Recently, in our Women in Education Leadership Voxer Group, I asked the ladies in the group to share their plans for the week for working on their personal wellness. Perhaps someone had planned her menu for the week to include healthy, nutritious foods, or maybe someone had put appointments on her calendar for workouts throughout the week. I hoped to remind the women in the group that we must take care of ourselves so that we can care for others.
A lesson I learned the hard way is one that I try to share with new school leaders at every level, including new teachers. One of my regrets during the time that I was a school principal was that I didn’t make my health a priority. I only exercised a handful of times, even though I had been athletic my entire life and knew what a boost exercise was to my emotional well-being. When we have a big career change, even if it to a position we truly love, it’s easy to throw time and energy into the work instead of using some of it to keep our energy replenished.
Just like a good lesson plan, we must plan for our health and wellness.
Here are a few ideas to include in your lesson plan:
Eat a green vegetable every day. While this sounds like a simple concept, it’s a cornerstone for the health & wellness challenges I host on Facebook. What I’ve found is that when people try to include a green vegetable every day, they start reviewing all food choices and have more well-balanced meals.
Pack your own lunches. You will know just how the food is prepared, and you can control portion size.
Plan your dinner menu for the week. This is especially helpful when you have a family with activities (practices, lessons, meetings, etc) during the week. You can plan for crockpot meals, make-ahead, or on-the-go entrees. What if you could grab dinner from the fridge and pack it in a cooler in the car rather than hitting the drive-through?
Find an accountability partner. This is simply a person with whom you can exercise, share recipes, and share goals and plans. I have a friend with whom I run on the weekends. Without her, I can’t say that I would complete as many long runs as I have. This past weekend, we set a goal to run in the Seaside half-marathon at the beach next year. (It’s not too early to send good thoughts my way. I’m very far from being ready for a half-marathon.)
Preview your schedule for the week and plan for your exercise. For example, here’s a sample schedule for a week: Monday it means that you can do a short, yoga workout in the morning before before work, Tuesday and Thursday you can walk after work, Wednesday morning is for body-weight exercises, Friday is a day off and Saturday is a day for a long run or one-hour group exercise class. Sunday could be family day for hiking. Go ahead and put it on your calendar, including the times for your exercise.
Get enough sleep. Be sure to enlist the help of your family to get done what needs to be done so that you (and they) can get to bed early each night. Kids learn more from what we model for them than what we tell them, so if you are a parent, this is an important priority to model for your kids.
Make time each day to be still. Some people like to do it each morning over a cup of coffee or hot tea. Some like to do it just before bedtime. For some, it is finding a small window of time between activities that breaks up the busy-ness of the day. Whatever works best for you, find time to tune out the distractions of television, radio, computer and just be.
Practice breathing. Try taking 20 deep breaths each morning before you get out of bed. This strategy is also helpful when you find yourself in the middle of “stress-causing activities” such as working on a busy project with a tight deadline, about to teach a difficult concept, or about to enter a parent conference.
Lesson plans sometimes change, too. Saturday I left the house and headed to the trail for a long run, but I turned around after half of a mile. I had too much on my mind and too much to do. I knew that I would get in a long run the next day with my friend, Karen, so I gave myself permission to take care of the other things on my to-do list.
If you are just starting out (or starting back) on the road to health and wellness it will be difficult and there will be challenges. Forgive yourself for your missteps and stay the course. You will be able to better serve your students/staff when you are your best YOU.
I would love to hear from you the ways that you make your health a priority. You can leave me a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook.