Friday, May 31, 2019

Self-Care Myths and How to Beat Them- Part Two



Last week, I shared my top three budget-friendly ideas for establishing a self-care routine to beat the myth that self-care is too expensive. Hopefully I showed you that self-care routines don't have to be extravagant and can be done effectively at any budget.  Today's myth we are going to talk about is that we don't have the time to take care of ourselves.


I can remember being in school working on my degrees and spending HOURS on the computer working on research or typing a paper. Suddenly, I'd look down and it would be 9pm, and I'd have missed dinner. My stomach wouldn't have even growled while I was writing because I was so focused, but then I'd stop and realize I was starving, I had a headache, and I was EXHAUSTED. Those years of being in school, I really neglected myself. When I wasn't working on an assignment, I was taking care of my family and working full-time. I gained weight. I ate junk. I stayed on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I emptied myself without filling back up because "I didn't have time."

Looking back, I can see how taking care of my self a little more was totally feasible. Granted, I didn't have entire days to spend at the spa or weekends to "get away." And as a wife, mom, and teacher, I still don't (though a splurge every now and then is nice). But I have come up with my top three ways to practice self-care that fit into my busy schedule.

Self-Care Habit #1: Podcasts and audio books
Supplies Needed: smart device or cd
Time: Your daily commute

When my daughter was in preschool, I drove 20 minutes the opposite direction of my school and 20 minutes back to drop her off. In the afternoons, I had the same routine. For the 20 minutes that I was alone in the car, I listened to audiobooks through the Overdrive app on my phone or by checking out books on cds from my local library. I would also listen to podcasts about faith, family, and motherhood. For 40 minutes each day, I tuned out the world and turned down my thoughts. 

My commute is much shorter this year since my daughter rides to kindergarten with my husband, but I still take my commute to listen to short, five-minute podcasts. My favorite is Happiness Spells. It is so relaxing to listen to and gets me in a happy mood to start or continue my day. 

Image result for happiness spells
Happiness Spells: 5 Minute Lists of Happy Things for Increasing Gratitude, Reducing Stress, Sleep, Meditation, and Anti-Anxiety

What I love about these is that they can be done in their entirety while I'm driving in my car. I know when I get to school, my day will be hectic. I know when I get home, family responsibilities will be top priority. But for those few moments in my car, I can just listen and recharge without having to try to squeeze it into my schedule. 

Self-Care Habit #2: Drinking a cup of your favorite hot beverage
Supplies Needed: Your favorite mug and your favorite tea, coffee, or cocoa
Time: 15 minutes

Picture this: you wake up in the morning. The sun is just starting to peek above the horizon. You walk to the kitchen and make your morning beverage. Sitting in your favorite seat, you sip and savor the warm liquid as it fills you and wakes you.  I must admit, that was not the scene at my house last year. Instead it was much more frantic as we scrambled to get all three of us ready for school and out the door ("Where are my shoes? Did you sign her binder? Drink your milk. Did you brush your teeth?"). Often, I would either take my coffee in the car, chugging it on my way to work or wait until I got to work where I would have cooled to a room temperature that was neither pleasant nor did it do anything for the flavor. In my effort to get just a few more minutes of sleep, I kept my morning routine to a minimum, but that left me feeling frantic. 

Who doesn't love a good cup of room-temp coffee??

I started getting up just fifteen minutes earlier than normal. And that scene we pictured in the last paragraph? That became my new morning routine. I sat on one of the upholstered dining chairs and looked out the sliding patio doors into the backyard, watching the sun creep over the fence and illuminate the trees. Having a few moments in the morning to center myself before the world awakened got me ready for the events of the day in a way that I never had been before. And guess what? The coffee stayed hot until I finished it. Something I wasn't used to and had missed in my previous mornings.


Self-Care Habit #3: Write down your daily goals
Supplies Needed: a fun notebook or journal and pens
Time: 10 minutes

Re-read what this habit is called: write down your DAILY GOALS- not your daily to-do list. This is not the list where you write down that you need to take the car in for a tune up or go by the grocery store on your way home. This is the list where you write down what you want to accomplish. Your goals can be as big or as small as you want to make them. They can be just for you or they can be about other people. I've found that this practice (that I typically do the night before) helps me focus on what's most important about the next day. What do I want to do? Maybe your goal is to be more kind to a difficult co-worker. Maybe you want to wake up early and go for a run. Maybe you want to eat more veggies or drink eight glasses of water. Whatever your goals are for the day, take a few minutes to write them down. Seeing them in print and knowing that you have the potential to meet them and mark them as complete will make them more "real" rather than just ideas, and you will be much more likely to attain them. 

