My friend and yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley (she of Curvy Yoga fame) did some work in early 2016 around writing self-care instructions (she had an email newsletter issue on the topic, then she did a couple of podcast episodes around it, especially this one [starting around 3:30]).
Only about 2.5 years later, I finally heeded the nudge and wrote out my own. They are below.
What are yours? What do you need to remind yourself of? What are the ‘seasons’ of your life?
Self-Care Instructions for Liz
You are infinitely #blessed to have this life. Don’t take it for granted.
Prioritize what’s best for the students, no matter what.
You teach others to treat you by showing them how you treat yourself. Self-care is not indulgent; it’s instructive. It says, “I will not be taken advantage of… by anyone.”
You love Doug more than you realize. Make sure he knows that.
Few (no?) things in life are made worse by petting your dog.
Time in the pool always improves your mood.
Back-to-school time (August)
This is a time of tremendous energy and enthusiasm for the road ahead … so full of possibilities, and ALL of the school supplies available for purchase on the cheap! You will feel tugged to say “YES!” to all of the things, because you’re ready to be back on campus and engaged with people. You must remember is that your energy is finite … and will be even more so come October. Remember to take a pause before saying yes; turn to your three-point test, and maybe even sleep on something before committing.
Doug will also be busy, but don’t let that become an excuse to disengage. Remember to make eye contact, to smile, to tell him that he’s a net positive in your life (‘cause he IS!), and to make time for genuine conversation. This is good for both of you.
Make going to Monday night yin yoga with Sara a serious priority; if you establish that habit early in the semester, it will stay with you.
Mid-semester grind (October)
If you were able to stop and look around (and, let’s be honest, you probably won’t feel like you can), you’d notice a few things, all culminating in this: You’re probably mildly annoyed constantly. This is NORMAL. To take care of yourself, first just acknowledge that this is the mid-semester grind at its peak. It will get better.
Now, do these things: RECOMMIT to Monday night yin yoga (because you’ve probably stopped going, eh?); carve out 30 minutes of reading time before you go to bed; don’t let yourself get distracted once you start grading; pause to take several deep breaths on the regular; spend some quality time with Doug; start planning a trip; prioritize sleep.
December (Christmas vacation!)
Once your grades are submitted, you’re not going to have a clue what to do with yourself. That’s OK! Start with sleeping in and watching a Hallmark Christmas movie or two. Try not to let your whole days get sucked in by re-opening Facebook every 10 minutes because you’re bored. Use this month off to read lots of books for fun – and make them genuinely fun, not a whole bunch of depressing war memoirs to ‘be a better teacher.’ Your brain has earned some flights of fancy.
Travel the heck out of this month, remembering that Doug doesn’t like being away from home and would appreciate some increased affection, smiling, and verbal affirmations. Pace yourself on the Whirlwind Tour of Families; advocate for yourself and your needs, and don’t be afraid that hanging back now and again will make everyone think you hate them. You just need quiet time, alone, and it’s OK to take that.
January (Back to school, mini edition!)
You’re going to be glad to get back into a routine, but once again: DO NOT revert to knee-jerk “YES!” disease. It’s OK to continue pausing, consulting your three-point test, and sleeping on it before committing to anything big. The spring semester is your busiest, and you should prepare for that by trimming back on your commitments NOW, wherever you possibly can. Don’t worry if you start to feel twitchy from not having totally full days. They WILL fill up, soon. Meanwhile, try to keep your reading-for-pleasure habit, and prepare to tackle your new classes with your usual gusto!
Mid-spring-semester grind (March)
After spring break, things move QUICKLY, and you’re not going to have enough class time to do the things you want. Breathe. Pace yourself. Remember that having students who understand fewer things well is better than having students who haven’t understood anything at all (because you went too quickly). Now’s when you need to protect your free time, especially through early May, as fiercely as you can. Endear yourself to whoever’s in charge of commencement so you get your preferred commencement job.
Travel lots in May; you love that, and it feels like a decadent reward for an academic year filled with lots of hard work. Let yourself sleep in every single day, if you can. Go to Murfreesboro or Chattanooga 1-2 days a week and hang out with your favorite people; go to lunch, see movies, and clean out your campus office.
Keep working at MSSA, because it gives your week moments of accomplishment that are hard to come by the rest of the year. Plus, the people are awesome. Just don’t sweat the details, and make sure you keep tabs on things that you’re likely to forget (namely, make lists. ALL of the lists.).
Let yourself stay cool. Eat lots of watermelon and cantaloupe. Don’t get over-aggressive on teaching yoga. Read lots of books. Go easy on yourself with the expectations on how many you’ll read. They don’t all have to be war memoirs or great fiction, either. Travel when you can, especially for CYTT reunion weekend! SLEEP MORE.
Oh, and buy lots of cherries. Then eat them.