Winter break is nearly here! Hazzah! And even though you know it will speed by, right now it looks like a gloriously long stretch of days with no lesson planning, no struggles to learn new technologies, and no constant pressure to do so much with so few resources.
You might be looking forward to hours of binging all those shows your non-teacher friends have been talking about punctuated by a brief recognition that Christmas exists.
Or you might be on the other end of the HAS (Holiday Activities Spectrum), anticipating a break filled with all that the holiday has to offer, from creating elaborate and Facebook-worthy Elf on a Shelf scenes for your kids, to organizing no less than three Zoom gift exchanges (family, book group, friend group from college).
Or maybe you are somewhere in between. Whatever your holiday plans, here are some self-care suggestions to help you return to school in the new year feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to conquer the rest of the school year, rather than exhausted, resentful, and five pounds heavier.
DO Leave Things in Order Before You Check Out
You are exhausted and you just want to go home (or turn off the computer), but do your Future-Self a giant favor and make sure she won’t come back to a mess in January.
If you have it in you, plan the first few days back (and no worries if you don’t, that is, quite honestly, wishful thinking). Leave yourself a solid to-do list, notes, and whatever else would be helpful. The time you spend now will save you more time and stress later.
DON’T Think About School
Right now, decide when you need to start lesson planning for January. Mark it on the calendar. That is the day you go back to work and not a minute sooner. Until then there is no work. None, zero, zilch. This is your time for rest and rejuvenation.
Do whatever you need to do to keep work at bay. Set up an email autoresponder for eager parents and over-reaching admins telling them that you will respond on your back-to-work date. Close your office door and turn off the light. Put stacks of school-related papers in a cabinet where you won’t see them. Hide your teacher bag. Trade education-related books for magazines and novels. Take an honest break. It will do you good.
DON’T Compare this Year to Past Years
Reminiscing on past holidays is all well and good. Go ahead and make a slide show of past holiday photos for your screensavers. Hang up the Santa photos. Tell that story about the time when Grandma and Grandpa sang White Christmas and everyone cried. As long as bringing up old memories is a source of joy, go for it.
But if you can’t help dwelling on the fact that this year is different and that there are so many beloved traditions that just aren’t going to happen, then you should skip that walk down memory lane and focus on the present. Consider all the things you still can do and do your best to make the most of them.
DON’T Do Too Much
On the one hand, you want to make this Christmas special for you and your family, but on the other, one of the silver linings of the Pandemic is things are simpler this year. Less on the calendar. No guests to clean up for (or after), no expectations that this be the “Best Christmas Ever!”
Why not lean into the spirit of living through a pandemic and make peace with doing less? Rather than trying to fill the time with yet another Zoom event, how about just enjoy the extra free time you now have? Seriously, stop planning stuff!
But also, DON’T Do Too Little
The problem with spending your vacation on the couch is that you will end up feeling like a slug. A slothful, solitary slug. Binging Netflix or having your own Hallmark Christmas Movie Marathon is fine, but be sure to plan other things too. Walks with friends, cooking a special meal, reading, crafting…other things you enjoy.
DO Reach out to Friends
Being a teacher makes connecting with your non-teaching friends challenging in a normal year. The Pandemic adds another level of difficulty. But for most of us, those friendships are a significant part of our emotional well-being.
Send that email to your old high school friend, call the friend who moved to another state, write a thank you note to someone you appreciate. A rekindled friendship can be a wonderful gift to give to yourself.
DO Be Like Santa and Make a List
Not of who’s been naughty and nice, but rather of things you’d like to do during the break.
Make a list of Christmas movies and shows you want to watch so that you don’t end up spending half your evening doing the Endless Netflix Scroll.
Make a list of foods you want to eat (whether you cook them yourself or get takeout) so that you don’t waste time deciding what to have for dinner every night (or worse yet, having to grab your mask and run to the store for that one ingredient you don’t have at home).
Make a list of things you enjoy doing so that when you find yourself with some unexpected free time, you don’t spend it scrolling Facebook.
Make lists of special things you want to do with your family so that you don’t come to the end of break only to realize you didn’t do any of them.
Not only are lists a super-handy tool, they also give your brain a rest. Once you have written something down, your brain knows it doesn’t have to keep remembering it and reminding you to do it, which makes you less anxious.
DO Go Somewhere
Stay safe, of course, and don’t break any of your county’s COVID restrictions, but getting out of your house will be a refreshing change. Even if it is just for a drive to look at the pretty lights or going for a walk in a new area. If you can manage a few days away at a local Airbnb, all the better.
DO Reset Your Bedtime Before School Starts
If you have been enjoying late nights and sleeping in, be sure to get back to your normal sleep schedule a few days before you go back to school. Not doing so will likely result in lost sleep, unpleasant mornings and a not-so-cheerful teacher. The same goes for holiday indulgences. If you have been overdoing the sugar, getting back to a more reasonable diet will also help to keep you on a more even keel.
Whatever you do with this holiday break, I hope you will take good care of yourself so you willfeel rested, revitalized, and ready to take on the new year when you return to school.
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