It is also some 7 years since I worked in a teaching capacity with young children, and I’m rediscovering how amazing it is but also how draining and exhausting it can be too. Especially when I don’t take the time to look after myself.
I’m determined to do things a little differently this time around. During my previous teacher life, I would give my all to my students each day, and often times would end up crawling back home at the end of the day and sitting in an inactive heap of exhaustion until I went to bed. Doing this for 6 years, and more or less repeating the habit with all of my respective jobs was a large contributor to my burn out. Not the only one, but it definitely had an impact.
When I taught the first time around, I never really appreciated the schedule of a teacher either. It is rarely a 9-5 job, and while I worked countless hours of unpaid overtime, I often never took advantage of the various holidays and summer months off work to replenish my stores.
Last week I came down with a really bad cold. Some might say it was inevitable, working with 28 children, but I would like to believe there was a message wrapped up in all of the phlegm, the congestion and the coughing. It took a few days for me to figure things out, but I realized that while I was certainly putting the effort in to charge my days at the start-with running or cycling-I was repeating my former habit of letting things slide into laziness and exhaustion by day’s end. I was doing little post 4 pm to recharge things, or even to shake the day off.
I debated (for the millionth time) that maybe I needed to move my workouts to the evenings, as perhaps my 4.30 am alarm was simply not working for my now 38 year old body as it once did a few years ago, with my younger body.
Working out first thing though, I am coming to appreciate, is my way of entering into the day. It fuels me up, and provides me with a huge sense of accomplishment. It is something to think that before the rest of the world wakes, I have been able to log in a few kilometres on my feet, and pushed my body to do something pretty special (to me, anyways).
Keeping my workouts to the mornings then, became non-negotiable. I realized that I needed to work on the hours following my end of school day in order to strike some sort of balance. The morning workouts are for charging the day. Perhaps the late afternoons/early evenings could be about investing in my health in a different manner. Filling my cup.
I’m only 3 days into this new experiment but I can already say that I will need to approach it the same way I do my 4.30 am alarm. While the alarm isn’t necessarily pleasant, and it takes me half an hour to get with it enough to put my running shoes on, I know once I start it doesn’t take long for the good feelings to set in. The unstoppable feelings. The feelings that make me think that if I can manage a 10K run before 7 am, I can handle a room full of 28 children for 7 hours.
I’m not doing something as physically strenuous as a 10k in the afternoons, but it does take some pushing to actually do the things I have listed out as means of unwinding: picking up a latte at a coffee shop and people watching on a Monday afternoon; taking a bubble bath on Wednesday evenings and listening to a podcast that I enjoy. Somehow, these activities of re-charge are ones that I have to be really conscious about doing. It is so easy to simply come home and sit on the couch and mindlessly scroll through something-whether that is a TV show, or a magazine. To actively engage my mind in a way where it can successfully disconnect from my role as a teacher and the day’s events, but still be connected enough to reap the benefits of activities I enjoy doing which calm me and provide relaxation, is a challenge.
I have the burnout that came with extreme exhaustion, and anxiety fresh enough in my mind to remind me of the consequences of not looking after my mental well-being. These small activities, whether taking a bath or people watching with a drink or knitting or writing really help me to let go. Let go of the day. Let go of my worries. They allow me the ability to focus on my strengths and my small moments of happiness and contentment.
I sleep hard when I do end up crashing which isn’t long after 8.30 pm. For the first time in years, I actually look forward to my morning workouts. This anticipation doesn’t usually surface at 4.30 in the morning with my alarm, but in the evenings I plan out the distances I will run in the morning, and set goals in terms of pace. For the first time in years my workouts leave me feeling ready and excited for the day ahead. Not 6 months ago they were leaving me tired and drained.
Change is happening. Some aspects of it are challenging and the fact that I have more resistance to taking a bubble bath than I do at completing a 10k run starting at 5 am is not lost on me. I have always been someone who has been more than willing to do the grunt work. The physical labour side of things. It is the resting and the re-charging that I have struggled with, thinking they are wastes of time or not worth the bother.
Again though with my own burnout still being so fresh, I am okay with pep talking myself into the bath for a while until it sticks. Which I know it will.