Accountability in April

It’s April! And that means another CURIOSITY challenge for me this month. As some of you may know, my word of the year is curiosity and I am using it as a tool each month to challenge my thoughts and explore my feelings and actions.

This month, I will be exploring accountability! If there is a goal or something you’re working on, or even just something that feels overwhelming to you right now and you want to start breaking it down and taking action then join my Living a Play-Life Balance Facebook group to find yourself an accountability buddy.

Post in the comments of the dedicated post on Monday 5th April what you want to work on and then reply to someone else’s comment if you want to help them be accountable for something in the month of April. You can be as active or as inactive as you like! You control how much effort to put in and what results you get. My only ask is that if you sign up to be someone’s buddy that you decide between yourselves what your accountability will look like i.e. how many messages will you send, will you do video calls, will you check-in if you don’t hear from your partner after X amount of time etc.

Accountability is something I offer in my 1:1 coaching, and the reason I do it is because it works!!! If you are up for it, join our little community and I will also be everybody’s accountability buddy!

We start on MONDAY! I can’t wait to see you there!

Taking Responsibility for Your Thoughts & Feelings

I talk a lot about thoughts, feelings and actions in my work with early childhood educators, the connection between what we think and how this eventually leads to the results we have. When we are taking full responsibility for the thoughts, feelings and actions we take then we empower ourselves to create the results we want in our lives. So, how can we do this and care for our community if our results are created by our own thoughts? If our own thoughts create our feelings, how do other people affect us on our journey to loving ourselves and creating a self-care practice that enhances our wellbeing? Do we have to care for our community and ourselves separately?

The concept of our thoughts creating our feelings is sometimes lost on people and they don’t even realise just what they have in their control. They think that what their husband or mother just said to them is the cause of their own suffering. Or if they’re in the classroom and a child knocks down another child’s tower, the first child is now upset and it must be the other child’s fault. We inadvertently teach children to take responsibility for other’s feelings by saying things like, “You made him cry. Say sorry.” or “Look what you did! She is really upset because of what you did.” We might not realise that by saying phrases like this, we are teaching children (and reinforcing it in ourselves) that they have the power to control how another person thinks, feels and acts. Is that what we really believe? That we can control others? Do you think you can therefore be controlled by others? Is that an empowering thought you want to keep?

Have you ever felt mad even when someone has said they are sorry? That’s because their actions don’t cause your feelings; your thoughts do. Their actions are just circumstances in the world that exist until you have a thought about them. When someone brings you flowers and apologises for some actions they took that you felt upset about, you might have a new thought pop up like “They are trying to make me feel better” or “They are expressing their disappointment in their actions and want to change.” These are the thoughts that then might change how you feel about someone. But the action of buying you flowers and apologising doesn’t really change anything – that’s just something that has happened, an action that someone has taken based on their own thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t create a feeling in you until you have a thought about it.

Have you ever worked somewhere and felt like nobody liked you? Like you weren’t respected or cared about? That’s probably because other people were taking actions that you had negative thoughts about. If you have a co-teacher or a boss who is taking actions that go against your values, you are more likely to think negative thoughts about them and potentially about yourself if they are sharing their negative thoughts with you. You might not have anyone else to offer you any new thoughts, so you start to believe the negative words they say about you. You start to believe that maybe you are not doing your job ‘right’ or ‘well enough’. You might start to question your own actions and second guess yourself – even if you have some evidence that you are doing great work and your colleagues think you’re awesome! Those sneaky negative self-talk patterns are so powerful when we are in an environment that doesn’t create a sense of security, mutual respect and trust. It’s really comes down to simple maths – when X amount of people take X amount of positive actions, you are more likely to feel more positive feelings because you have a greater chance of creating more positive thoughts that drive those feelings.  

