Friday, 15 March 2013

Work Life Balance - How Do You Stay Healthy?

Dear Journal,
I need a place to vent and I know this is a safe place to do so. I often think this career has made me a better teacher, but not a better person. I am really saddened by this statement because I do enjoy my job and find it so rewarding and valuable. But the time it takes to do well is seriously ridiculous. Recently, I have noticed the toll that is taking on my body, mind and spirit. This brings me to the question I have been pondering: Is there such thing as work life balance for a teacher? After 5 years of teaching I would like to think that I have more balance in my life, but I don't. In an ideal world my physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health would all be equally cared for. But, the sad reality is that I feel it is all hanging by a thread.

Physically I am often tired and feeling like I am on the verge of a cold. I have managed to get to the gym more often than I did in my first year of teaching, but it's not the consistency I would like or need. My eating habits are also variable and often meals are eaten on the run. Actually sleeping isn't a problem since I am always so exhausted at night that I fall a sleep before my head hits the pillow. The problem is getting to bed on time. I get to the point where I have to say, "Okay, enough is enough, I could work on this lesson all night or mark these papers or return these e-mails.... or I could sleep." I usually choose sleep. My skin is starting to also show the signs of stress and lack of vitamin D. Oh, how I miss the sun.

You could argue that my mental health is being fed, depending on how you look at it. As a teacher I am constantly processing, planning, problem-solving, critical thinking, reflecting and trying to remember all the daily tasks. This causes my brain to be active all the time. But, I haven't read a good book in a while, tried a new recipe or taken a course in a different discipline for a few years. I have thought about it, and even looked into it, but don't make the time.

Emotionally, I am all over the map. Part of this is because I am a female and the other reason is that  I am under a lot of stress. I have a wonderful supportive administrative team and group of colleagues that makes my life so much better. My husband too, being a teacher, has been supportive and very understanding. But, the truth is I don't have time or make enough time to spend with friends or family. I feel as though I cannot afford the time away from school planning and prepping to go out for coffee or cook a meal for a friend. I do see others, but it is usually only on Friday or Saturday night. Even then, I often choose one of those nights to just veg out a home. Taking time to regroup and be on my own is healthy, but I feel as though I am lacking in my relationships with others. It is truly sad when facebook becomes my main form of social interaction...

Spiritually I often feel distant from God. I work at a Christian school and have the privilege of being able to read the Bible and pray in my classroom. I love that. But, I lack the time I can spend one-on-one. I miss it. I often get so carried away with my daily tasks that I forget. I pray on the run, sing in the car, or just catch bits and pieces of encouraging words from here and there. What I want is to have time to just be still.

Well, journal. You've heard some of my deepest thoughts regarding a teachers work-life-balance. I don't believe the job allows it. At least not if you strive to meet the expectations of the your district, admin, parents or students. I mentioned often that I don't make time for things as a possed to having time. I really believe that I choose school over life. Its hard to say that but I feel pressured to for many reasons. All of which I'll save for another e-mail.

I can't leave this post in a negative tone. I want to be healthy and know that it's better for me and everyone around if I am. So, here are some of the healthy goals that I am striving to do. My hope is that making the time for these will outweigh the time taken away from school. I know it will.

Healthy Goals
- going to be before 10
- packing veggies in my lunch every day
- visiting my naturopath monthly for acupuncture
- taking my vitamines
- going to the gym at least twice a week and doing yoga at home twice a week
- breathing

- reading part of my book once a week
- cooking or baking something different a few times a month
- breathing

- having someone over for supper once a month
- making time for my husband once a day
- breathing

- breakfast and Bible
- journalling
- breathing

I am hoping that these small steps, when done consistently, will bring some relieve and stability to my life.

I'd love to know what others do to stay healthy during the school year. Feel free to comment and leave your ideas. I really feel that it can't be done on your own. Its a community effort. 

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