Here we are, another school year is barreling toward me like some big, fast moving explosive thing that I’m too lazy to make up a clever metaphor about. My classroom is organized. I (kind of) have a schedule. I’m (mostly) ready. At least logistically.
But what about mentally? Last fall, before I was completely engulfed by the flesh eating stress monster that was last school year, I made a promise to meditate twice a day. I started out well enough, then as the school year became more and more intense, I got rattled. Things were flying at me a mile a minute. I didn’t feel like I had time to adjust to one reality before another one swiftly took over. I never felt like I knew what to expect. My container had sprung a leak. Before I knew it I was totally deflated. How was I supposed to meditate when I was constantly putting out fires? I did the only thing I knew how to do: duck and cover. The flight/flight/freeze response is a very real thing. I learned last year that I’m freezer. What ended up frozen was my entire self-care routine. I thought I was taking care of “just the basics”. It turned out the “basics” were completely overriding my own needs and doing only the things I needed to get done for other people.
Enter my yoga teacher training, and just in the nick of time! As I stated earlier, I developed all sorts of awesome habits. I was happier and more relaxed than ever. Then I came home and did exactly what I promised myself I wouldn’t do. I dove headfirst into my stressful old life. I said YES to more projects and social engagements than I could handle. I got myself stuck in the Facebook/Gmail/Youtube Bermuda Triangle of doom more times than I care to admit. When I had “stuff” to get done, the first thing that went out the window was yoga. And eating.
My low point was yesterday. Late for work, I ingested only half a corn muffin, and then went straight into my classroom and started painting and moving furniture. I kept telling myself I’d be ready to break for lunch once I found a good stopping point in my work. Then I just kept going–and going–and going– and going– One totally organized classroom and a slightly negative email that left me crying in a puddle of despair behind my desk later, I wandered into a co-worker’s classroom to eat lunch.
“Are you OK?” He asked, “You look funny.”
He was right. I felt totally high. But not in a good way.
“I feel fine– I just need to finish a few more—”
“Is your blood sugar low?” He asked.
I sat down right then and there and opened up my lunch.
One of the blessings about being back in my old life is that now I have the ability to see my old destructive patterns. Now that I can notice them, I can start doing something about them. It amazes me how quickly and semi-consciously I start hitting the override button on my basic needs when I get stressed. Warning signs: Saying I’ll just get one more thing done, then I’ll stop. Not feeling hungry, or being hungry but having no interest in cooking, an activity that I generally enjoy. Making ANY excuse not to slow down, including cleaning and doing laundry. AND I’M NOT EVEN A NEAT FREAK!
Sick, I know.
Enter mindfulness. I’m going to cultivate a few simple habits to keep myself feeling grounded and at peace.
- The first thing I do when I get up and the first thing I do when I get home from work will be breathing and meditation. I can have a glass of water or go to the bathroom but THAT’S IT. No snacks, no email. Definitely no Facebook.
- If I know I’m going to feel too distracted when I get home, I’ll write a to do list before I leave work.
- If I’m really avoidant, I’ll repeat the mantra, “It never gets easier than this”, until I suck it up and sit still. If I think it’s too hard to meditate before I even have kids in my classroom, I’ll never be able to do it when I’ve got kids in my classroom, a show it tech, and report cards coming out.
- When I am at home, my basic bodily needs will be my top priority. Eating and sleeping will take precedent over chores and school work. To that end, I will stay after school each day to complete some of my planning for the next day so that I don’t have to bring it all home. I know I’ll still take plenty of work home with me, but that work cannot be more important than eating dinner.
- Each school day, at the end of the day, I will go back into my classroom after hall duty and take 10 deep breaths. I will then think of one thing I’m grateful for and one positive thing about my day and write them down in a little book in my desk drawer.
- From time to time I will create little affirmations or mantras about myself as a teacher. Yesterday it was, “I am a caring and competent teacher”. Today it was, “I’m strong, I’m smart, I’ve got this.”
- At least once a day I will say something positive or affirming to a co-worker about what they’re doing.
- I’ll try not to get sucked into the negativity vortex by bitching and complaining with my co-workers, even though, let’s face it, that’s fun sometimes.
- I will do fewer things, but do them well. Sometimes this means saying no to stuff I really want to do, but I can handle that because I’m a grownup.
Soooo yeeaahhh, that’s the plan. Once I get started teaching I have more ideas about integrating mindfulness into instruction and my relationships with my students, but first I need to work on me. Here we go!