In January I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.
August’s habit is Tell Empowering Stories and the disposition is Optimism.
I’ve come to an interesting point in my year of diving deeper in Onward and emotional resiliency. In July I started a new job, where one of our focus areas for the year is Social Emotional Learning. In early August we had a management retreat focused on love and mindfulness and self care for leaders. Our district-wide theme for the year is “Know My Story, Know Our Story”. All of these led me to August’s habit of telling empowering stories and the disposition of optimism. I’m in such an optimistic place that this all feels right.
However, I know myself well. I know that when I get stressed out, or I have a bad day, I forget to use my mindfulness and resiliency habits. I often let the stress take over and I don’t even realize it until my jaw hurts from all the clenching I’ve done and my shoulder ache with tensed up muscles. As I revisited August’s ideas, I’ve tried to find ways to build habits that I can tap into as I feel the stress beginning, before it’s too late.
Aguilar’s message about storytelling is that we are each the author of our own story. When something happens, my interpretation can write a positive or a negative story. When someone gets upset and yells in a meeting at work, I can write an internal story about something I must have done to upset my colleague or I can write a story about how my colleague is having a rough day. When I choose to focus on optimism, the story empowers me in a positive way. It uplifts me, and allows me to have empathy for my colleague, rather than bringing me down into a negative spiral of self doubt.
This is where I need the practice! In the heat of the moment, when a situation begins to get stressful, I need to follow Aguilar’s recommended steps (these are the first four of six):
- Be aware of thoughts
- Recognize and shift distorted thoughts
- Uproot problematic core benefits
- Craft new stories
“You can manage your emotional responses by managing your mental frames.” ~Aguilar, p. 72
Aguilar offers three ways to help you tell empowering stories: visualizations, affirmations, and intentions. I think each of these strategies can be helpful during stressful moments.
As I reread the section on storytelling, I saw that I had made lots of notes about using Twitter to tell our story during my first read. I still feel strongly that we have the opportunity to use social media to tell a positive, empowering story about ourselves, our work, and our profession. I love August’s chapter and the positive way it sets the tone for a new school year. I want to make a note to reread this chapter mid-year, when I need to be reminded of this optimism.
- How do you remain optimistic during trying times?
- In what ways do you tell the stories of your school/ community
Posts in the Building Resilience series: