Do Some Radical Self-Care for the Holidays!

audrelordeselfcare

The end of the first semester has arrived, and the winter holidays are either in progress or fast approaching! This festive time of year can also be a rather “stress-tive” moment in our lives. There is a lot of professional and academic pressure at the end of the fall semester–grades to enter, finals, projects and papers due, data to analyze, goals to set for the spring.  There’s social pressure too…gifts to buy, meals to cook, events to juggle, parties to attend, family gatherings. Just those “regular” stressors are enough to often cause exhaustion and burn-out. And for some folks, additional factors like Seasonal Depressive Disorder, grief, anxiety, and loneliness can create a particularly strong cocktail of holiday-associated negative feelings and depression. Though we hope that feelings of love and happiness permeate the holiday season, it’s important to remember that all kinds of complex feelings brought up at this time of year are valid and real.

Therefore, it’s critically important that we take care of ourselves, regardless of our personal, social, academic, or professional status.  Ever seen this on an airplane safety card?

oxygen-mask

If the adult doesn’t put the oxygen mask on first, then they might pass out and be unable to help anyone else.  It’s a beautiful example of how taking care of ourselves is a crucial piece of being able to take care of others in our lives. Almost every relationship has an aspect of care-taking, even the ones outside the usual associated with direct care-taking, like teaching or parenting.  People in our lives often need us to show up in different ways, and if we don’t have enough self-care oxygen, it’s hard to do that. So put your own oxygen mask on!  Here are some ways to do it!

THIRTY SECONDS TO THREE MINUTES

Take three deep, intentional, cleansing breaths. Take three more. Notice how the air moves through your nose and lungs. The breath is always there, and coming back to the breath is one of the most basic, essential self-care activities that is always available.

breathe

Notice feelings that are behind a stressed out, upset state of mind. Remember HALT–am I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? A combination? Take a moment to observe the feelings coloring the present experience. Where do I feel them in my body? How do I know I’m feeling __________? Even say them out loud: Wow, I’m really angry right now. I’m feeling sad and frustrated right now. As Dr. Dan Siegel says, name it to tame it! (Check out his website for LOTS of ideas for self-care!)

Stretch! When was the last time you moved your body? Stand up, reach for the sky, do some gentle forward bends, roll shoulders, massage out the neck.

Kristin Neff, that perpetual champion of self-compassion, suggests that we mammals are programmed to respond positively to nurturing touch. So clasp the hands together warmly, gently squeeze opposite upper arms, hug the knees to the chest sitting down or lying on the back. Get that mammalian comfort!

otterscuddle

10-15 MINUTES

Take a walk, outside, no electronics. Notice all the sensory input–smells, sounds, physical sensations that come from being here now, outside. Keep breathing.

Take a warm shower!

Call someone who is a positive influence in your life, and express gratitude for them or for anything. Gratitude creates positive feelings.

Eat a mindful snack or meal. Do nothing but eat something delicious, slowly and intentionally. How does it smell? How does it look? What does it feel like in your mouth, between your teeth, on your tongue, as you swallow? How slowly can you eat each bite?

fall_1

30-60 minutes and beyond…

Exercise! Yup. A brisk walk. A yoga class. A jog. A work-out video. Dancing. Moving the body in an intentional, nurturing, even vigorous (as possible and desired) way has been shown over and over to create and increase positive feelings in the brain.

Schedule something you’ve been meaning to do for your body–a massage, or a physical, or a dentist appointment.  Our brains are part of our physical body, and so taking care of our body is taking care of our brain.

Try out a new – or revisit a favorite – creative activity, especially one that engages the hands. Knitting or playing an instrument, working with clay or play doh, painting, drawing, coloring, writing by hand–all of these and many others can help integrate the physical self and the brain, and create positive feelings. Art Works! Creativity is for everybody!

mandala

There are many resources for self care out there, almost as many as reasons to find your favorite self-care activities and start doing them right away.  Take sweet care this holiday season, and keep your oxygen mask on…#SELfcare for the win! See you in 2017!

 

 

 

 

“The time to be awesome is now.”

As teacher’s come back to campuses in Austin, we want everyone to get pumped up and inspired for an amazing year!  Share these videos with friends, teachers, students, and anyone else who needs a little encouragement.

A pep talk from the Kid President:

Ten year old, Dalton Sherman, asks: “Do you believe in me?” to all of Dallas ISD.

Do you believe in you? We here at the department sure do!

Brain Break Wednesday: High Five Affirmations

It’s the end of the school year and many of us are exhausted. This brain builder is an instant energizing, relationship building, feel good, mood lifter!  Plus it takes under a minute to do and is easy to adjust for any audience.

Have students (or adults) turn to someone sitting next to them and say, “You’re awesome!” then give them a high five.

whale high five

Now watch as the energy of the room takes a dramatic and uplifting turn for the better.

Feel free to put any of your favorite positive affirmations in the quotes. For example, “You work hard and it shows!” “I’m so glad you’re here today!” “I am ready to learn with you!” “You have wonderful ideas!” “You make my classroom a better place!” “You rock!” “You’re a great person to know!”

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Self-Care for a Stress-Free April!

Exercise more, eat healthy snacks, get a good night’s sleep… We hear these mantras daily in the media suggesting the newest remedy to combat stress. Campuses are also coming up with creative ways to relieve stress.

Find out below what is working in our Austin schools as well as quick mood enhancers that are proven easy and effective. Travis Heights classroom climate - student snack sign up classroom community building and self-care

At Travis Heights, students sign up for healthy snacks to share with the class. 

How to promote self-care if you have 2 minutes:
  • Let someone know you’re thinking of them
  • Give kudos to someone
  • Send some possible dates to get together with someone
  • Smile
  • Stretch
  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Thank someone

Oak Springs April Fool Skit

Nothing beats a laugh to start off your day! The PALS at Oak Springs showcased their comedic talents at their morning seminar to alleviate some testing anxiety and take advantage of April Fools’ Day.

How to promote self-care if you have 5 minutes:
  • Send people in your life a brief personal update
  • Write a thank you card
  • Reflect on what you need relationally in your life right now, and can ask for
  • Respond to an email that’s been nagging you
  • Sit quietly
  • Have a brief conversation with someone you don’t normally interact with
  • Take a short walk

Travis Heights culture - lunch bunch movie watch

In another class at Travis Heights, students enjoy a movie during their lunch bunch. 

How to promote self-care if you have 30 minutes:
  • Play a game with a child or adult
  • Cook with someone
  • Go for a walk with a friend or family member
  • Eat lunch with a colleague
  • Have a “walking meeting” with someone rather than sitting in the office
  • Rearrange or spruce up your work area

Lee STARR Secrets

Lee Elementary students shared their testing tips by writing acrostic poems with their names
How to promote self-care ideas at school:
  • Start faculty, grade level, and department meetings with shout outs
  • Acknowledge the challenges we face, and how colleagues are overcoming them successfully
  • Acknowledge the hard work of our colleagues
  • Ask staff what would lower their stress levels and help them take care of themselves, then do that
  • Make sure all students and staff know how and when they will take breaks and eat during testing days and during any abnormal schedules
  • Hire a substitute for a day to give each teacher a short (~10 minute) break, and let them know in advance so they can plan for something productive for students to do while they are gone (maybe during a test)
  • Bring your own family members/loved ones to work functions and encourage others to do the same
  • Make sure school schedules, expectations, and procedures are crystal clear for staff and students
  • Have a regular, structured communication strategy (some combination of brief faculty meetings and staff bulletins)
  • Bring healthy snacks to school to give to staff with a message of appreciation for their hard work

STARR Secret Poem

Ben’s tip for the N in his name is an important reminder to us all!