If these environments cannot be changed (for whatever reasons e.g. socioeconomic status. systems of white supremacy or the patriarchy, inadequate access to healthcare etc), it can be hard to find a way out. It is hard to find the thought that will drive the action of you leaving an abusive partner or toxic workplace and looking after yourself if you have to jump through extra hoops of systemic oppression. There is always a danger that victim blaming can occur and we need to make sure that when we are taking responsibility for our thoughts and feelings that we are recognising that systems or abusers are responsible for creating environments that make it difficult for us to be in. The interesting thing is that some studies have shown that some people can experience post-traumatic growth – using experiences from the past to create positive meaning and new understandings about their world. I have worked in settings where I had a lot of negative thoughts – about my colleagues, about management and about myself and my own competency. I know what it’s like to work in a building where your head is full of negativity. I know what it’s like to work in a building where your values are challenged daily. I am also aware of my privelege as a middle-class white woman who was able to quit her job and have financial and mental health support already in place. Not everyone has this – especially not people who work in the early childhood field. But all is not lost because you can learn the strategies and tools you need to help manage your mind, no matter your circumstances. And sometimes that includes asking for help and having another person’s brain with you to help think things through.

Sometimes our wellbeing and mental health has suffered so much from the persistent negative self-talk soundtrack playing in our minds that a change of scenery, like leaving a job, can give some immediate relief. Making the decision to leave a job, or getting help from a friend to move out of an abusive relationship, or hiring a therapist to work through some issues requires a great amount of self-love and strength. Believing that you are more important and worthy of care than anyone else can feel very selfish. However, as I have said before, your brain always go with you no matter what. You may still have negative thoughts and feelings about people and events even though you are not in the thick of it anymore. This is why self-care is called self-care – because at the end of the day YOU are the only one who can look after yourself. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plug into our community when we can – family members, friends, relationships, work colleagues, admin, therapists, coaches and medical care providers can all offer us help. They offer us new thoughts to think that create different feelings in our bodies. Those feelings drive new actions which cause us to take better care of ourselves. That’s why self-care is not selfish – it’s vitally important so we can thrive, not just survive. And if you are feeling better about yourself, you are more likely to be able to be that community support for someone else. Helping yourself is ENOUGH of a reason to practice self-care. You don’t have to sprinkle it with a whole host of reasons that end up benefiting other people. Empowering yourself by looking at your own thoughts can help you create new ones, no matter what you might be experiencing.

The biggest lesson here is that community care – looking out for one another, taking care of one another, considering other people’s thoughts and feelings – IS actually really important. What if self-care meant we were building up strength in ourselves in order to let others into our lives? What if self-care meant we were contributing to ourselves in such a powerful way that we could then share with the world the things we learned? What could you do to increase your own self-care that would teach you something? What could you learn about yourself that you can share with others to help them learn about themselves – their needs, their desires, their fears? I know for me personally, when I take better care of myself I have more bandwidth to share myself with others in a way that respects myself and the things I hold dear to my heart.

The old story is that we put ourselves last because we spend all day caring for children, then we go home and care for our family and then at the weekend we care for our friends and other relationships. The new story I want to help you write is that you care for yourself FIRST, so you can not only practice self-love but be a model to others as to how we manage our own minds so we show up in the world in alignment with our values and beliefs. When you practice taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings, you can choose new ones in an active way that create new results in your life. You can also reduce your own suffering by allowing people to take responsibility for theirs too. If you want a world where you have autonomy, then you have to learn to accept that other people have it too.

Want to explore what’s going on in your head when it comes to self-care? Want to have someone help you create a self-care wellbeing plan? Want to use the model I use to help work through your thoughts, feelings and actions? Work with me 1:1 with my Curiosity Coaching package. Want to share this concept of exploring your own thoughts with your teaching team so they can create better relationships with each other? Hire me for well-being and self-care trainings or 1:1 staff coaching here.

p.s. in April I am hosting a FREE accountability program in my Facebook group. If you have something you are working on and would like an accountability buddy, hop on over to the group and we will help you reach your goals for April!

Questions or comments? Get in touch today:

Interested in 1:1 coaching?

