I have been paying a lot of attention to mental health lately, and the connection it has to social media, learning, and teacher wellness. Part of this focus is because this seems to be more of a challenge in education than it has ever been (or maybe people are just more open about it), but also because I have had my struggles with mental health. Since education is such a servant career, a toll on an individual can impact students and colleagues directly, or indirectly.
This article, “5 Tips Teachers Can Use to Practice Self-Care & Set Boundaries” (you should read the whole thing), piqued my interest, especially this paragraph:
It can seem cold to tell a student or co-worker that you don’t have the time for them, even when they seem desperate or nobody else looks willing to help. But if this sacrifice ultimately hinders you, making you more tired during your classroom lectures, or delaying your grading, then you could end up hurting your entire class over a few extra minutes with students. Worse still, if too many co-workers see you as the lone reliable and helpful asset, then you’ll end up spending more of your time on their projects than yours.
Principals having the “my door is always open” policy, is a norm at so many levels in education. We can pay an emotional tax that comes back later to haunt us. When you say “yes” to others, you often say “no” to yourself.
Is it possible to say “no” to everyone? Absolutely not, nor should you. Too often though, educators end up saying yes to so many others, and we also sometimes pile more onto the educators that tend to say yes more often. It is almost a punishment for being reliable. But we have to be able to filter to take care of ourselves.
In the article, “The 6 Questions I Ask Before I Say ‘Yes’ to Anything“, tips are provided on how to filter out what to say yes to, as there is only so much energy any one person can expend:
I began to think of myself every morning as a full cup of water (or cup of coffee, usually). Each effort I made that day was a drip out of that glass. When the glass was empty, I had nothing left to give for that day. With each action I took, I could mentally see the glass getting lower.
I became more selective about where I put my time and energy. Just as I might work with an accountant on allocating my funds for different projects I want to pursue, I wanted to direct my energy where it was needed. I wanted my glass each day to go toward things that meant something to me, not just because I felt like I had to say yes.
I have taken this advice seriously. I have noticed that I have said “no” a lot more lately, and although there comes a sense of guilt with it, I have also seen increases in my time, as well as my health and fitness. I am not where I want to be, but I know that my output was coming at a cost that was leaving me with nothing when I most needed energy.
The demands for and of educators have gone up over the years, while the allocation of time in the school day has stayed the same. If we try to do everything for everyone, eventually, we lose out on ourselves and are helpful to no one.
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