Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, parents, special education

Nurturing Your Own Soul

Teacher-Friends: We Live in a Strange, Scary Time

Teacher-friends, I wanted to check in on you. How are you? Are you well? If you are struggling, I hear you.

Between the end of summer school and the beginning of the school year, my whole family came down with something horrible.

It started with a bad headache and sore throat. Then moved on to a fever. My 16-year-old had a fever for 11 days straight. With the fever came body aches, a runny nose, diarrhea, stomachaches, brain fog and extraordinary fatigue – the kind that had us sleeping for days and wondering if we were ever going to feel well. And that cough. The everywhere, anytime kind of cough that wears you out.

Two of us got COVID tested. The results were negative, but our caregivers and employers were suspicious, and required us to quarantine, anyway. I missed the first day of school, sitting at home, doing my lesson plans and worrying about my husband, who had a heart transplant in January, and had the highest fever of all of us. I moved an air mattress into our home office. My son holed up in his room (not a huge disadvantage for a teen – it’s their natural habitat). My husband would occasionally stand outside my door and look forlornly in, or bring me a cup of coffee to set on the corner of my desk before he retreated.

At this writing, I am back at work, documenting my daily symptoms. My son is still quarantining until he feels better (24 hours without a fever, so far). The one we worried about the most seemed to bounce back the quickest – thank God! I know that many people had it far worse than us, health wise. Many of you have, no doubt, had to change your work schedules to accommodate your own children’s return to school. Some people are still wondering if they will ever go back to work. Some of you may have lost loved ones, and are grieving as you get ready to return to work. There are so many things uncertain, and we teachers crave having the right answer!

The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers

This COVID-19 / not COVID-19 thingy that we all had in my home has given me pause to consider how well (or not) I fill my own cup, being a natural cup-filler. For those of us who are also in a helping profession, filling others’ cups is part of our day-to-day existence, so much so, that we will come to school sick rather than disrupt the kids’ learning with a sub, or stay up all night to create something wonderful or catch up with household tasks after spending all the daylight hours on work-related things. Add small children, being a chauffeur for sports, or caring for an ill family member, and we have a recipe for physical and mental collapse.

Self-care is probably not something that comes naturally for many of us. I know I have developed the habit, since we closed our physical school last March, of putting a 3-hr block in my planner that says “SELF-CARE.” In that block, I put things that fill my cup, restore my energy (mental and physical) and nurture my soul and spirit.

Is your cup filled? What’s emptying it? What do you use to re-fill it?

What do you do for self-care? Click to visit my Pinterest board on Nurturing Your Soul. {Image Credit: “2015-03-25a Learning about taking care of myself — index card #self-care” by sachac is licensed under CC BY 2.0}

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup – So Fill It

Start today. Block your planner into 3-hr segments with a “theme” for each. Put one major task in each block – don’t pack the block full – that’s not realistic. Make sure one of the blocks says, “Self-Care.” Guard it selfishly. Fill it with things that refresh you and bring you back to your peaceful center.

During August, I focused on the following cup-filling activities:

  • Spending time with my family. We binge-watched six seasons of Vikings. Now I feel the desperate need to cover my body with Norse tattoos. Or fight with swords and giant hammers. And drink mead. Skål.
  • Doing lesson “planny” things. Those are lesson planning tasks without the pressure of HAVING to do them. I love lesson planning. I’m playing around with Google Classroom, Google Slides (I found this AWESOME filing cabinet for organizing my digital lesson plans!), and the Conferring Notebook from the Daily CAFE.
  • Cooking. I put Pandora on shuffle, and get to getting. I’m into soup and cooking with herbs from my garden these days.
  • Puttering in the garden. I don’t have a big garden. It’s more like a kitchen garden. I had salad greens, cherry tomatoes, lots of fresh herbs, and the best radishes. It was just too hot to be out there this summer. But there’s something soul-satisfying about grabbing a handful of something I grew and throwing it in what I’m cooking. It’s like kitchen magick.
  • Reading. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about ancient ways, especially in the British Isles. I’m of Italian-Irish descent, so I love going WAY back and finding my cultural and spiritual roots. For example, did you know that we just passed out of the Coll Moon? In Gaelic, coll means “the spirit/power within.” A fitting theme for a post on self-care. I’m also…
  • Buying books. Just window shopping and making wish lists is peaceful. One book on my short list is Soul Nourishment, by Deborah Haddix.
  • Praying and meditating. I created a prayer and meditation corner in my office. I start and end my day there every day. I also have discovered the joys of washi tape and journal embellishment. For me, there’s nothing more centering than using art materials along with my writing tools, when I journal daily during meditation.
  • Writing. I write. And write. And write. I try to aim for 2000 words at a time, and do this many times a day. A full post is intimidating, but I can bang it out in small chunks.

