For many, it is the beginning or about to be the start of a new school year. As much as I would love to give an inspirational talk about how this year is going to be the best at work, I think what would be more beneficial to many, based on the emails and questions I receive, is how to take care of ourselves and place boundaries around our own lives.
The interesting thing is that when the mental well-being of individuals is cared for, it often leads to organizational benefits. According to the article, “Why organizations need to focus on their employees’ mental health, not caring for the well-being of employees can be costly.”
“Organizations that ignore or downplay these trends do so at their peril. As many as 200 million workdays are estimated to be lost due to mental health issues each year. This is the equivalent of $16.8 billion in lost productivity. In contrast, innovation is more likely to blossom in environments where people feel valued and where they feel they can be open and honest with managers about personal challenges.”
So it is not about taking care of ourselves at the cost of our workplace, but the opposite.
That all being said, I know that it is essential to create our own boundaries for health and well-being, as many organizations can say this is at the forefront yet will not follow through with actions.
As I was having a conversation with a colleague recently about how I have improved my mental health over the past few years, I thought of the following strategies that have made a positive difference in my life. These strategies are not foolproof, nor am I at the pinnacle of mental well-being, but they have helped significantly, and I do my best to stick with them.
Here is what has worked for me, but I like this reminder that you need to find what works for you (via Annick Rauch’s blog).
1. Learn to say no and stick with it.
In education, there is no “done.” There are always things to do, things that can be volunteered for, and “extras” that can make a positive difference.
But we often care for others at the expense of ourselves.
I learn to say no to things and often pick and choose what messages I respond to.
If I have something planned for my own family, or myself, those things do not get overridden by new commitments.
I have said this for years…saying “yes” to others can often mean saying “no” to ourselves.
This can be seen as selfish until you realize that constantly doing things for others can lead to burnout and exhaustion, where there is no more “self” to give.
This leads to the next point.
2. Keep appointments with yourself.
If I have a meeting with someone else, I plan to be there early or on time. We must honor that commitment to the willingness of others to take time out of their day to be with us. People who are chronically late to things often say, “My time is more important than yours,” through that action.
Not a fan.
But the one thing I have improved over the years is keeping appointments with myself.
If I commit to certain times of the day for exercise, those times are sacred to me.
Times that I have committed with my family are not to be interrupted, and I set my phone to DND, and it is impossible to get through to me for a reason.
Honor your time with others the same way you honor time with yourself.
3. Be present where you are.
I remember discussing with an educator the idea that I didn’t think it was a big deal to check your personal messages during the workday. They responded that if you are at work, you should not be taking that time to review any personal communications.
I then asked, “Do you ever check your work email at home?” She responded, “Of course!”
So I followed up with, “Why is it okay to check your work email at home but not your personal messages at work?”
Someone else in the group said, “I actually don’t check my personal messages at work, and I also don’t check my work messages at home.” I loved that response.
Now, I would be lying to say that I never check work messages when I am at home with my family. But, when I commit to being “present” (not being home because being “present” and being “home” are two different things), I do my best to be where I am.
The same is true with my work.
When I am at an event, working with a group of educators, I do my best to be there. This is something that I am working on in both aspects (personal and professional), but it has been something I have committed to this past year.
I know that commitment has been appreciated by those I work with, but more importantly, my family.
There is never anything wrong with being where you are in the moment.
Again, these are suggestions of things I have done that have made a difference in my life. It is a work in progress, but I feel I am improving at taking care of myself over the years.
What things do you do to take care of your own mental well-being?
(P.S. If you are interested in learning more about some strategies I have used and that have worked for others, you can check out the “Recalibrating Your Health and Wellness” course I published last year. If you are interested in purchasing, please use coupon code “FALL2022” to get 50% off the course for the next few days!)