Self-care is a deservedly hot topic, especially among our teachers, health professionals, and other frontline workers.
Yet I’m hearing from school leaders all over the country that they’re getting push-back when they provide dedicated time for meditation and yoga, such as:
“Don’t make me do yoga. Just let me use that time for planning if you really want to reduce my stress!”
“Meditation? Excuse me but that’s been part of my life since before you were born. This is not helpful.”
“I need time for a good run, not a pillow and a breathing exercise.”
And so on. Know that these complaints are probably very legitimate. Not everyone experiences the same level of self care from yoga. I myself am a yoga failure. Oh, I’ll participate if I have to but it simply isn’t as effective for me as other self-care practices. Why?
Four Paths to Self-Care
If I consider the common, neutral framework of psychological type, I can tap significant research into what stresses people. In fact, a reviewer pointed out that the longest chapter in Beth Russell’s and my book Differentiated School Leadership is on type and stress. While we’re all stressed by overwork, relationship difficulties, illness and so on, what makes these situations toughest—and what helps us regain our brain bandwidth differs by type.
Take a look at this chart. Can you find yourself in the first column? Yes, you might be a bit of all four but one should resonate as a driving motivator. Then, ponder the second column through the lens of the pandemic. What was toughest for you? Finally, read through the third column to grasp the wide variety of ways that people might most effectively relieve stress. Which have you tried? What worked? What new avenues might work best?
|If your lifelong core motivator—what brings the most energy—is…||What might be most stressful is …||For self-care, rest that core motivator by…|
|Working with what is—using facts, observing the environment, drawing on past experience, acting in the now||Having to deal with change when there is no clear directionWhen enjoyment is missing in the present moment||Imagine something positive and attainable, craft project, remodel, etc.Work with others to plan a fun gathering or projectPlan contingencies for how you will handle worst-case scenariosRead favorite escapist literatureConcentrate on the big picture—what will really matter 5 years from now?|
|Working with what could be—innovating, making connections, exploring options, dreaming up original approaches||When none of your creative plans or solutions are workingWhen it seems as if you’re out of options||Focus on your physical being via meditation, yoga, exercise, massageGet out in nature, or use pictures of nature for reflectionAttend to immediate needs—hydration, nutrition sleepEngage in detail-oriented activities such as jigsaw puzzles, crafts, cooking with recipes, playing new pieces on an instrumentConcentrate on the facts in a situation and immediate, pragmatic actions|
|Working with logic—defining problems, employing strategy and if/then pro/con thinking to solve them, staying objective||If rational approaches and solutions are ignored and situations become emotionally chargedWhen your planning and strategies fail, leading to a sense of incompetency||Complete a values clarification exercise. What are the top five values you wish to live by?Participate in a group service project to benefit othersEngage in an endeavor that taps feelings—music, painting, poetryRead novels or watch “chic flicks” to tap emotions and note them in othersFocus on personal relationships, quality time with those you care most about|
|Working with values—prioritizing relationships, upholding individual and group values, ensuring all stakeholders have a voice||If they exhaust themselves being of service trying to keep everyone happyWhen deeply held values are violated and people are hurt or trust is damaged||Talk about concerns with a logical, objective person to gain perspectiveSolve Sudoku and other logic puzzlesRe-create with logic by reading or watching murder mysteries and following clues, playing chess or other strategy gamesOrganize something under your control—cupboards, garden plans, a process for students, etc.Rethink the situation objectively using pros and cons, if-then reasoning, possible precedents being set and other logical methods|
- Think about a person who has resisted the common self-care suggestions of meditation and yoga. Can you find them in Column 1? Might you reframe their resistance in terms of the suggestions in Column 3? How different are those from the inner work so often suggested?
- It is true that we all need a meditative practice for growth, effective decision-making, positive relationship skills, and more. What might work for you, if not yoga or meditation? Walking or just being in nature? Journaling? Memorizing meaningful quotes? Find a way to fulfill this universal human need!
Join us at the ASCD Leadership Summit!
I and my colleague Ann Holm are part of the ASCD Leadership Summit in January presenting on “Educator Bandwidth: Reclaiming Your Energy, Passion and Time.” The session is based on our upcoming ASCD book of the same title, due out in 2022