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Winter Break Renewal

Finding deep renewal during winter break

Teachers, you did a great job this fall in the service of your students. And if you happen to feel accumulated stress and exhaustion as you near the end of the year, you’re not alone. Research reveals that close to half of all educators experience what they describe as “high daily stress.” The holidays are arriving just in time, and you need a rest. But beyond that, you may need to deeply renew your fatigued being, recharge your depleted energy, and maybe take time to regain your joy in this work you love. And there are tested stress-easing techniques to help you do just that.

Have a look here for a winter kit on comprehensive emotional and physical recovery in an article titled: “Use the Winter Break to Renew Your Spirits and Sense of Purpose.” It’s by Todd Finley, a tenured professor of English Education at East Carolina University. He’s also taught elementary and 7 – 12th grade English, and written for teachers in publications such as Edutopia and Huffington Post.

Daily steps for sustained self-care

The winter break is your time to recharge, reset, and renew. But you also get to keep feeling purposeful and well as you move back into post-holiday teaching routines. These Powerful Habits for Teacher Resilience address key elements of regular self-care that include sleep, exercise, diet, thought patterns, and steady attainable goals. This chart also cites the scientific verification that 11 minutes of meditation per sitting is enough to help reduce stress and increase happiness.

Meditation has been shown to really help. Research substantiates the vulnerability of educators to emotional exhaustion and depressive symptoms––the “pervasive problem of teacher burnout.” That kind of prolonged distress can also spiral into physical health problems. This article describes a four-month study on the effects of meditation for teachers and support staff. The researchers discovered “significant and clinically important” positive effects.

Dealing with people who stress you out

There are moments when frustrations with students or colleagues can feel overwhelming. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds recommends a particular form of meditation to help with this in a 32-minute guided practice. It is a “compassion practice” that starts with generating a feeling of empathy for someone close to you…and eventually moves to carrying that same feeling toward someone you are experiencing difficulty with.

Studies indicate that compassion practice can actually improve personal wellbeing, and even benefit your immune system. Try meditating with this audio guide over winter break, and see if you feel a shift in your heart once school starts again.

Mindfulness––another tool to respond to stress

Mindfulness helps you put a little bit of space between something stressful that just happened or that someone said, and your response to it. A mindfulness exercise can be as simple as taking three deep breaths and placing your full awareness in the present. Feel your breath, accept whatever arises in your mind, and listen for your intuition on the best next response to whatever or whoever is in front of you.

Immerse in deep enjoyment of your winter renewal. Take a hot lavender bath, cuddle with your dog or cat, go to the gym or take a good run, share nourishing meals, and give big hugs to friends and family members. You are loved and valued. Come back refreshed to the rewarding new year of teaching that awaits you.

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