Making work and life balance

Kathryn Lovewell is a teacher trainer specialising in emotional resilience and author of 'Every Teacher Matters – Inspiring Well-Being through Mindfulness.' Here she gives her tips on balancing home and work. 

Home

Actively change your state of mind when you go home

  • Take responsibility for your own needs when you go home. This may mean working concertedly at changing your state of mind after a hard day.
  • Take fresh air, exercise or enjoy a nice, hot bath. By doing something that feeds your heart, you equip yourself to let go of all of your anxiety, so you can start the next day fresh.
  • Close the door. Physically separate your home life from your work life. If you can leave your books, marking, assessments at school. If you do have to take them home, leave them in a room, where you can close the door when you have finished. If this is not possible, make sure that you move any work away from the area that you sleep.
  • Separate work and social media. Have different email and social media accounts for your home and your work. This means you cannot be distracted by work stuff when you are checking your emails, plus there is an added level of security between you and your students (and their parents) on social media. Although this does not mean, you should still not be very careful in checking security settings and monitoring your comments.

Holidays

TLC! By the end of the term, most teachers are pretty pooped, many have colds or sore throats and your immune systems are usually low. Support your body by taking plenty of Vitamin C, drink lots of water, wrap up warm and enjoy some gentle exercise in the fresh air. This will help recharge your batteries for the holidays.

Allow yourself time to unwind. Diarise “down time” so that you don’t over book your social calendar, leaving you little time to rest. “Party on” for sure and leave time to chill. This way you will have more energy to enjoy the holidays and embrace the opportunity to dance, sing and be merry!

Set your boundaries. If you’re holding a gathering, give a start and finish time (especially if you’re fatigued). It’s often hard to get people to leave, so pre-frame your “pumpkin” time as Cinders (and Prince Charming) need their beauty sleep!

Suit yourself! Holidays are a time to catch up with friends and family. Stress often arises because you try to please everyone and accommodate everyone else’s needs. It may seem like the easier option to say yes to everyone, but long term it will create exhaustion and resentment. Decide what you’d love for yourself, who and what events you’d like to prioritise and embrace those. Of course you may have to compromise in some situations; decide how much time you’re willing to give to Great Aunt Flo for example, bid them good cheer and leave when you’re ready. Give yourself permission to serve your needs first. Quietly but firmly structure your boundaries so that you are not overwhelmed by obligations. This is your holiday, you’ve earned it, choose what you’d love!

Host help! If you are hosting this Christmas; if it’s your “turn” to feed the clan, ask for help. You do not need to play the martyr or sacrifice your Christmas by serving others mulled wine and mince pies every half hour. You deserve to enjoy the party too! Ask your guests to “bring a plate” (if that works for your menu) or another option is for guests to provide starter and pudding and you provide the main. Take the heat out of the kitchen by saying YES! when offers of help to wash up or clear away are forthcoming. If guests are not rushing to get to the sink, then simply direct members of the family (especially those energetic children) to assist with proceedings. What can often work well is that you assign responsibilities – someone else being in charge of drinks is my favourite job to handover, this way I can concentrate on pulling the event together.

Prepare for delays! To avoid stress over the holidays, leave plenty of time to get to your destinations. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a jam and fretting about how late you’re going to be. Sometimes unexpected delays are unavoidable, so be prepared. If you’re travelling a distance, ensure you have a phone charger car adaptor, a flask of something warm and some protein snacks. These preventative measures will ease the stress if needed and reassure if you don’t.

Count your blessings. If you’re finding it hard to be grateful for this “time off” when all you can see is the pile of exams to mark and the lesson plans to complete, stop for a moment and realign your thinking. What have you to be grateful for? You have the best job in the world – inspiring young people – or if that’s too hard – you have a job! You may have a cold, but you are well in yourself; you have family and friends that love you (even Auntie Margery that always criticises your weight/outfit/children when you visit!) You have yummy food and a warm home... You get the picture.

Time to reflect. Even if you are cream crackered right now, give yourself time to reflect on your achievements this term. Especially if you’re an NQT and you’re feeling done in, just look back and dig out all the little wins you’ve enjoyed - A magical lesson; a fabulous assembly, a wonderful form party, an unexpected thank you from a student, a well done from a colleague. You’re doing an awesome job – remember that!

Have Fun! If you are feeling rather grey and you have more “humbug” than “ho ho ho” in you, give yourself permission to gentle your way into the holiday. There are often heavy expectations placed on this season more than any other. If you’re tired and blue, be kind to yourself, keep it simple and let your tension ease away with loving “activities” like having a duvet day; snuggling up on the sofa with a soppy movie or spending hours in bed chatting on the phone or Skype. Choose what will re-balance you and do that. Let go of all the shoulds and ask yourself “What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?” and do that.

Loving yourself tips

Find time and space First create an underlying structure that will support your love focus for the day. This means creating some time and space for yourself (and your beloved if you have one!) If you love romance, make it happen! If you’re a cynic, forget the roses and focus on what you’d love to do for yourself. If you think you don’t have time for all this malarkey think again. Remember you are at the heart of your day – in school and out, so start with you and share the love! It will brighten your day and those you spend time with, including your students!

Love in the classroom Make a conscious decision to bring love into your classroom today. It may sound a bit whacky but visualise your room being filled with love however you imagine it. Imagine it’s filled with the scent of roses or the vibration of kindness or maybe just filled with a clean, light, loving energy. If nothing else it will make you feel great and set you up for the day!

Fill your love tank Set your intention on filling your love tank throughout the day. If you have dreaded 9E then create space to share the love with them. Perhaps invite them to dive into their studies diligently for the first part of the lesson so that you can have a love quiz (or time to share valentine stories) in the second part – just to show them you’re human – a fact many students overlook!

Share the love Share the love with your colleagues – perhaps bring in a token of love for your department – it doesn’t have to be the traditional chocs. It could be a bowl of fruit or even those cute little packets of love heart sweets. I know I’m a low or no sugar advocate – but come on you’ve got to live a little, a few won’t hurt and it will bring a smile to every recipient!

Behaviour management You can also employ the power of love as a great behaviour management tool. You want the best for your students and you want to have a satisfying teaching day for yourself too. One of the simplest ways to do this is to share from your heart

“What I would really love today is to have a fantastic lesson with every one focussed and participating”.

It’s a completely different energy to “I want you all to behave this lesson!” It may sound simplistic, but this subtle shift in language can make a profound difference.

Love yourself So the final bell has rung and it’s time to shut up shop. This is your opportunity to truly love yourself on this magical day. Give yourself permission to stop! Complete enough prep so that you can switch off from work when you get home and leave your marking at school! (Yes I know it will be a miracle, but give it a go anyway!) Panic not, it’s just for one day! Now go ahead and create some loving space for yourself.

Love and Appreciation Finally, why not play the Love and Appreciation game. Whether you’re spending the evening on your own, with your partner or with the family this is a great way to share the love. Each person will share what they love and appreciate about every person in the room.

Simply say “What I love and appreciate about .................... (Fill in the blank) is ..................... (Fill in the blank)”

It is wonderful to do this as a family even if you have to squeeze it out of your children! It goes something like this:

Oliver:

“What I love and appreciate about Mum is that she always tries to create fun activities for us to do”

Mum:

“Thank you.”

He continues until he has shared his appreciation for each person.

It’s also lovely to do one to one with your spouse. See how many things you take for granted that you actually really appreciate.