Listen to your heart- physical and emotional fitness for professionals

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The education sector is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry that can be grueling for a lot of teachers. When I log onto Twitter, I often see posts requesting recommendations for comfortable shoes as teachers walk over ten thousand steps on average every day. Rants on frustrations associated with teaching are commonplace, and anxiety plagues career trajectories in education. These forms of responses have become regular since Covid hit us as tensions are soaring between all stakeholders.

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We have integrated sound SEL practices in schools that are coming back to face-to-face teaching. Physical fitness is in the limelight as students need to learn how to get up and move again.

While we have recognized the significance of physical, mental, and emotional fitness for our young ones, what of teachers who have endured similar challenges?

I posed questions to my peers regarding their self-care routine and asked them about the following aspects-

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Most professionals’ responses were shocking. Where some areas were balanced, others were neglected completely. A lack of time or infrastructure prevented adults with stressful jobs from developing holistically. Burnout is rampant as teachers give all of themselves to the individuals they are responsible for and give nothing back to themselves. While I understand it becomes impossible to balance all of these spheres, it may be a good start to realize the importance of stepping back from your job once in a while.

Prioritize

Most professionals often fall prey to deadlines and expectations. We sacrifice our free time to complete pending work and dismiss taking care of ourselves. In my pursuit towards SEL in my own life, I realized that it would not matter to anyone but me if I put off checking a few papers till the next workday. I have an urge to check boxes as soon as a task is delegated to me. I realized that if I work harder during the day to complete everything I needed to within work hours, I played harder as I was free of obligations post 4 pm.

Take away- Work hard, play hard!

Pump it up

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Take time out in your day to be physically active. I used to be lethargic after work and swamped with household responsibilities. I finally opted to wake up earlier, have a quick snack, and work out before my day commenced, and this change revolutionized my fitness journey. I purchased a fitness watch (Garmin) which showed me my weekly progress and motivated me to keep pushing myself to meet goals. I have recently purchased an Apple Watch, which tracks my O2 levels, heart rate, and fitness goals. While some may consider a fitness watch as frivolous, I find myself relying on them to propel me forward, keep me fit and help me to maintain a record of health data at my fingertips. I also don’t go to the gym! Instead, I play various fitness videos on YouTube, so I constantly change my workouts based on my mood. Since I’m not reliant on one gym or trainer, I can vary my workouts from dance to yoga, cardio kickboxing to HIIT, Pilates to strength training. My favourite fitness workouts include videos by And8 Fitness, Tara’s Body, PopSugar Fitness, and more. Have a buddy work out with you if you crave accountability. This isn’t a possibility for me as I work out at the crack of dawn!

Take away- Physical fitness kickstarts emotional fitness

Pausing for reflection

As you can see in the pictures above, I have a lot of data at my fingertips. It gives me pause when I see my stress levels shoot up. I immediately begin weighing how to reduce my anxiety levels and reflect on my choices. By monitoring my heart rate, I know my heart is well when I work out, thus giving me some amount of solace. Reflection can happen at any moment and can be spurred on by a variety of ponder-points.

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I teach my sons to reflect when they become frustrated, angry, or even when they’re happy. Being grateful is an integral part of reflection as well. It wasn’t long before I saw my son meditating on the tennis court when he couldn’t hit the ball as well as some of the other kids!

Reflect on your frustrations often

Take away- Reflect often, not only on the negatives, but positives too!

Let the little things go

I often see educators sweating the little stuff. Collaborating with peers, dealing with parents, and balancing emotions in front of students can create strife on many fronts. These situations infuse many negativities in our daily lives; it’s imperative to know that these situations are fleeting. Altercations with others are transient, friction with management exists in all institutions, and you will always meet people with whom you do not get along. Keeping your eyes on the prize of being positive and working towards life goals will ensure that you let the little things go for your own sake.

Take away- Disconnect from small issues for your own sake

Time for yourself

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During the day, take time to do something that is just for YOU. It could be following a passion project, working out, meditating, working on something you’ve meant to complete for a while (it shouldn’t be related to work). Over time, you may rediscover things about yourself that you have forgotten! You could unearth hidden talents, make new friends or even begin to love yourself a little more every day. 

Take away-YOU are important!

Conclusions-

You need to take time for self-care every single day. You may take this time for a mere minute or an hour but do so without fail. Self-care starts by loving and respecting yourself, and self-love begins by acknowledging that time can and should be spent on yourself too. Guilt eats away at us and terms such as ‘selfish’, ‘indulgent’ and ‘self-absorbed’ need to be swapped with positive connotations. Small steps can transform into revolutionary lifestyle alterations for the better.

You don’t need to walk a mile in another’s shoes to experience challenges. Take a small step in your own and learn to love the journey.

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