2020 has been a massive year for all, especially school leaders. The end of term break can’t arrive quickly enough. Hang in there! It is vital that school leaders take the opportunity to take a break, disconnect and do whatever they need to do to recharge their batteries.
Whilst school leaders have worked tirelessly to support their staff, students and school communities with the massive impact that COVID-19 has had, now is the time that they take action for themselves.
Here are 10 things school leaders should do to improve their own well-being during the coming break.
Take responsibility for your own personal well-being
Many school leaders put themselves last! They work long hours and tirelessly try to be all things, to all people. Looking after your own well-being needs to be a priority. People rely on us. You can’t help others and be there for them if you are burnt out and exhausted.
Undertake a thorough health appraisal every year
Early detection is often better than pursuing a cure. It is important that leaders commit to a full health appraisal on an annual basis. Don’t wait for the alarm bells to ring. Take a proactive approach and undertake a full health appraisal including a blood screening during the break.
Replace the term work-life balance with work-life satisfaction
‘Balance’ can be very difficult to achieve. Our work in schools takes up a significant amount of our awake hours. It is important that we get satisfaction from our work as well as the other aspects of our lives. Instead of aspiring for work-life balance, aim to get satisfaction from your work as well as the other roles that make up your life.
Set boundaries on your work hours
There is always more that can be done. Our IN tray is never empty, our IN box refills with emails, there are reports that need to be written and research that should be read. No matter how many hours you work, there is always more that could be done. It is vital to set boundaries to stop work overtaking and having an impact on the other aspects of your life. Which day of the week could you leave school at 3.30 pm and do something for you?
Quarantine Work Time During the Break
If you HAVE to do some work over the break, decide when you are going to do the work, book it into your diary, get it done and then switch off. By quarantining the time you can ensure that you don’t pollute your whole break with work or feeling guilty about doing (or not doing) the work. It is vital that you give yourself permission to switch off for a block of time.
Monitor your self-talk
It is vital that we monitor that little voice inside our heads and ensure that our expectations of ourselves are fair and realistic. At times educators can be our own harshest critic. At the end of each day we should reflect on what we have achieved and not be too harsh on ourselves if there are tasks that are still left to do on our TO DO list. We don’t get to sit, uninterrupted in an office, working our way through a TO DO list. Our days in school are unpredictable. Unexpected events happen often, requiring us to adjust our priorities.
Seek expert help if feeling over-whelmed
Our work in schools is challenging and demanding. We deal with all sorts of people, confront many stressful situations that occur within our society and are relied upon by so many. If you are feeling over-whelmed, seek professional support. It is not a sign of weakness but a recognition of the real complexity of the role we play.
Book a holiday, every break
The anticipation of the holiday can be almost as good as the holiday itself. Where would you like to go next break? Where would you like to go when restrictions are relaxed?
Book a holiday for the end of the year now and gain the benefits throughout the term.
Establish and commit to an exercise routine
We know the benefits of exercise on both our physical and mental health. Establishing an exercise routine is one of the most powerful actions you can take. Choose an exercise that works for you – walking the dog, gym, playing sport, cycling, yoga, swimming etc. Often when we get busy and stressed, the first thing many school leaders stop doing is exercising. Yet exercising is the best thing they could do for their well-being. Don’t make that mistake.
Establish regular exercise as part of your routine. When can you schedule it in? Make it a priority and you’ll find the time! Commit to the program for three weeks and it starts to become a habit.
Recharge Your Batteries
What do you need to do to recharge your batteries? Bush walks, beach walks, afternoon naps, movies, binge watch TV, camping, meditation, cook, read…whatever works best for you, NOW is the time!
If you get energy from mixing with people, then catch up with family and friends. If you need quiet time away from people to re-energise, then find a quiet space (NOT at school!).