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care when you don't have a lot of time? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Self-Care Myths and How to Beat Them- Part One

Over on my Instagram a few weeks ago, I posted a little bit about my self-care routine and asked others to share theirs (if they had one). I was looking forward to getting some extra inspiration and fun new ideas I could try. However, that wasn't what happened.

62% of people polled said they didn't have anything they do consistently to take care of themselves.

What? Nothing? I was surprised. But the more I really thought about it, I can see why that number could be so high. There are a number of factors that play into why self-care routines aren't something that most people do. The top three that I found are that people think it's too expensive, people think they don't have time, and people don't want to appear selfish by engaging in self-care. Over the next few posts, I will be sharing ways to combat all of these myths to make self-care accessible for all!


I get it. I pinch pennies more tightly than Ebeneezer Scrooge. My budget is pretty strict, and a majority of my funds go to household expenses and taking care of my family. But that doesn't mean that self-care has to be cut out. There are dozens of ways to have a self-care routine that takes little to no money out of the budget. Here are my personal top three...

Self-Care Habit #1: At-home Pedicure
Supplies Needed: exfoliating scrub, lotion, nail polish
Price Range: Free to $15

I LOVE getting my toes done. Especially during the summer. I enjoy picking a fun, bright color to show off when I wear my flip-flops. But pedicures can range from $30-$60, and that's more money than I can spend each month. I can get the same results at home for a fraction of the cost. A foot scrub, lotion, and polish can all be purchased for around $15, and that's if you don't already have them on hand! I scrub, lotion, and polish while taking about thirty minutes just for myself after my daughter goes to bed or sometimes we'll do it together on a Saturday. It's a great way to just relax and feel pampered without spending a dime!


Self-Care Habit #2: YouTube Yoga
Supplies Needed: iPad/tablet/laptop, yoga mat (optional)
Cost: Free to $10
Ok, don't stress out over seeing the word YOGA. I'm probably the least flexible person you'll meet. But I love doing yoga. The focus of yoga is breathing and self-reflection- not trying to create the perfect "instagram-worthy" pose. It centers me and relaxes me, and that's EXACTLY what self-care should do. But there are no yoga studios close to my house, and even if there were, classes can get expensive. Luckily, there are some amazing Yoga Instruction videos on YouTube. My favorite by far is Yoga with Adriene. She has videos for beginners through more advanced. There are also videos specifically for focus and stress relief. I do these videos in the comfort of my own home without any special equipment and without spending any money.
https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene
Self-Care Habit #3: Curl up with a Good Book
Supplies Needed: Your current read- cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and snuggley blanket optional
Cost: Free (if you have your library card!)
Reading is such a relaxing experience for me. The smell of the pages, the sound they make as I turn them, getting lost in a good story... One of the first things I did when we moved to our current location was get my library card so I could start checking books out of our local library. It costs nothing, I can keep a book for two weeks and then take it back and get another one. I love reading books I can hold in my hand, but if digital or audio books are your jam, you can still get those for free with your library card using the Overdrive app. You sign up with your library card and instantly gain access to thousands of books, audio books, and videos. Either way you want to, you can read any book you choose for free and escape into the pages of a story at the end of a stressful day.

Any more ideas for ways to beat the myth that self-care is too expensive? Drop them in the comments! Click here to find ways to beat the second myth about self-care.


Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 3, 2019

#iteachmentalhealth

Reading, writing, and arithmetic... isn't that how the old saying goes? I remember when I was in grade school, that was certainly the focus. But a lot has changed since then, and it's time the classroom environment caught up.

Recently, my sweet friend Erin has gained national recognition thanks to her Mental Health Check In poster that went viral on Instagram and Facebook. The concept is fairly simple, but the impact is profound. Students select from a range of options such as "I'm great" or "I'm meh" or "I'm in a really dark place and could use a check in." They write their names on the back of a sticky note and mark which area best fits where they are emotionally and mentally. This allows the teacher to know who needs a little extra love and support that day.