Set a Goal for Daily Self-Care

What will you do to keep yourself in that peaceful center in September? Share your best self-care tips – sharing IS caring! And check out the link, above, to see my Pinterest board on “Finding the Peaceful Center.”

Be well,


Posted in general education, homeschool, how-to, more seeds, special education

Simple Daily Habits to Ignite Your Passion for Teaching

Summer Time = Time for Self-Care

For most teachers, even homeschoolers, there is a time of year when you take a break from teaching. Perhaps you teach summer school, and that break is the two weeks before summer school begins, and the two weeks before your school year starts anew. Perhaps you choose to reset all summer, leaving your classroom chores behind in June and not looking at them again until August. Perhaps, if you homeschool, you choose to take the whole Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday off, spending time on home and family for a couple of months.

Regardless of the time, we educators know that a “season of refreshing” is important for our bodies, our minds and our spirits. A time to recharge is especially for those who labor with students who have significant challenges, behaviorally, physically or emotionally. It’s hard to remain passionate, when we are just plain tired. We pour and pour all year long – summer means it’s time to refill that empty cup.

While we spend time on our physical and mental health needs over this summer, let’s take a moment to consider what routines we can establish that can serve to recharge us during the school year. After all, what we practice now can become a habit for the new school year. Wouldn’t it be nice to reignite our passion for teaching just a little, every day?

"If you're reading this then I hope something good happens to you today." by deeplifequotes is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0  ~
Make time for the good in every day. {Image Credit: deeplifequotes via Creative Commons}

Daily Routines that Refresh and Renew

Below is a list of some well-known routines that can relieve stress, renew our energy levels, and bring us peace inside. I’m sure you can think of others. Pick two or three that you want to try and set a goal to practice each one every day, for the next 21 days (because scientists say that doing something 21 days in a row makes it become a habit). At the end of the 21 days, evaluate your progress. If you are successful with something, consider adding a new item from the list. If you weren’t successful, fret not: learning specialists note that it takes between 35 and 75 successful repetitions of a new idea or skill before the average person masters it. Keep going until you get it!

Start now while you have time to practice. Then, by the time the school year arrives this fall, you will have daily routines in place that will keep you passion afire all year long.

