I came out of high school knowing two things I wanted for my life, two goals that were going to be the ‘I’ve made it’ medals. I wanted to be a teacher and a mom. That’s it. Nothing crazy or lofty. The naive goal setter I was at eighteen didn’t know making these goals a reality would be more difficult than running the 50m sprint at the School Track Meet.
Graduating from university with my Bachelor of Education degree, meeting my husband, landing my first teaching job and getting married, told me I had made it. We started our family and once I held that title of ‘Mom’, things happening to my wiring which weren’t so obvious. As I was growing and learning, I wasn’t tuning into the boundaries and expectations of how I was giving away my time and energy.
I discovered teachers are natural givers and take amazing care of children. However, the majority do a ‘below grade level’ job of taking care of themselves. I was that teacher.
Teachers often juggle several hats in their three ring circle of life. They are creators, encouragers, problem solvers, reinforcers, lesson planners, grade markers, professional shoe tyers and back-up snack providers just to name a few. At the same time, beyond the walls of the classroom, teachers are wives, husbands, friends, parents, sisters, brothers and more.
Within these roles there are expectations calling us to give and give and give some more. Some are clearly outlined, like the rubrics we use for our students, while others are implied and we find ourselves eagerly seeking the feedback that we are meeting the standard.
When I polled Instagram and Facebook about what educators struggle with when it comes to their own wellness, the responses were thick with words like guilt, not being enough, taking on too much, burnout, not enough time, not enough support, not enough…not enough…and too much…too many projects, too many students to teach well, too many variables affecting their classrooms, too much to do well.
This is me. I was swimming in the deepest end of this life and drowning. I was rocking my giving hat. I was teaching in Early Learning and raising two boys under 3 years old. I was feeling all of the guilt, all of the ‘not enough’, all of the ‘too much’…and I was the poster child of burnout in my teacher role and my role as a mom.
I had to stop! I paused. I gave myself permission to admit that I wasn’t ok. I admitted I needed help. I sought out support and tools to help me.
I invite you to do the same.
Pause. Give yourself permission to stop. Zoom out on your life and take a good look at the projects, the relationships, the expectations, and then MAKE A PLAN.
What are you allowing to fill up your time?
Who are you permitting to have feedback on your life?
How are you enabling yourself to reserve time for your own thinking, feeling and doing?
Where can you go to recharge and refocus?
When are you going to release the wishing and hoping and shift into ‘doing’ the things that are going to positively impact the life you want to live?
That’s a lot, and attacking all of these questions at once is daunting. But just start with intention.
Through my counselling experience, it became strikingly obvious I needed to start with the thinking centre, my brain. I needed to rewire how I was thinking. Maya Angelou says, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
I couldn’t change my position (at the time). I couldn’t check out from my role as a wife and mom. I was only in control of me!
So I took my wellness into my own hands. I invested in tools that I could infuse into the season of life I was in. I gave up certain things that were filling my day to make room for new routine. When my kids put their pjs on, I would put my ‘exercise’ (aka. Runners) on. EFFICIENT EXERCISE in 30 mins was what I could do! I used simple and straightforward tools to recalibrate how I was fueling my body. REAL FOOD took the reigns. My, almost daily, stops at McDonald’s to just ‘get something in my tummy’ on my way to work came to an abrupt halt. I used every second at work to do ‘work things’ and I set HEALTHY BOUNDARIES that I would no longer haul things home where I really was needing to focus on my role as a wife and mother. I spent less time in the staff room and more time being intentional with my planning, preparing and documenting. I made tough choices. I faced the junk that I needed to wrestle with and I gave only a handful of people permission to sit front row on that journey. I made this transformation happen at home, by my own choices, with an unwavering focus on the wellness I wanted for my life.
When you start your day, where is your mind? Are you flooded with the to-do list before you even put your feet on the floor? Are you able to choose and maintain a positive and grateful headspace? This is tough work…but all of the research on high performers show that starting your day from a space of gratefulness, of positive affirmation, of joy…makes all the difference.
Then comes the ‘feeling work’, the wrestling with emotions that are stirring inside each of us. As you move through your day, how are you feeling in your skin? Are you giving energy to the limiting beliefs, those ‘I am not enough’ narratives? Are you reacting or responding to your partner? Your children? Your colleagues/co-workers? Your students?
What are you doing about the challenges in your story? What action are you taking? How are you choosing to spend your time? What if you took a break from the morning radio show and listened to an audio book or podcast on your commute? What if you traded thirty minutes of Netflix to move your body, to find an exercise routine that would work amidst the beautiful chaos of your life? What if you adopted little habits that would impact your ability to show up well?
Fellow Giver of all things, I get you. I am with you in this battle between ‘not enough’ and ‘too much’. I have made it my mission to be a beacon of wellness in my world. I show up real, imperfect and consistent. I encourage you to find tools that work for you, to find community (breathing the same air or virtual). Fuel your body well. Move. Show up with your best energy, and know you are appreciated, important and treasured.
For your homework (because that seems appropriate), I’d love for you to fill in this statement and share it in the comments:
I am willing to ________ because I’m unwilling to _________.
I am willing to show up and take care of myself first because I am unwilling to be unwell for the people I share life with.
For a copy of Cari’s Top 10 Personal Development books, click HERE.
Cari has been an educator for 14 years with Edmonton Catholic Schools. Her current role is as a Technology Coach for Genesis Early Learning Centre. She is married and raising three boys; 8, 6.5, and 2.5 on their acreage just north of Edmonton. She identifies herself as a Wellness Leader and educator, supporting the growing community gathering around her story as it unfolds.
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