Teachers and School Leaders are exhausted. Physical and Mental Well-being is not an option, it’s an imperative. It’s time to rest. In this article we take a look at the acronym R.E.S.T to remind all role players in the school environment, just how important rest is.
Relax and Rejuvenate
Make sure everything is done by the time the last day of the academic year comes. This needs to be a time to relax and rejuvenate.
Rob Paddock, the CEO of Valenture Institute wrote in the 4 June 2021 Parent 24 article that teachers are the mothers of all professions. But critically ill and crippled mothers are handicapped to deliver what children need. In his article he highlighted that the Norms and Standards for teachers, written in 2000, describe a responsibility that is too broad and the accountability too shallow. His opinion is that teachers are expected to do too many jobs leaving many of them to sojourn as part of a failing traditional education system.
Despite a few independently funded trials, the traditional schooling system seems hell-bent on continuing on the classical, traditional path. Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
There is a battle on the horizon for educators who want to re-imagine schooling within the boundaries of bureaucratic red-tape. To do this “insane” work we need to build strength. This holiday is the time to rest and it starts with relaxing and rejuvenating – both the body and mind.
The brain scan above shows where many of us are are this stage, having suffered such extreme anxiety during the past 22 months. We need to make use of the incredible power of our brains to rejuvenate. Thanks to brain plasticity, we can literally change our behaviour and begin the healing process to rejuvenate our anxiety damaged brains. The SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) scan shows healthy activity, too much activity and too little activity.
We know from brain science the concept of Hebb’s Law. The principle is that brain neurons that fire together – wire together. So, in the comfort of a relaxed holiday space, consciously allow your brain not to be anxious about the things that usually fuel your anxiety.
Neurons that fire together, wire togetherHebb’s Law
- Avoid excessive alcohol. Vacation may be your time to enjoy that extra glass of wine or a finger or two of whisky. But if you treat anxiety with alcohol, it may result in an initial buzz, but anxiety will return with a vengeance shortly afterwards.
- Reduce stimulants and drink water. Avoid a lot of coffee during the holiday season. Savour a good cup of coffee and then choose a cleansing glass of water. Water is an amazing healer when it comes to rejuvenation. Water does not make you smarter or less anxious. But water is vital for our brains to function optimally. It is made up of 70% water and highly sensitive to bodily fluid levels. When the water level in the brain drops we get stressed causing our survival brains to react and our behaviour to deteriorate. We become grumpy and often miserable. The brain is also highly sensitive to Ph variances and just like our swimming pools when the Ph is too high or too low, things become murky. Murky brains have polarity challenges and when energy is transmitted within the neuron electrically, neuronal transmission is affected. When the body senses that it is thirsty, it produces an adrenal response that ignites consummatory behaviour. Drinking pure water taken after 5 mins of the adrenal response brings about a marked decline in cortisol (stress drug in the brain) and ACTH – adrenocorticotropic hormone. Tea, coffee, fruit juices and soda drinks are all diuretics causing the body to rid the fluid. Pure water is best and tracking that six to eight glasses are consumed each day will have a significant impact on your recovery.
Eat and Exercise
Educators are renowned as poor eaters. Classically, we eat to manage our stress. We eat fast, at the wrong time and we consume the wrong food. Schools have early starts making breakfast a “fast-food” experience, different break times means snacking on carbohydrates for quick energy. We are by nature carbohydrate junkies because it gives us the instant energy requirements to get through the near impossible tasks assigned each day. We use fast food with fast acting sugars for short term energy boost, then experience the typical sugar blues as the energy slumps.
This is a holiday where you need to focus on brain foods.
Best sugars break down slowly. Their molecules are longer. As a result they stay in the blood system for a longer period of time and we avoid the rollercoaster experience of sugar highs and sugar blues. This group of sugars is often referred to as LOW GI (glycemic index).
So, a whole apple, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, kiwi, tomatoes, carrots, celery, oatmeal and oat bran as well as spaghetti, whole or multigrain breads and rice (and many many more) have low GI. Sugar coated cereals and corn flakes have high GI.