Simple Abundance,, simple habits for self-care
Make time to do one thing that refreshes and renews your body, mind and spirit.
  • Get outside (#1). Scientists everywhere agree that getting outside is essential for your entire being. Find a time of day to spend at least 20 minutes outside. Maybe it’s a long walk with your dog (something you’ll both look forward to) or drinking your morning coffee on the patio instead of in the kitchen. I like to come home and spend time puttering in the yard. The important thing isn’t what the task is: it’s that you are out in the fresh air and sunshine, two things that are immediate mood-boosters.
  • Be artistic (#2). Art therapy has been an established practice for decades. It improves focus and patience, as well as leading to more introspection and reflection. Psychologists everywhere note the benefits of art as therapy, even if you are simply coloring a mandala. If drawing and painting isn’t your thing, play with play dough or clay. If that’s still not you, pick up that camera, or work at sewing or knitting. For me, cooking is an art form – and I love to take photographs of the finished product. Spend at least 20 minutes a day being artistic.
  • Practice gratitude (#3). It is so easy to focus on the negatives of a day. Having a gratitude routine helps bring us back to the positives of that same day. I use a journal that opens and closes each day with three things for which I’m grateful. Gratitude takes us out of ourselves for a moment, and helps us see the bigger picture of our lives. Gratitude is so powerful it can even transform a workplace. Start today by listing five things for which you are grateful. Continue for 20 more days.
  • Drink more water (#4). I confess: I am terrible about drinking enough water. And I sometimes get headaches as a result. It’s so easy to forget to drink enough, when you’re running around taking care of students. Doctors know that our bodies need adequate hydration in order to function properly. Dermatologists know that proper hydration makes our skin look younger. And experts also know that we can get our water from anything.. well… watery (including fruits, salads, and even that cup of morning coffee [despite the popular myth that coffee dehydrates you]). Make it a point to start your day with a glass of water before you do anything else.
  • Play loud music and dance (#5). Ok, I will tell the world: I dance in the kitchen while I cook. I am also a hell of a car dancer. Music and movement helps regulate your body systems, and also improves cognitive function. We know music and movement are important with small children, but it’s not just for preschoolers! So, today, start to dance like no one’s looking! See how much better you feel.
  • Turn off the screens (#6). Technology is a tool that makes so many aspects of our lives easier. However, in just a few short decades, we already see the downside of social media and other uses of technology. Set aside a regular time to turn off all your devices – maybe one day a week, one hour a day… whatever you choose. Maybe you’ll have a social media-free day, only. Maybe you’ll decide to read instead of watching TV. Pick one time and stick to it.
  • Shower or bathe in the evening (#7). I have a friend who used to work in a women’s shelter as a crisis worker. She is a kind, and warm, and caring woman – so easy to talk to. She said she made it through that job by showering when she got home, and visualizing all the negative emotions and energy she absorbed flowing off her body and down the drain. Showering in the evening also washes dust and pollen off your hair and body, and a long bubble bath can be relaxing – all of which make for a better night’s sleep. conducted a poll on the benefits of showering at night.
  • Meditate (#8). I often find I can’t fall asleep at night, because my head is full of all the things that happened throughout the day, things that I need to do tomorrow, or events that are still bouncing around in there after a life time. Meditation, the purposeful emptying of the mind, is an important tool to relax oneself, and to become more focused and self-aware. If you are a praying person, make sure that you stop talking to God, and leave empty time for Him to answer. Start with ten minutes a day. There are many online tools to teach meditation for beginners.
  • Do your favorite cardio activity for 20 minutes (#9). You don’t have to go to the gym. Walk. Ride your exercise bike. Jump rope. Dig holes in your garden. Throw a ball for your dog. Cardiovascular exercise improves your mind as well as your body. Although our days as teachers are busy, we don’t move as much as we should. My husband and I like to take an evening walk. It’s not fast, but we spend time talking about the day, looking at the scenery, and reconnecting. Do what you like, and do it every day for 21 days.
  • Go to bed early (#10). Most of us educators are chronically under-rested. I usually get up at 4:00 am each day, and leave for work at about 6:30 am. If I go to bed at 9:00 pm, it’s still not enough sleep for me. I need coffee and sometimes a nap when I get home. I know I’m not getting enough sleep, because, on the days I don’t have to work, I have well-developed, memorable dreams between 4:00 am and 6:00 am. That’s REM sleep that obviously doesn’t happen during the work week. In fact, doctors say that most people get less sleep than they think. Try to get to bed by 8:00 pm one night – let yourself read (not on your phone – see #6!) for ½ hour if you must – but turn your lights and TV out by 8:30 pm. See how you feel in the morning.
  • Take your vitamins (#11). I know the jury is still out on the role of vitamin supplements in health, although doctors have documented the benefits of vitamin supplements as people age. I know that I feel like I have more energy when I take a multi-vitamin each day. It’s likely that, in our rushed lives, we don’t eat like we should. Try starting a good vitamin regimen this summer, and see how it makes you feel.
  • Spend time with your pet (#12). We have always had a house full of pets. Each one of us has certain pets that are our sidekicks. As for me, two of our cats wait outside our bedroom door (I swear they hear my eyes flutter open), and run to my office with me, where “we” spend an hour or two writing before the day begins. They fight for my lap, and love to be hugged. The benefits of pets are well-known. Try making a time of day where you hold, pet or cuddle with a pet – even for a few minutes. Notice how the stress pours off you when you do.
