There is a lot of anticipation about the school holidays, which can start in the last few weeks of term when we are still at school. Often the conversation is about the countdown, ‘Only 5 more weeks to go…’
This change in rhythm can actually be a good point to reflect on how we have been during the rest of the year. If we are feeling like we need to wind down and stop, is it because we have been so wound up, anxious and/or in a drive to do the work before this time? We accept this as a way to get through the year.
Is it possible that how we are during term time affects how we are during the holidays?
We often get to the holidays and feel like we can now allow ourselves the opportunity to stop and reflect - something we don’t give ourselves permission to do during term time. Is it easier to struggle on with what we know, even if it feels uncomfortable and unnatural? Is it more challenging to stop and feel what is not working? Do we even consider changing jobs or how we can escape, rather than asking, ‘How can I do things differently to support myself?’
The reality of the holidays
Many things seem to come up for us in those final weeks and we can:
- Start to leave things for the holidays and our list of things to do can start to pile up, but the fact that we have left it for the holidays, means we have already put it off, so that it can feel like a burden. Do we end up doing these or do we set ourselves up to fail?
- Plan to do all the things we feel we have been deprived of doing, such as catching up with friends or spending quality time with family. However, is the reality that when we are able to do them, we don’t feel like it and often the pictures we have of this don’t match the reality?
- Feel that the holidays provide a space to ‘fix’ what hasn’t been working, so that we start the new term in a better place
- Say to ourselves that we are going to spend the last week or two doing planning, however often end up not doing anything and then getting anxious about it.
Self-care during term time
In the busier periods, our self-care can be neglected and work becomes all-encompassing. We make our list of things to do the priority and this can mean that we don’t support ourselves, when it’s most needed. Our sleep can be affected and we wake not feeling fully rested. We might not be making the most supportive food choices, often favouring whatever is most convenient. Our relationships sometimes suffer, whether with colleagues, students, friends or family. We might become more irritable and distracted, so even if we are spending time with others, the burden of work is always present. Days can roll into each other and we can go to sleep feeling stressed and wake feeling exactly the same way, having not let go of the day before.
Often self-care can seem like an additional list of things to do. But can we find a way to make it part of our everyday, whether at work, at home or play? Is self-care actually approaching the activities, which are already part of our day, with a different quality, one of self-care and one that supports and sustains us?
We have found that there are many small choices that can be made during the day to bring a quality of self-care to whatever task we are involved with. We have experimented with the following and found they have made a real difference:
- Choosing one activity that we do regularly and using that as a stop moment to connect with our breath, feel how it is and make any adjustments if we feel to i.e. each time we walk up and down the stairs
- Taking moments to rest in the day – even a moment to sit down for a few minutes
- Having a bottle of water on the desk to sip through the day
- Going to the toilet – not holding it for hours
- Taking time to connect with colleagues, especially in those busier periods.
- Going to bed 15 minutes earlier rather than staying up too late
- Switching off the phone, tablet and computer 1 hour before going to bed
- Setting the alarm for 15 minutes earlier in the mornings so there’s no rush to get ready
- Preparing nourishing food for yourself which will satisfy and support you in your day
- Cooking extra for dinner so that you can take the leftovers for lunch
- Some gentle exercise – it doesn’t have to be a heavy workout session, a short walk at lunch or after work makes a difference.
In the holidays it can feel like the fact you are not working automatically means your self-care becomes a higher priority, however that’s not always the case, especially if, in the last few weeks of term, you are placing huge expectations on what the holidays will bring.
We have found that keeping up the self-care strategies we employed during term time and building on from there supports us to feel well rested and vital when we start the new term.