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When I just couldn’t take it anymore. When I couldn't take on one more thing, and all I wanted was to just close the door on everyone and everything and cry because I didn’t know what to do.
If this feels like your experience, I want you to know that it’s completely normal, and you’re not alone. We’ve all been there.
As you already know all too well by now, we’ve chosen a profession that is undoubtedly one of the most challenging careers out there. I mean, who knew that something as simple as going to the bathroom was going to be this complicated? What? I can’t even leave to pee? And I will likely never enjoy a hot cup of coffee ever again? Or even have any idea where I left my mug?
But here’s the thing – it’s also the most amazing career in the world, right? The hugs. The lightbulb moments. The realization that you TRULY have the capacity to change lives every single day. That fact that you are one of the most important people in these children’s lives.
I mean, who gets that, right? Who gets that awesome privilege?
But the fact is - your overwhelm is not your fault. Teaching is like having a bipolar relationship with your job. It can be equally terrifying and incredibly awesome all at once. Kind of reminds me of a relationship I had once. But I digress...
I get it. And the reality is, the very reason you are such an incredible teacher (and I already know that you’re an incredible and dedicated teacher because you’re here– searching for answers, dedicated to learning) – the same reason you are such an incredible teacher is likely the same reason you are feeling completely overwhelmed:
You just care so much about your kids.
But, you also know that something needs to change. Maybe you feel like you’re about to go over some kind of edge, and that you need to do something about it but you don’t have the time to do that – to take care of yourself.
I know how you’re feeling because I’ve been there. But then one day, when I was on vacation (and this is when the biggest “Aha!” moments often happen for me), I was on a plane and the stewardess got up and did that stupid “oxygen mask" demonstration that we've all seen about 1000 times.
I always wonder how that cheap little yellow mask is ever going to save us if there is no more oxygen on the plane. And then she said that phrase that always has me secretly judging her just a little:
“Put on your own mask first before helping anyone else, including a child.”
What? Save ourselves BEFORE a child? Are you kidding me? Our number one priority is ALWAYS the children.
But then I realized that she actually had a good point. I mean, you can’t really save other people if you are already dead. And what finally made sense to me is that you can’t give what you don’t have.
If you aren’t full yourself, how can you possibly be fully present for your students?
And in that moment, things shifted for me. That awful stewardess who I was busy judging was actually right. And from that point on, I started to work on giving myself a daily gift when I got back to my classroom, and I now understand that it changed not only my teaching life, but it changed me.
Here’s what I learned to do, and how you can do it, too.
Every day at lunch time, I did the unthinkable: I played hooky.
I closed and locked my door, I turned off the lights, and I sat in a space in my classroom where nobody could see me.
I set my timer for 7 minutes, and I dreamed. I wouldn't call this meditating, because I still am really bad at that and I usually fall asleep - instead, I literally "escaped" reality for awhile.
I’ve lived in a lot of exotic places in the world, but there are few places that settle my soul the way a hammock in the shade on a warm, sultry day, can. I spent that indulgent seven minutes in pure bliss, letting my mind rest and my spirit to be filled up with warmth and sunshine in Thailand or Australia.
Now, immediately your mind is likely filling with no less than 101 reasons why you can’t do this. I get it.
And I’d like to invite you, instead, to think of 101 reasons why you have to do this: Because if you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will. Your students need you, but you will be no good to them if you aren’t loving yourself first.
What I learned is that the best part – even though escaping to a tropical island is pretty incredible in itself – the best part was how it changed me once I came back to reality. That’s what people don’t talk about – how filled with sunshine and happiness you feel AFTER you’ve given yourself this incredible gift of peace and quiet in our loud, busy world.
I couldn't believe how much more patient, how much more loving, and how much happier I was with my students once I start doing this more regularly.
To help you get started and try this yourself, I’ve created a freebie for you that is a download you can save on your phone or on your computer, and it’s a simple, what I like to call, “Five Minute Field Trip for Teachers” that you can use to escape and decompress whenever you feel yourself going into overwhelm (and this time, we rest in another one of my favorite places in my imagination - a gorgeous, lush forest where you can find peace and rejuvenation). Ahhh.....like a trip to the mind-spa...
It’s awesome to use during your lunch hour if possible, to help you recharge in the middle of the day, but it’s also great to use if you have a spare or prep period, or even at recess if you aren’t on supervision.
But wherever you use it, the important thing is for you to start right away, because you deserve this. Just click below to grab your copy now.
And by the way, I’d love to hear how you’ve managed to reduce your overwhelm as a teacher, because every time you post an idea, you really can help someone else. That’s part of my goal here in this podcast - to give you a space to share and to help each other. So please join our NEW Facebook community and share your ideas for reducing overwhelm, because we’d love to hear them. :-) You can find me at Beginning Teacher Talk on Facebook, and I'm looking forward to connecting with you soon!
Please subscribe, and leave a comment if you are a beginning teacher. I'd love to learn more about your story and specifically what you would like help with as you navigate your first few years of teaching. Your contributions will help shape future episodes, because this podcast is designed especially for you. Click here to subscribe in iTunes!
Now if you’re feeling extra loving, I would be really grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other people find my podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review: Select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. Thank you!
Until next week - happy teaching!
Links Included in this Episode:
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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