  • Do something for someone else (#13). Twelve-step programs have a saying, “You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” The thing we want most comes to us when we give it to someone else, whether it’s love, or money, or peace, or a meal. A lifestyle routine of doing good for others  has been scientifically shown to increase our mental health as well as our level of happiness. Start by making a cup of coffee for your partner in the morning, or phoning a friend who comes to mind during the day. Do this every day. Make it a routine.
  • Create a private space (#14). Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote a book awhile back called Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. In it, one of the first tasks she recommends is creating a small space that is just for you. Do you have a place for yourself in your home? I recently created a small study space in the parlor of my new home. After I clean up from dinner, and everyone has retreated upstairs for the evening, I spend a few moments reading in this space. I light a candle, grab a cat or two, and turn out all the lights but the reading lamp. In the winter, I can put some logs in the fireplace. Having a space of your own is comforting. If you want a comfy place outdoors, there are ideas for that, too. Create a nook to use when school starts up again. And, while you’re at it…
  • Make it comfy (#15). The Danish have a word, hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) which means, “comfy.” Think about what things make you feel comfortable, then practice including them more in your surroundings. We have a practice in my house of immediately changing into “comfy clothes” when we come home. Add a cup of tea and squishy socks, soft music and a candle, and I’m good to go. Read up on the hygge lifestyle to see what you can add to your home – and your classroom!
  • Use essential oils (#16). I’ve become an essential oils fan, ever since I bought an oil diffuser about a year ago. These powerful plant-based oils have a number of scientifically documented benefits, from pain relief to wound healing to relaxation and stress relief. Add a diffuser to the place where you get ready for the day, or to your night-time routine. See how it changes your mood.
  • Work with your hands (#17). There’s something about working with your hands that is an immediate stress reliever. Everyday things, like writing, or kneading dough, or pulling weeds, all have a way of improving your focus, emptying your mind and relieving tension. I find that washing dishes works like a charm, helping me relax (oh, that warm, soapy water) and melting stress from my neck and shoulders. Sometimes, I add a relaxing essential oil blend to my dishwater. But if you don’t believe me, believe these scientists in Florida who reported on dishwashing and stress relief!
  • Carve out some “me” time (#18). My colleagues have always thought me daft, getting up at 4:00 am every day. I tell everyone, even my family, that the time from 4:00 am until 6:00 am is ME time – it’s quiet, I’m most focused and alert and creative, and I get to greet the day with a sunrise every day. In this time, I pray, I read my Bible, I write, I cuddle my cats, I sip my coffee and plan my day… When I don’t have this time, I feel it all day. The importance of time alone, especially when you have a job where you do all day for others, cannot be overemphasized. Take this break to examine where you can fit alone time into your day.
  • Do what you’re good at (#19). In a world where you can be anything you want, be yourself. Make sure you allow time each day to do something you’re good at. I am a master scheduler. I can throw together a bunch of calendars or six course curricula and come up with a meeting schedule or pacing guide that fits everyone’s needs.  I like to find and share resources with others. What’s your niche? If you’re  a baker, or a chef, or a reader, or a writer, make sure that you leave time each day to pursue that which is your gift. Feeling competent improves self-concept and mood in children and adults. Sometimes, as teachers, we get to the end of the day and wonder what good came out of it. Having something we do each day that we’re good at, helps us stay balanced.
  • Celebrate achievements and note lessons learned (#20). At the end of each day, I write down three lessons learned – three things which might not have gone perfectly but gave me opportunities to do better next time. Considering these things as opportunities to learn, rather than failures, helps me grow. I also write down three wins for the day – three things which could be celebrated. Some days don’t feel like they should be celebrated, at all. By forcing myself to look for the good in each day, I am able to see my day in a more balanced way and maintain a growth mindset. Use that last block in your plan book to list these lessons learned and celebrations, or make it part of your staff meeting.
  • Make a “problems list” (#21). I once heard a story about a dad who gave his child’s nighttime “monster” a silly name, like “Booger Head.” By naming the child’s fear with a not-so-scary name, instead of denying its existence, Dad was able to make the monster seem “smaller” and less frightening. Similarly, by identifying obstacles to our peace, then jotting down one or two “right now” things we can do about it, we make the problems seem smaller and more manageable. This process, often called “name it to tame it,” is a process many psychologists use when working with anxious clients. Take time each day to list a few things that feel uncomfortable, and next to each, one thing you can do about it the next day.
  • Try a monthly challenge (#22). If you need a baby-steps method for starting daily habits of self-care, try Googling self-care challenges. Find one that seems to address your needs (whether it’s an exercise challenge, or an anti-anxiety challenge, or a de-cluttering challenge – choose one of the items, above). Stick to it, using that time you set aside for yourself previously (remember #18?).

Self-Care and You

As teachers, we give all day, and then give some more. Then we go home to our families. Making sure we protect time to replenish and refresh ourselves makes us better family members, better teachers, and better, more balanced people.

What habits have you developed to keep balanced? Let us know in the comments, below.

{ This blog is featured in Top 100 Special Education Blogs}