After the end of each term or particularly at the end of every year, I think we can all find ourselves very much in a reflective mode.
Now it won’t surprise me, if in your reflections, you ponder on how tired and exhausted you have felt at times this term! I know back when I was a School Leader – that reality was all too familiar.
In education, we tend to slog through the term – seeing the holidays as our chance to get the renewal we need that can sustain us through the year.
However, I don’t think that has to be the case. Instead, I believe, by doing four key things to look after yourself better during term time, you can change the tone of your life as a school leader and keep yourself positive and full of vitality throughout the year.
If you have chance, I would really encourage you to take some time to reflect on these and these questions for reflection to help you find an answer that will help support your own self-care as you move into the new year…
1. Change your Mindset
If you really want to end each term feeling a little less tired and a little less strained then you have to begin with you; your own thoughts and the messages that you give to yourself about self-care. I have met far too many school leaders for whom their own self-care is not a priority.
They have developed a set of beliefs that has caused them to sacrifice their own needs in order to meet the needs of others. They have a belief that it is indulgent and egotistical to focus on what they need to thrive. They burn the candle at both ends. They know it is unsustainable, but feel trapped by their own behaviours and demands of the role.
As a school leader, it’s important to learn that…
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others”
Parker J Palmer
I believe it is only when you do this that can you begin to truly change the way that you engage with your role and its demands.
Question for Reflection – This year make sure you ask yourself; “What difference could it make to my behaviours If I truly allowed myself to believe that self-care is never a selfish act?”
2. Make time for silence
You know as soon as each new school term begins, life becomes incredibly busy. All manner of things clamour for your attention and within the hustle and bustle of it all, the silences may feel few and far between. In the busyness of school life, it can be all too easy to, “turn away from questions that flower from solitude and quiet.” (David Whyte.)
But, you must make space for the silences, as it is in these spaces, when you allow the questions to arise, that you will find yourself again. It is in the silence that you will be able to refresh, refocus and re-energise.
Question for reflection – This year make sure you ask yourself; “How and when will I carve out periods of silence for myself? What might get in the way and what can I do to address any potential obstacles?”
3. Be intentional and focus on the good
Taking care of ourselves can become difficult when our inner world chooses to only focus on the negative. It’s a trap that many fall into, particularly if you are in a school, where the default is to respond from a position of being a ‘half glass empty’ as opposed to being a ‘half glass full’.
When surrounded by such individuals your emotional reserves can become depleted, if you are not intentional in your endeavours to keep them topped up. When you are intentional and take deliberate and conscious actions to focus and celebrate the good in each day, then life takes on a different hue. You develop your emotional resilience and indeed, are able to see the silver lining behind every cloud.
Question for reflection – This year make sure you ask yourself; “What practices can I intentionally develop to help keep a focus on the good and build my emotional resilience?”
4. Maintain your Vocational Vitality
In my opinion, we don’t talk about vocational vitality as key component of well-being and self-care often enough. Vocational vitality, is that inner spark that gets you out of bed each morning and helps you to believe that you are living a life of meaning and purpose and making a real difference to the lives of the children you teach.
Ironically, as a direct off-shoot of the accountability agenda, conversations that keep people connected to their vision and purpose have become diluted. As a result, an individuals’ deep connection to their why gradually erodes and as this slips away, so too does their awareness of the deep interplay between having a reason for being/doing and their own well-being.
Question for reflection – This year make sure you ask yourself; “What are the conversations that I need to have or the relationships that I need to develop that will help me to maintain my Vocational Vitality?”
“Staying A Head” – Inspiration Calendar Cards
As a school leader, you do an amazing job! Every day you invest enormous amounts of time, energy, passion and commitment – seeking to create better futures for our children and the communities you serve.
It isn’t easy and sometimes support and encouragement can feel in short supply. That is why we have developed these twelve FREE inspiration calendar cards (one for each month) – designed for those moments when you need a little inspiration in your day and to help you stop, pause and reflect.
It’s entirely up to you how you use the cards; pin them up on your board, look at one on the first day of each month, use them as book marks or coasters for your tea or coffee! It’s your choice.