Erin's idea has been shared hundreds of thousands of time across social media and news outlets.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for the poster with thousands of teachers implementing this check-in system in their classrooms. Finally, a light is being shone on the importance of mental health. And it's about time. Recent reports state that child and adolescent mental health disorders are the most common illnesses that children will experience under the age of 18. It is believed that one in five children have a diagnosable mental health disorder. However, only 20% of these children are diagnosed and receiving treatment. With our students in crisis, we as teachers must do everything we can to help. Enter the campaign #iteachmentalhealth.

Teachers across the nation are embracing mental health awareness and
highlighting ways they make it a priority in their classrooms.
#iteachmentalhealth is a campaign that started on Instagram as a way for teachers to show the different ways they teach mental health in their classrooms. Posts from teachers of various grade levels and demographics highlight how they make mental health issues a priority. For me, I teach mental health by teaching my students that it is okay to need and to take a break.
I teach lower elementary special education, and even my littlest learners feel BIG things. And being so young and possibly dealing with a developmental delay or processing issue, they don't always know how to handle those feelings. Teachers will often see negative behaviors stemming from their lack of ability to self-regulate. In reality, those behaviors are often that student's way of communicating that something bigger is going on (which is a blog post for another day).

So what can a teacher do when a student is struggling, frustrated, and "on the verge?" Well, what do teachers do when WE are struggling, frustrated, or "on the verge?" We take a break. We walk away for a moment. We make a cup of coffee. We talk to a friend. Taking a break is not giving up.
It is doing what you need to do for yourself to get your emotions under control and get ready to get back to it. I struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed. My anxiety makes me feel like nothing I do is good enough... like I'm not good enough. When those feelings creep in, I lash out at my family. I withdraw from my friends. Neither of those things make my situation any better. I've had to learn to take a break when I start feeling that familiar sense of negativity sneaking up on me. I reach out. I do something just for me to help me regroup. I work through those feelings, and I keep going.


It can be the same for students. No, I'm not saying give your students a cup of coffee. What I am saying is that we need to teach our students to recognize their big feelings and to identify that when those feelings arise, taking a break is okay. Taking a break can look like a lot of things for students. It can be as simple as counting to ten or as extensive as needing to talk to the school counselor or another trusted adult in the school environment. The important thing is to teach the student the appropriate way to request that break. I have a couple of resources that I'm implementing in my classroom that can carry over into the students' general education classrooms, as well. The first is a "Take a Break Menu."
Available for free download here
Teachers recognize when a particular student is being to go downhill emotionally and behaviorally. Having already discussed the menu with the student prior to the start of the hard feelings is important. Remember- crisis mode is survival mode; NOT learning mode. When the teacher sees the student's behavior first start, bring out the menu. Help the student choose an appropriate break to take. A smaller feeling could be solved with a smaller break- counting to ten, taking some deep breaths. Bigger feelings might require a bigger solution. At first, the teacher will need to help the student navigate the menu, but the ultimate goal is that the student will eventually be able to request an appropriate break independently. Which leads me to my next resource.

I created these "Take 5" cards for students to place on their desks when they need to request a break.
Available for free download here
This works well for more mature students as it can be little more discreet than the menu. Another option is for a teacher to identify that a student is "on the verge" and place a card on his or her desk as a teachable moment. This shows the student that what they are feeling is big and taking a break will help. That will help the student learn that when those feelings start is the time to request that break. The key for either of these resources is never to invalidate the students' feelings. When I am sad or frustrated, the worst thing is to have someone tell me I shouldn't be feeling that way or that I am wrong for having those feelings. Empathy and support is always best, and for children, it is vitally important.

It is time that the stigma around mental health issues was dropped. The more it is discussed and the more emphasis is put on teaching self-regulation skills, the better off our students, classrooms, and schools will become. So take a break if you need it, and encourage your students to do the same.

If you have any questions about either of these resources or if you have any suggestions of your own, please feel free to reach out in the comments. Want to get involved in the campaign? Download the template and join us!


Creating Your Classroom: Where to Splurge and When to Save

I remember last summer when I was preparing for my first year teaching in my first ever classroom and being so excited. I had taken over the...