Stressed Out Educator? Here’s Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Today I want to talk about something I keep seeing crop up in my early childhood educator circles. I often see posts online from teachers who are clashing with their colleagues due to them having different opinions on how things should be in their classrooms. They ask for advice on how to help the children when the other adult does x, y or z, that they don’t agree with. They ask for advice on how to talk to the other person about what they believe in, without upsetting them or causing more disruptions. They talk about how stressed out this other person is making them and how they can’t take it much longer. Anybody notice a pattern here? This educator is asking for help outside of themselves. They often want solutions to the problems without considering what THEY can do for themselves – which ironically is the thing that does end up having an impact on everything else. This can be a hard lesson to look at – I know this, because I teach myself it every day in my self-coaching! But no fear, no shame, no judgement here – I’m here to hold your hand and gently guide you through this process. Still with me? Great! Let’s go!

You can improve your experience at work in the classroom (and at home when you spend hours and hours considering all the different things you can do tomorrow to improve the temperature in your classroom – I see you! Been there, done that, got the whole wardrobe!!!) when you engage in self-awareness as a way of managing stress. The stress you experience in the classroom is enhanced when you believe things are not in your control. There are circumstances that exist in classrooms all around the world that are out of our control – for example; class sizes, who works with you, your work hours, which children you have with you, what curriculum you follow. When you believe that these circumstances are out of your control and there’s nothing you can do about them and they are the reason why everything is terrible…how will things ever change? How will you ever feel even slightly better? Can you see how stuck you can feel if you think this is all true and there is no room for change?

The key to unlocking this is understanding that YOU always have the control within yourself as to how you show up each day. You can change what you think about things that are out of your control and ease your stress and overwhelm with each thought – without ever changing the problem! You can always choose new thoughts and when you realise this, it can empower you to make new choices about how you interact with the people that you work with as well as what you choose to think about yourself. You can take ownership of the things you do, knowing that they align with your values and you can be proud of yourself for choosing how to show up.

When you think something is unfair, does that help you change the situation? When you believe something is happening to you, does that empower you to create new actions? How does any of this serve you in who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world? When we believe that external factors are more important than our efforts, we are more likely to believe that we have less chance to succeed. This is the trap we fall into in the classroom. We get stuck and wrapped up in what others are doing (or not doing!), then we forget how much power and control we have over our own decisions and feelings. We get sucked into our mental chatter and start believing our own thoughts that we cannot do anything and nothing will ever get better.

It’s exhausting and these thoughts can end up having physical effects on our bodies – we get fatigued, we have breakouts, we don’t eat in a way that nourishes our bodies and we act out in ways that don’t align with our true higher selves. That’s when I see educators become stressed, overwhelmed and burned out. They are turning up each day fighting against what they believe in, and when you do that you will lose every time. Nobody is expecting you to be super chill all the time (sorry Leslie Knope!), but everyone should expect EVERYONE to not be super stressed all the time. That is not okay.

Self-awareness is crucial in being able to see yourself clearly – what you think, what you feel and how you act. It requires you to see yourself objectively, through reflection and investigation. It can sometimes be painful to do, but ultimately if you work your way through the uncomfortable feelings you can get to the other side in one piece. Self-awareness is not a black and white issue, it is more of a spectrum (dare I say, a rainbow?! Ha!). Sometimes we are super self-aware and other times we are not. Some people are more self-aware than others. Some days we walk around thinking thoughts, feeling feelings and taking action without being aware of why we are doing anything. Other days we are extremely aware of all of these things and sometimes that causes us to change course, sometimes we continue on the same path. My point is, don’t label yourself as someone who is self-aware or not – and especially don’t label others as being self-aware or not, that doesn’t help anyone. Being self-aware about what you believe should be happening in your classroom and what the actual reality is are two interconnected things. When you break down what is happening and what you want to happen, you can start to see where your thoughts can change and how that impacts your feelings – this is what drives you to take action and create actual change (for yourself, for your co-workers and for the children in your classroom).

In this blog post I shared just two ways to increase your self-awareness, but here are three questions you can ask yourself to help you manage your mind in the classroom:

1. What am I feeling right now? Assessing your emotions, naming and labelling them as you feel them gives you a chance to observe your body’s physical reactions to situations. You can give yourself some distance by becoming aware of what you are feeling and being an observer. You can say to yourself, “I am feeling angry” rather than “I am angry”. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s everything!

