you often find the real issues.

When you pause to think or to let others think, you arrive at deeper meaning. The first thing out of my mouth is rarely the best thing I’ve got.

My top Gallup strength is Achiever. I like to get things done. The more tasks accomplished, the more successful I feel. But we can learn something from the work of elite athletes. Yes, they work hard. Yes, they are active. Yes, they lift and run and are careful about what they eat. But they also rest. They know that you grow muscle on your rest days. They know that it is essential to pause for maximum results.

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It’s not easy for me to take a break. I like the constant activity of a busy life. But I knew a few weeks ago it was time to pause. I took a few weeks off from the blog. I stayed at home to rest when I got sick. And I took an amazing vacation over spring break. Pausing is good for the body, mind, and spirit!

I hope you don’t need anyone to give you permission to pause. I hope you take some time daily, weekly, and monthly to rest. And I hope you are surrounded by people who encourage your pauses. I feel lucky to have those people in my life!