The bottom line is that the brain needs best sugars to operate effectively.Gavin Keller
The other food for the brain is oxygen. Without glucose or oxygen the brain will only survive for about 10 minutes before it experiences irreparable damage. Increase your exercise programme. The brain loves to move. Get up each day of this holiday period and plan your exercise schedule. It could be a walk on the beach, a game of tennis, a stroll around the shopping mall or a short jog. Most teachers stop exercising in their holidays as their bodies just seem so tired. But exercise is medication for the brain.
I like the term GO2. The GO2 break means taking in Good Glucose while participating in light exercise. This ensures glucose in the system and oxygen in the blood. The brain is now immediately ready to focus and begins to heal in preparation for the new academic year.
Sleep and Track your State
Sleep is not an option – it is a basic requirement for brain rejuvenation. By committing 7-9 hours of each day of your vacation to sleeping you will reduce inflammation in your cells and regulate your immune system so vital for the next wave, be it pandemic or system related.
This is not the time for sitting up all night binge watching all the series you missed during the exhausting days at work. Enjoy a few good shows, but focus on your sleep patterns. Remember, we are in an essential season of rest. We are resting the body, but specifically the brain in preparation for the next round.
States are an interesting topic in brain-science. States are composed of complex self-organising neural clusters and corresponding chemical mixes. Our states all influence our behaviour, learning, attention, decision-making and our memory. Remember, there is no such thing as an unmotivated teacher, only a teacher in an unmotivated state. States last for seconds, but moods last for hours. By carefully tracking your state you can learn the art of changing your mood before it takes hold of your thinking. The best way to manage your state is mindfulness.
Get into mindfulness. If you haven’t got into spending a few minutes a day clearing your mind, now is the time. It may have a dramatic effect on getting your SPECT scan back to looking like the the healthy scan image above. Find a quiet space without other disturbances or noise. Start breathing consciously. Imagine a window frame in your mind. Breathe in slowly to the count of four while your imaginary eye traces up the left vertical side of the window frame. Hold on the corner for the count of four, then exhale slowly as your eye traces along the imaginary top of the window for the count of four. Again hold for the count of four and breathe in as you move down the right vertical side, hold and repeat along the bottom.
Continue doing this focusing on the inhale and exhale of air. Keep doing it until it becomes the style of breathing. Now work on clearing your mind. If your mind is anything like mine- the thought of clearing it seems impossible. The advice I got was to imagine that you are sitting at a railway station while breathing. As thoughts enter your mind allow them to pass in and out. Do not let the anxiety train stop at your station. Let them in and gently guide them out, but keep breathing to a rhythm.
Take Time to treat “thee”
The emphasis here is me-time. You owe it to yourself, you deserve it, you need it – to survive. A broken teacher is a hopeless partner, parent, child, sibling or friend. Just like you plan your exercise, water intake, diet – plan to grab some Me Time every day. Your circumstances will determine how long you can “afford” to spend on yourself, but it is an essential time to manage your well being.
Well-being is not positive thinking. Recent research has shown that trying to think positive thoughts can actually be toxic.
Saying…”Every day in every way I am getting better and better” without evidence is not going to change your mind. Repeating positive statements over and over does not change your mind.
Well-being is about looking after yourself so that your body’s immune system can fight off the disease. When our cells are inflamed, we compromise our immune system and become vulnerable to sickness.
When we are at dis-ease in our lives – we become vulnerable to diseases. If we are not in a good space physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially – we will not be able to process the data and store it in long term memory. We will feel bewildered, disorientated and confused.
The function of the brain is to keep you alive. A stressed brain will only concentrate on survival strategies.
Now Take the Time and Treat yourself. Remember it’s time to rest!
Have a wonderful vacation, heal and return to school to change the lives of children – one kid at a time.
As always .. Informative and helpful Practical Advice backed by Science and actually DO-able !
I have come to understand the Truth of these simple lessons ..after having done it all wrong First!!!!!
Now. older, wiser, Healthier & Happier …these are my standards for Ageing Intelligently & creating the best Chapter in my Life & my Calling ..as an Educator, with a passion for Wellness; starting at grass roots level & modelling it myself to show Mssion Impossible can become Mission I’m Possible . Change must start with ME 💙