2. What am I thinking right now?
Take a second to step back and observe yourself – work out what thoughts you are having when you encounter a circumstance that feels stressful or overwhelming. The children or other adults are not the problem – something you are thinking about them (or indeed about yourself e.g. I can’t handle this) is what is causing you additional suffering. Working out this thought will help you to explore what results you are creating from it.

3. What can I think instead? This particular question is a good one to do a deep-dive on at a later time when you are not in a period of conflict, but even just being aware of the idea of what you CAN do to help can shift the balance from ‘everything that is happening is awful’ to ‘here’s one step I can take to make a difference right now’. This question is particularly useful when you are stressed in the classroom as it can instantly create a feeling of calm – but only if you believe the new thought.

Self-awareness precedes self-management. You can’t manage your emotions as well if you don’t know why they are there in the first place. I know that these three questions and the thought work and positive psychology tools I teach will help you because I have been there myself. I have worked in classrooms where I felt completely out of control, like nothing I was doing was helping and I was convinced it was all my coworker’s fault that everything was going wrong. And guess what? It didn’t help me one bit to think like that. And nothing changed until my thoughts did. Of course, the number one thing you can think when you are stressed is “I am safe”. This thought will work as a quick go-to if you don’t feel like you have enough time to dig into the three questions above. Trusting that you are safe and can make it through the current stressful situation will give your body a message to relax – and who doesn’t want more of that?

“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.”
– Lisa Olivera

If you find yourself thinking stressful thoughts or experiencing stress regularly in your classroom or place of work, there is nothing wrong with you. It is totally human and normal for you to do this. There is also nothing wrong with advocating for yourself in terms of asking for changes in the workplace – if the circumstances are able to be changed e.g. an extra pair of hands can be in the room during a particularly stressful time or perhaps a co-teacher can switch with another who has more experience dealing with challenging behaviour, then OF COURSE this will be super helpful. What I want to highlight is that even if things can’t be changed, you can always do the work to change your thoughts instead. It can be really hard work to let yourself be vulnerable and let yourself be aware of what you are really thinking – but from my experience it is the most rewarding. This is challenging work – we may never discover all the things that emotionally trigger us, we may never be able to create positive relationships with other staff or even the children. But we have the ability to consciously make decisions to work on ourselves in order to increase our own self-awareness, lower our stress levels and boost our happiness. When this happens, our job satisfaction will of course increase too! When you are willing to take risks, try new strategies and look at your past experiences with the perspective of learning something rather than being ashamed, embarrassed or a failure then educators can change the weather in their classrooms – which will positively affect everyone there!

How are you practicing self-awareness? Where do you see gaps in your life that you could use a deep-dive into? Where are you really good at using your self-awareness? How about in the classroom? Can you think of a time you noticed your own thoughts and feelings before you reacted? I wanna hear about all the things!

Want to explore what’s going on in your head when it comes to stress in the classroom? Work with me 1:1 with my Curiosity Coaching package. Want to share this with your teaching team so they can create better relationships with each other AND the children? Hire me for well-being and self-care trainings here or for 1:1 staff coaching.

Questions or comments? Get in touch today:

2 Simple Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness

Last week I talked about how the truth to taking action lies within the thoughts we think. Feelings of burnout – sadness, shame, exhaustion – don’t just magically appear. Just like feelings of happiness, joy and excitement don’t just magically appear. We can create any feeling we want by thinking a thought that produces a sensation in our bodies, which then drives us to take action (or the opposite, inaction!) Like I shared last week, there are of course circumstances that exist that may make this harder to do – systemic oppression, the environments we live and work in and our own history of mental health and physical wellbeing. But just because it might be harder, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, right? I wouldn’t be a coach if I didn’t think my influence could help other people. I cannot change people’s thoughts, but I can offer insight into their limiting beliefs, share new thoughts for them to try on and support them with that next breakthrough or aha moment. If you have nobody to support you at work or at home, it’s of course going to be more difficult.

