YOUR HEALTH, YOUR WELLBEING
Welcome to our new health and wellbeing space. Here you’ll find useful information aimed at helping you take care of yourself. We've curated useful content for you to help you bring balance and perspective to your hectic schedule.This page is a work in progress, so watch this space!
The Three Rs!
We all live busy lives so sometimes taking time out can be lower on our list of priorities. In this article, psychologist Sara Chatwin offers practical guidance on how to incorporate health, wellbeing and mindfulness into your everyday life to help you be the best you can in your professional life.
While learning to de-stress isn’t simple, there are some handy tips that can help you unwind and take a bit of time for “you”. I call it investing in the three “R’s”: rest, rejuvenation and reinvigoration! As you might have guessed the three R’s are a little different in psychology to those in the education system! So, how do people achieve the psychological three “R’s”? There are lots of theories and much research on what people can do to achieve that “zen” or calm we seek in life. Options range from going on holiday, (needs planning and saving), to catching up with a friend for a coffee.Plans to take time out, or get away, do not have to be expensive financially or draining energetically, but they do need to be about something that resonates for YOU. What seem to be the most effective and widely used tips for finding your happy place are:
Treat yourself. Take time out doing whatever makes you smile for enough time to help you feel relaxed. This could be a coffee with a friend, a massage or just a walk on a nice day. The point is to make a point of scheduling this into your life on a regular basis. Pop something in your diary if you must.
Relax. Again it’s about making a point of putting this into your life. This may sound a little odd, but with busy schedules and so many people and things to fit in, the diary comes in handy to plan: so REST. Research shows that when people commit to rest times, days off and holidays - they do it! Spontaneity may sound great but rarely works well for all of us. Holidays allow flexibility, and while arguably there may be activities to do and work to plan, scheduled rest periods are easy to achieve and lead to a feeling of satisfaction and rejuvenation.
Sleep - It's an essential part of rest and repair. Ensure you have at least two days a week when you leave work on time, without taking work home. This will make it easier to slide out of the day’s stresses and into a good night routine that enables a sound 6-8 hour sleep. The reasons for not sleeping are complicated and varied and too complex to deal with here – but learning how to relax, such as learning meditation techniques, can help.
Quick fixes on the job. Teachers may consider using morning tea and lunch breaks to take a few minutes to get some fresh air, walk, eat and hydrate. All of these small steps just allow the mind and body to disconnect from the events past and refocus on what is to come. Similarly, by taking 10-15 minutes at the end of a day, to tidy your desk and consider what needs to be done later or tomorrow, you can leave school feeling in control and not overwhelmed.
Exercise. A growing body of research suggests exercise, preferably a type you like, has the effect of releasing those happy hormones; endorphins. It also helps the stress response our bodies generate when we’ve experienced ‘overload’.
Cleanse your body. Focus on what’s going IN to your body so you eat and drink things that give you energy and add positively to your general physical balance. Beware of sugary treats, smoking, alcohol and caffeine drinks which may act to give you an instant high and/or feeling of relaxation. This is very short-lived and, in fact, can have depressing side effects. Over time these perceived ‘relaxants and problem-solvers’, can create more long-term issues!
Learn to say NO! In the education system, often people feel they are constantly negotiating and acquiescing to the demands of others. In your down time, do not fill your days (and nights) up with STUFF. Disconnect with others to RE-connect with YOU!
Get organised. When a person is organised, they feel in control and empowered! Organisation is KEY in teaching and sets a good example. Similarly, in our own time, organisation can free us up to achieve what we really want. When we achieve we feel like we have ‘climbed that mountain’ and actually, got stuff done. This is a positive mindset to have. There are certain tools associated with teachers’ jobs, like laptops, tablets, phones and school systems. Having these things up-to-date and in sync can minimise time spent on certain jobs. But, remember they are tools for efficiency – not drivers of impossible deadlines!
Organisation can also mean having SET activities for each day of the week, for example, Tuesday and Wednesdays could be marking and high-quality feedback days whereas Thursday may be saved for another teaching task.
Surround yourself with positive people. “We are who we interact with!” In the workplace we don’t have much choice as to who we spend time with. But in our holidays and private time, we CAN choose our company. Teachers are faced with challenges - children, young people and sometimes, colleagues. Take advantage of people that add positively to your world, people you can debrief and chat with. Often these people are not involved with your profession or family, but just make you feel good about yourself and again, allow you to relax!
Visualise your dreams and aspirations. Take ten minutes, when you’re relaxed, to think about what you really want in your life: an overdue catch up with a family member or friend, a break away for the weekend or a longer holiday, a gym membership or a regular exercise plan, learning a new language or taking up a hobby - then set about putting some goals together to MAKE IT HAPPEN! This should not take more than 10-15 minutes at a time and can be added to at any time. Many of you will understand goal setting so adapting SMART goal setting techniques to your personal life might be helpful to you.
Simplify. Avoid stressful people and situations. While this is sometimes hard to achieve, if people close to you are experiencing drama, make an effort to switch your phone off, disconnect from social media and computers and just let yourself “be”. You will find great peace in solitude, and you’ll be more helpful when it’s needed. Have awareness of the time spent using digital technologies and social media. Even though work in the education sector are increasingly online, be clear and honest about having a decent amount of time “off-line” when you have the chance.
Be kind to others. Kindness has been empirically shown to benefit the do-er of the good deed! Volunteer work and generally being nice to others shows others that the world is not such a cold place. Often altruistic work helps us to laugh and can heighten our sense of self and what we have to offer others.
Look around you. There may be hobbies, interests, activities and challenges available to you in your community that can give you the break or lift you need. These may be things that connect you to the bigger picture and give you options for life outside your job. Giving yourself the opportunity to have new experiences can also benefit the knowledge and experiential input you bring back to your classroom.
Take on a challenge. Whether this is in your job environment or in your life, accepting challenges can stretch and challenge us. Things such as training for a half marathon, or a big walk, presenting at a conference or learning a new language can have really positive benefits for confidence and self-esteem and ultimately adds to the investment in our health and wellbeing.
So remember, it’s important to take time for you – and understand that your health and wellbeing should be a priority and there are lots of useful tips and tools to help you prioritise this.
All the best,
(Reg.Psychologist; MNZPsS; MNZGCA; Masters First Class Hons; NZCER Tester; Spots Psych. Cert AUT.)
The following links are intended to be useful starting points for you.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Health Navigator has a really useful section on sleep – with research, tips and practical advice on sleep – from getting enough to exploring why it’s an issue for you. It’s a legitimate and safe New Zealand website for health issues. It also has a really useful app library with tonnes of apps on subjects such as health, alcohol, fitness and weight loss.
Good Mental Health
The Mental Health Foundation has a good section on wellbeing and offers useful easy tips to staying well. It offers good general, practically-based information – but you know it has the research behind it. Another good thing about this website is that it has a lot of resources that could be incorporated into a classroom session, or discussion, about health and wellbeing.
Principals and professional leaders will be concerned with this. Wellplace is aimed at creating healthy workplaces, and while many schools will have sunsmart and healthy eating policies in place, it’s still a useful website for those looking for resources, or the facts, to back them up. It’s part of the Health Promotion Agency so its advice is relevant to New Zealand workplaces, and has been peer-reviewed.
Also, I'm a bit of a blog reader and I have found these health and wellbeing blogs really useful in my own life - I hope you find them useful in yours.
Life Remix - a blog about how to relax at work.
Psych central - while this is aimed at my particular profession I have found the information applicable in all situations and recommend it to people who are interested in reading about health and wellbeing.