Me-time or ‘meh’ time?
One thing we know (and research backs it up) is that in so-called caring professions like education, people find it even more difficult to create ‘me-time’ or the kind of self-care that rejuvenates flagging spirits and revives tired bodies. We often find it hard to follow the oxygen mask advice you hear on every plane flight: take care of yourself first, so you can more effectively take care of others.
In fact, sometimes our personal stress levels are so high that advice to get more me-time – from well-meaning colleagues, friends or family – just feels like another unwelcome job.
So if me-time is making you feel ‘meh’, it’s ok.
You’ll have time another day for more in-depth self-care, like a walk on the beach, a massage, or a pilates class. Today we’ve created a list of micro me-time moments.
Micro me-time moments
1. The Mindful Raisin.
Time required: 1-3 minutes.
In this classic mindfulness exercise you apply all your senses to a single bite of food. Begin by looking at a raisin (or apple slice, or cashew, or pretzel – you get the idea) as if you’ve never seen one before. You then move through your senses paying careful attention to your observations. Experience its texture, symmetry, colour, scent – even hold it to your ear, if practical, and see if there’s any sound as you move it. When you place it in your mouth, imagine it’s the very first time you’ve ever tasted this food. Try to think of nothing else as you slooowly consume this morsel mindfully.
2. Stretch out your morning brew
Time required: 30 seconds – or as long as your brew takes.
Whether it’s green tea, English Breakfast, instant coffee or a warm water with lemon, most of us make time for a daily hot drink ritual. This micro me-time tip is to use the 30 seconds or so while your tea bag steeps, coffee granules dissolve, or lemon becomes fragrant and S-T-R-E-T-C-H! Even a very short stretch will improve blood flow, ease tension, and release good body chemicals. This guide on stretches may help you choose one or two stretches for your next cuppa.
3. A random act of compliment
Time required: 10 seconds
This me-time moment is about expressing your admiration for someone else, even for a minor act. We may thank people who help or serve us, but to give them a compliment means we have really seen them. It’s not possible to do that unless you are ‘in the moment’ or, in other words, being mindful. The holiday season creates many opportunities to elevate a simple thank you into a brief but meaningful compliment. Pay attention in your interactions with retail and hospitality staff, ticket sellers, security officers, airport attendants… When you see someone taking care, or going out of their way to be helpful, show you noticed by turning it into a compliment and see how good it makes you feel too. Get the lowdown on giving great compliments.
4. The joy of listening
Time required: short bursts, throughout the day.
They say the opposite of talking isn’t listening, it’s just waiting for your turn to talk. We are all guilty of this at times! This micro me-time tip is about active listening, which is another form of mindful behaviour. Actively listening to someone else means your own busy thoughts get a break. Instead of your brain flying about to craft an instant response, you are focused on absorbing new information from the other person’s words, tone, and body language. How is this me-time? Try it out, mindfully, and notice how your breathing slows, your shoulders relax, and your spirit engages with another human’s thoughts.
5. Slow breaths
Time required: 30-60 seconds
Quite possibly the most magical, micro, me-time action you can gift yourself is to take a slow breath in, and a slow breath out, and do it again. Consciously slowing your breathing not only calms your thoughts, it physically affects many other symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as a tight jaw, hunched shoulders, stiff neck, and rapid heart rate.
There are many approaches to slow breathing, usually involving silent counting of the inhale and exhale. Follow these links for methods from Anxiety Australia, Victoria’s Better Health, Healthy WA, and a whole collection from NSW. Or take the advice of this educator, who shared her tip with us on Facebook.
My friend taught me this deep breathing technique: breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale for six seconds (and make sure your belly pops out when you inhale!)
Educator wellbeing is an increasingly serious topic. Many educators feel pressured on multiple fronts including salaries, breadth of role, access to professional development, staff shortages, and the daily responsibility of education and care for Australia’s youngest citizens.
In May 2019, CELA’s Broadside carried an analysis of the strain this puts on the early childhood education sector with around 80% of the workforce turning over every 6 years. While wages and career development are major factors in turnover, many educators also cite wellbeing as one of the reasons they’d consider leaving the sector.
CELA has a history of supporting educator wellbeing – both for individuals in programs like the Leadership Retreat, and collectively with support and advocacy on issues like adequate funding, workforce planning, and professional development.
Some other links you might find helpful:
- Leonie Percy’s Mindful Minutes in Amplify
- The power of asking for help – a member story in Amplify
- ECA on educator wellbeing
CELA Training & Events you might find helpful:
Educator Wellbeing: Filling an Empty Bucket – NESA Registered PD
This session will explore where you find your ‘flow’ and what depletes your energy. It is important for educators to identify what fills their bucket and enable them to be present when working with children and their team mates. FIND OUT MORE