In Times of Upset, January 7

I fell asleep too early last night, on the couch. After waking up and getting ready for bed, I only had manic energy left in me from witnessing the day’s domestic terrorism variety show as the Capitol was breached by Proud Boys. I could not get to sleep.

That made for a hard day today, a day that was emotionally overwhelming because as an elementary school teacher, you need to process awful things from the daily news, all while doing your best to be an exemplary human being for your students. They’re always watching you. You can make mistakes, you can struggle, you can be overwhelmed, but you need to do it with grace, kindness, and humanity because they’re watching and they’re learning.

So what do we do when we’re tired, when we’re overwhelmed, when we’re saddened by the worst that our fellow humans do? I don’t want to pretend that I’m a pin-a-rose-on-your-nose perfect kid here, so I’ll say what I try to do.

  • I take time out to write down what I’m grateful for. Keeping track of this sets my mood for the day each morning. I know that research has shown that doing it before bed helps you sleep better. I may try that one day. I can report that practicing gratitude in the morning helps me to start off on a positive footing. I have been using the Presently App on Android to help me with this.
  • I keep to routines with myself and my students. Routines are good to lean on. When you’re uncertain or worried, having something solid that you know you’re going to do helps.
  • I have been doing guided meditations with my students. There’s an excellent page of them from UCLA Health — I had students request that I increase the times per week that we practice guided meditations. I know that I benefit from it as much as they do.
  • I tidied up my desk at school, and I’ve been more diligent about keeping the dishes done each morning. It never occurs to me, until I’ve tidied up, that it’s so much less stressful to work and exist in a tidy place.
  • I’ve spent more time drawing. I draw while I’m checking kids in for the day, and I draw during recess. It’s a very mellow activity, and I have to admit that I thrive on feedback from my students. I’ve had kids tell me that it’s calming to watch me draw, I’ve had students tell me that they were going to start drawing more, and I’ve had students thank me for sitting with them while we were both chatting quietly and drawing. You don’t have to draw, obviously, but being creative with — or at the same time as — somebody else has a special way of bringing you closer.

These things are helpful to me, they’re not constrained to any one crisis. They’re good strategies to keep me sane whether we’re dealing with political unrest, natural disasters, or financial ruin. Maybe some of them will help you. Wouldn’t that be nice if they did?

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