The latest scientific research shows that human beings operate around 90% at a subconscious level. We use our conscious brain around 10% of the time. The subconscious things we do become our habits, behaviours and actions that are unintentional. At some point you may have learned a new habit, and after a certain period of time you no longer need to be an active participant in completing the actions that build the habit. Think about when you drive to work or your local supermarket. You don’t need to think about how to get there and which roads to take because it’s become a habit. When you drive somewhere new, you might look at a map, plan your route, take in all the scenery along the way and you pay more attention. This is your conscious brain at work.

The same thing happens with our thoughts. When we think something often enough, or get messages from our environment that we then internalise, our subconscious starts to take over. It’s like a filing cabinet in your mind that saves all the awful things you have ever heard or thought about yourself, just waiting ready to whip one out at any moment. It accepts these thoughts as a habit and so to conserve brain power, the subconscious takes over and does the heavy lifting. Can you imagine if we walked around being completely aware of all our thoughts 100% of the time? Of all our actions? It would be exhausting! Self-criticism and judgement does not produce positive action. They are more likely to produce inaction – actions that buffer us against exploring these thoughts and feelings. It’s like adding another layer to hide thoughts that we believe will hurt us. The truth is, none of these thoughts will hurt us. Even our feelings won’t hurt us. Our feelings are just physical sensations in our body, they will pass if we learn how to process them effectively. When we don’t learn how to do this, we end up suppressing them or buffering against them with negative experiences like over-indulging, breaking away from support systems, people-pleasing and more negative self-talk.

In an ideal world our feelings would be given space to exist and our thoughts would be shared and listened to, validated, and actions that create helpful results would occur. When we are in workplaces or family environments that do not support this vulnerability, then our feelings and thoughts are crushed and we start to believe that there is no way out. I had this exact experience working in toxic workplaces where individual voices were not recognised or respected. The problem exacerbated when I turned thoughts like, “There’s no way out, nothing will ever change…” into “I can’t help myself, I will never change, I can’t get away from this mess.” Turning the thoughts from being about the circumstances to being about a personal attribute is how people end up with depression, anxiety and even just general feelings of helplessness, sadness and upset. There is no space to breathe when your negative thoughts consume you.

“Too many people are unaware that it is not outer events or circumstances that will create happiness; rather, it is our perception of events and of ourselves that will create, or uncreate, positive emotions.” – Albert Ellis

So, how do we combat this? Here are two ways you can bring awareness to your thoughts that don’t require any other people to help you (disclaimer: it does however help to have someone ‘check your work’ and help you decipher what the thoughts and beliefs are that lie underneath the surface – this can be someone like a trusted friend, therapist, or even a coach like me!) Just remember, sometimes when you open this filing cabinet it can sometimes feel very overwhelming – remind yourself that you are actually safe here in this space and moment in time. You won’t get hurt like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty!

STRATEGY 1: Thought Download
There are a few different ways you can get the thoughts in your head out and onto paper. Different people prefer different techniques, so do what feels good for you – the most important thing is getting them out of your head so you can take a really good look at them.

* Begin by setting yourself up for success: turn any distractions off and focus on just getting the thoughts out, it can be tempting to begin analysing them by (ironically!) thinking new thoughts about the thoughts!!! Try to resist this, let them go for now and just write out the thought as it presents itself.

* You can choose how long this takes by setting a timer – some people write longform pages such as Morning Pages, others do a short 5 minutes, some even do just one thought at a time in a list format (I personally do a mixture of all three, sometimes even just writing one on a post-it note if I notice it pop-up while I’m doing something else).

* You can do your thought downloads on paper or digitally – either is totally ok! Some people prefer to handwrite their thoughts, others prefer the extra level of security they feel they get if they save them in a digital format. It’s totally up to you.

* If you don’t know what to write, write that! Writing “I don’t know” or “This is boring!” over and over will eventually get something to shift in your thought process.

Writing your thoughts allows you to get some literal perspective – when they are out of your head you get distance from them and are reminded that YOU are not your thoughts.

Often when I do my play trainings (especially my ‘Worried about Behaviours?’ training!) I like to remind people that infants and toddlers are professionals at sharing their feelings. They need help? They ask for it!!! They just tend to do it in what we grown ups deem as socially unacceptable ways. As adults, we get all up in our thoughts and complicate things by asking for the opinions of others, seeking validation and comfort – sometimes to our own detriment as we start to not trust ourselves.

