With Thanksgiving behind us, and the new year looming ahead, we are clearly in the midst of the holiday season.
It is easy to focus on our students and their behavior this time of year, as I did with a previous article Preparing Your Students for the Holidays. However, this year I would like to turn the focus back on us: the educators, caregivers and administrators.
Though it is likely for different reasons than our students, many of us find the holidays to be a rather stressful time. You may be hosting, cooking, traveling, shopping, wrapping, financially strained, time-poor, and more, all while driving both to and from work in the dark and cold. This can clearly be a stressful time of year.
While we as educators and administrators largely expect and accept this stress, it is important that we are mindful of how our stress levels can impact our students. In our brains we have these amazing things called mirror neurons. These neurons react the same way when we see something occurring as they would if we were actually doing that thing ourselves. This is why you yawn when you see others yawning. So, in reverse, because of mirror neurons our students are likely to match our levels of calm or stress, regardless of how stressed they actually are.
With that in mind, I would encourage you to find ways to take care of yourself during this holiday season. The truth is, it’s important all year long, but if you have not begun a plan yet, now is a great time to start. Self-care looks very different for everyone. Here are three favorites that I have heard from teachers that I have worked with:
Take care of your basic needs.
Don’t neglect food, water, and bathroom breaks. In fact, make yourself special lunches that give you something delicious to look forward to in the middle of the day.
Strongly separate work and home.
This can be hard to enforce and takes a lot of intentionality, but if you can create that separation, you will keep your stress in manageable chunks.
Give yourself brain breaks.
Set your timer for multiple times a day that you stop and do a breathing or mindfulness exercise. You can do this on your own or with a class filled with students.
Josh MacNeill, Director of NeuroLogic Initiative