Self-Care: As Educators We Talk About It, But Are We Practicing It?

Around this time last year, I was lacking motivation and inspiration. The school year had just ended, and while I had signed up to teach summer school, I was overwhelmed with desire for more out of my life than my usual routine. Even though I like to consider myself self aware, I now realized I had fallen into the trap of simply dismissing my anxiety as “stress” and my lack of interest with a “it’ll just pass.”

Now that I feel much more grounded and motivated with my work, my passion and my overall outlook on life, I can recognize that the rough patch I was going through was necessary for my self-development. It was between reading tons of books and doing lots of research on self-care that I came across Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love. In it, she referenced an old Italian joke about a poor man who went to church every day and prayed before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint-please, please, please, give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament went on for months until finally the annoyed statue came to life, and looked down at the begging man and said in disgust, “My son-please, please, please…buy a ticket.” Call it irony or whatever it may be, but I found myself laughing at the fact that for years I too was wishing to experience something life-changing, yet I was stagnant. I was so focused on staying on course and fulfilling my “to do list,” I let my own personal well-being come second to my career.

Rather than move jobs as I often did when I needed a new source of inspiration or was feeling uneasy, I decided to focus my energy on just three areas and instead allowed myself to immerse into those. Without hesitation my three priorities became Family, Work, and Travel. Of the three, the last one was the one that had been postponed for years as I was too focused on work. Since research showed that people often come back more motivated to work after a simple two-three day getaway, I created a calendar for myself and booked at least one short trip per month for an entire year. Logistically, this took planning and financially, I wasn’t the most responsible and used up most of my savings. Still, considering it was all going towards the greater effort of reinvigorating myself, it feels like a small price to pay.

It has officially been one year this month that I kicked off this feat. To be honest, the first few months were difficult. I was so used to doing work on weekends that I had to learn to reclaim my time and set value on spending time on my own as a means of self-preservation. This was the biggest challenge in itself — teaching myself that work would still be there when I got back and that missing out on new memories and family/friend time was worth more to my soul than checking off all the tasks on my work list. I try to explain this concept of putting oneself first to friends who are often stressed and feeling overwhelmed as I know all too well those feelings of working arduously and still feeling like it’s never enough. The only way to feel like we are enough is to give ourselves that same care and time we so freely give to everything else we care about. Our well-being is critical to our success and the impact we can have on others.

I share all this because more than ever, it feels necessary for us, as adults to make our mental health and our sanity a priority. I know that perhaps a monthly escape is not feasible for everyone, but it does not mean that prioritizing simple activities to unwind and allow yourself to recharge have to be pushed aside. Every day is a new opportunity to be a better version of ourselves; think about all that you can achieve if you allow yourself the time to be inspired and to believe in your dreams again. It is never too late to make your wellbeing a priority.

 

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Alma Renteria

Alma Renteria

Alma-Delia Renteria is a proud product of Lynwood schools. After graduating UC Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year earlier than anticipated, she decided to commit her “gap year” to City Year. After City Year Los Angeles, Alma went on to purse a teaching career with Teach For America Los Angeles. Upon joining TFA, Alma began her education career as a middle school teacher. It was while teaching that she realized the need to do her part to help serve the community she grew up in and decided to run for office, getting elected to the Lynwood School Board at only 23 years old. Alma completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University and is currently pursuing a 2nd Masters in Education Leadership and her Admin Credential. She was recently appointed by the Speaker to the Instructional Quality Commission and also serves as a Digital Learning Instructional Coach at a dual immersion school in Pico Rivera.

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