Our feelings are messages in your body saying ‘pay attention to me!’. For example, when you are sad or worried about a friend, your stomach might ‘tie in knots’. When you are falling in love, you might feel a warmth in your chest or a tingle on the hairs on your arm. These physical sensations eventually get given a name – sad, happy, excited, anxious. This is the vocabulary we use to help children label their feelings, in order to express themselves clearly to others. We need to talk about what that label FEELS like on the inside – tight chest, racing heart, hot cheeks, rumbling stomach.

The best way to do this is by learning how to do a body scan and doing it regularly. I talk about this in this blog post. Feeling your feelings and processing them all the way through frees up so much space in your body and mind.

The thing I really love about these processes is you can also do them with the positive thoughts and feelings you have in your life – it doesn’t have to be only negative. When you REALLY feel those good feelings, you can begin to savour them. Savouring is an exercise that can actually prolong the positive feelings and even buffer against adversity and enable us to be more physically healthy too. When was the last time you really took delight in a feeling? In an experience? When did you give yourself permission to pause and party with your own self-generated happiness?

Want to take a deeper dive into digging through your thoughts? Work with me 1:1 with my Curiosity Coaching package. Four sessions of freeing up space in your mind to go after your hopes and dreams and get the results you want in your life! Want to share this with your teaching team? Hire me for well-being and self-care trainings here.

Questions or comments? Get in touch today:

How to Take Action to Bounce Forward: It’s All About Your Thoughts

My previous blog post about burnout focused on how we need to do work on systemic change as well as work on ourselves as individuals. I wanted to expand a little more on this concept and talk about how bouncing back isn’t enough – but it’s a good place to start. And it starts with getting vulnerable with the one thing you will always take with you: the thoughts you create in your brain,

Burnout doesn’t just come from the negative aspects of teaching, the circumstances – workload, being seen as a professional by parents and other people in the community, the tiny chairs (my chiropractor is not a fan!!). The emotional turmoil of one minute having pure joy when a child CLICKS! and makes an amazing discovery or demonstrates understanding about a skill that they didn’t before…to being completely heart broken when you hear a disclosure from a child about something horrible that has happened to them and you have to make that call to hopefully help protect them. It can definitely be a roller coaster – even without a global pandemic thrown on top!!! I salute you educators!!!

All of these things can be catergorised as our thoughts. The things we think in our mind that create feelings of burnout – “I have too much on my plate”, “Nobody respects me as an early childhood educator”, “These chairs are too damn small!” The things we think about ourselves and our environments (whether that be work or home or elsewhere) can create feelings of stress, overwhelm, anxiety and depression. All these roads can set you up for a trip to Burnout Town. When you add in more circumstances, structural oppressive systems like low wages, discrimination against marginalised groups such as BIPOC and LGBTQ+, inadequate access to health care and laws that work in favour of white supremacy and the patriarchy…you could start to think that there is no hope for change. That is when your thoughts really come into play because “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,” – Henry Ford.

Systems of oppression keep our voices small. They keep us static. They don’t allow us to be vulnerable. We put others needs above our own and we start to not look after ourselves. We become weaker when we spend all of our time giving, people-pleasing and sticking within the lines that have been drawn. But change happens when individuals are able to use their thoughts to work for them. They think things that create feelings of inspiration, power and positivity. They sometimes take actions that speak these thoughts out loud so others hear them. When others hear these words, they have similar thoughts of agreement and then maybe they take action too. When more and more people speak up, change is more likely to happen. It may take time, but the one thing that stops change from happening is when people give up. Liberation comes when you liberate yourself first.

