My most recent presentation to adults in a school was a combination of philosophy, meditation and movement delivered to about 40 teachers in the Holy Spirit Primary School in Canberra, where I currently live.
At present, schoolteachers here are on holidays – hopefully having one hell of an adventure or catching up on some much needed rest and relaxation.
However, as the days remaining in their break disappear many will feel what my sister and I used to call the ‘Sunday night jitters’, which is our generic term for any pre-work anxiety.
Some teachers will return to work with their holiday glow shining brightly for the entire world to see. They will be rejuvenated and relaxed.
And then slowly but surely as the weeks pass the glow will fade as the feelings of stress and anxiety that come with never being on top of your work takes its place.
In Australia, this process has become cyclic for many educators. Rest, burn out, rest, burn out, rest and burn out.
Days become weeks become terms become years and all of a sudden the realisation hits home that without even noticing, their health has declined a lot faster than it should have.
Can I speak for all teachers?
No – just the ones that tell me personally they are feeling this way and because I knew this cycle intimately myself for many years.
Which brings me back to my presentation.
As Holy Spirit is a catholic school I am able to use scripture in connection to the presentation’s theme.
I chose one line. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, ‘but test everything; hold fast to what is good’.
The theme of the session: What is it that nourishes you? And can you hold fast to these things, or to that which is good for you, particularly when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work?
Now I was honest with the staff because the theme chosen was a little bit selfish. I personally felt the need to examine my behaviour of late and some of the choices I had been making in terms of where and how I was drawing my energy. And I thought we could do it together.
I came up with the theme at 3.46pm one afternoon when I found myself feeling scattered, anxious and overwhelmed.
I was trying to work out what to do next and couldn’t for the life of me gain clarity on the best course of action.
So I did a stocktake of my last 24 hours or so and low and behold I’d had hardly any sleep, had eaten poorly and had slammed four or five coffees into myself during the day as well.
I was anxious and confused.
The saying, ‘you get out what you put in’ was ringing true.
For me, and many other teachers I presume, it’s easy making healthy choices when you’re relaxed and on holidays and when you have time on your side. But it’s much harder when you are under the pump and the days of being behind with your work turn into weeks and months.
It’s very easy to grab a cookie or cake (or maybe one of each) and a coffee when you are on the run.
The adrenalin is racing and these things will keep it racing. Until it comes to a crashing halt and the opportunity arises to welcome calm after work with a glass of wine….or perhaps a bottle.
But, no probs!
Holidays will be here soon.
And so the cycle continues.
So why am I writing this?
Because I want this cycle to stop! I want teachers (and all staff in schools) to thrive – all the time.
I am also writing this because right now in my hometown teachers are on a break. And I thought this would be a good time for them to explore some of the things that nourish them and help them feel more powerful and in control of their lives.
Now I don’t mean powerful in an egocentric and controlling way. I refer here to a calm and humble clarity that will allow the teacher (or any person for that matter) to make ‘right’ decisions even when the pressure is on and they are feeling overwhelmed.
So I invite (I always invite, never demand) teachers (and any other staff in the high pressure world of education or business) to make a list of the things you feel nourish you. That is the things that make you feel more vital, peaceful and alive.
You may or may not have given this any thought at all, so here are some things that might be worth considering:
- Regular exercise of some description
- Foods that are good for YOU
- Reduced alcohol intake
- Sleep and preparation for sleep
- Relationships and social life
- Adopting an attitude of love and acceptance towards yourself and others
- Speaking out for what you believe in with humility and strength.
I am excited that schools such as Holy Spirit are making decisions to include initiatives in their approach that nourish and fuel teachers, rather than drain and empty them, wherever possible.
And I remain humble and honoured that they would choose me to help them with this.
So, I invite anyone reading this, teacher or not, to ask yourself what are the things that nourish you?
And can you ‘hold fast’ to them when you need them most.
Tim Guthrie is a spirituality and identity teacher who works with individuals, groups and organisations in the area of personal and cultural development. To work with Tim contact him here: https://timguthrie.co/contact/