When we feel out of control, helpless or like nothing we are doing is ever good enough, we don’t recognise the tiny acts of self-care that create change. A 5 minute walk. A glass of water. Putting your phone on do not disturb for 10 minutes. The belief that you as an educator aren’t good enough, or not doing enough, or not being appreciated enough can creep up on even the happiest and most positive teachers (Hello! *waves enthusiastically from deep experience*) Your self-belief and understanding that you can grow and change when facing obstacles, rather than feel like you’re the worst teacher that ever existed is a key part to teacher resiliency. The irony for me is that we teach children this all the time. I have been talking to children about resiliency, bouncing back and self-belief for YEARS but I never realised how much you need to understand it as an adult, BELIEVE it and work on it continuously. This is where bouncing forward is key. You can’t bounce forward if you can’t even get back to the baseline. But the baseline shouldn’t be the end goal. Resiliency isn’t a final destination. You aren’t either resilient or not. It’s a journey and part of getting better at being resilient involves stepping into that forward space and truly enjoying and excelling at this thing we call life.

Everything we do or do not do is driven by a thought and a feeling. A desire to want to do something or a desire to avoid something. That’s it. It really is that simple, Our brains often want to keep us from doing something because they think it’s not safe – from an evolutionary standpoint our brains want to conserve energy and not take risks because if you choose to step out of the cave to scavenge for food you might get eaten by a tiger. So it’s best to stay in and stay warm and stay safe. Our brains haven’t fully evolved for us to realise that the tigers don’t exist – they just wear different outfits now, like when someone knocks at your door unexpectedly in the middle of the night or you get a phone call and you don’t want to answer it because you know that something that person says might upset you. We don’t take action because we are scared of what thoughts and feelings might come up for us. So we stay quiet and stay small and stay safe. But those feelings and thoughts can’t hurt us. Yes, they might be uncomfortable and it might feel like you will die from this anxiety, but most of the time the feelings will pass.

The problem I see with educator burnout in particular is when you are in a system where self-care and mental health and wellbeing is not valued, it creates an extra hoop for you to jump through. It requires more actions. It’s harder to find thoughts that create feelings of calm when you are being yelled at by a parent who thinks it’s okay to do that in front of the children (or let’s face it, at all!). It’s harder to find thoughts that create feelings of happiness for your job when you have teachers coming to your office every day complaining about their co-workers instead of talking to them directly. It’s harder to find thoughts that create feelings of self-worth when you get zero feedback about the job you are doing day-in and day-out.

That’s why bouncing back isn’t enough. Yes, we need to work on things to get our educators out of depression, stress and overwhelm. But we also need to give them tools, strategies and REAL management techniques that help propel them forward. You’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” before, right? When I think that thought, I feel a sense of shame or self-judgement. Like, “Oh I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time?!” I would much rather think, “I can decide how to fill my cup and I want it to be overflowing with _______.” That thought makes me feel excited! It makes me want to take action and create love and happiness and confidence! We want to fill those cups so much so that when something unexpected happens, it’s more like a spillage than a drought. Your cup is empty because you, and the systems you exist in, have poured more out than you have poured in. The one thing we need to fill our cup with more than anything else – is new thoughts! Creating healthy workplaces that value what they are taking out of your cup and what they are pouring in will make a difference. Giving educators tools to examine their thoughts and feelings, understanding how to creating and believe new ones on purpose gets them to take action which will create results they want. The ability to process their emotions in healthy ways that undo years and years of ineffective usage will not only benefit them, but it will benefit the children in the classroom who can also learn these tools. But none of these circumstantial things work if you don’t think they will!

All of these things can be done when self-care AND community care go hand in hand. You have to have buy-in from the admin and the staff for this to work well. You can do the individual work, and of course this will spiral out into other aspects of your life (win-win!) but to change the systems in your workplace you need to have collaboration. If you don’t have the support of your workplace, don’t think that you should just give up, Do it anyway. Take the action for YOU because you deserve it. Whether that means staying at your job or leaving is a separate issue. Your job is just a job. Your brain’s thoughts will go with you wherever you go. You can be replaced by another warm body. But YOU as a human being are irreplaceable.

What things get your cup overflowing? I’d love to know what you do to create a full cup! How do you show vulnerability with your colleagues? How are you vulnerable with yourself? Leave a comment below or get in touch via email.

Want to take a deeper dive into collaborative self-care in the classroom and beyond?
Hire me to do a workshop for your next staff meeting or training day or work with me 1:1. I can help you figure out a plan to create wellbeing for all staff, strategies for when someone is having a hard time and tools to bounce you and the children forward.