In January 2019 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.
November’s habit is Take Care of Yourself and the disposition is Positive Self-Perception.
“Resilient people have a healthy self-perception, are committed to taking care of themselves, and accept themselves more or less as they are.”
This quote, from the first page of this chapter, really resonated with me. I am currently doing a deep study of intuitive eating, which outlines 10 principles towards greater self acceptance and awareness around food, your body, and health. It’s interesting to me to find a connection between that work and being resilient. Our mental, physical, and emotional health are all so interconnected. This is an important reminder.
As Aguilar writes about self care, I’m reminded of a recent conversation I had with a friend. I was complaining about how difficult it had been for me to schedule a doctor’s appointment, when the doctor was only available between 9:00-3:00. I mentioned that this is why so many educators don’t take good care of themselves, because they have to take off work just to get to appointments. And anyone who is or has been a teacher knows that it’s often more challenging to make sub plans and be out of the classroom than it is to skip an appointment. Aguilar even says, “Our schools are bursting with educators who rarely put themselves first”. It’s a sad reality and this chapter is a great one to share with every educator you know.
I appreciate Aguilar’s message on avoiding martyrdom, and each time I read this section I am forced to reflect more. When she mentions that a martyr complex can converge with racism and classism I think back to how I felt when I first got into education. I did suffer from the “I can save these children” belief. As I’ve learned more about myself and grown in my own emotional intelligence and cultural proficiency, that is not my belief anymore. I think we are all capable of doing whatever we want. As a coach, my mindset is geared to guiding others to be their best selves.
Aguilar details the benefits of getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition. None of these concepts are new, but they are always a good reminder about how they impact our emotional health too. I love the concept of “forest bathing”, which is the idea of soaking up the natural world through all of your senses. I love time in nature and time at the beach, so I’m always grateful to read research that explains that this provides me mental and physical well-being.
The ideas of learning to say no and avoiding perfectionism connect to the martyrdom above. So many educators I know are Type-A perfectionists who feel no one can do their work as well as they can. I’ve gotten into that trap myself before, but I’m constantly working to avoid that now. I know the value of saying no and the importance of building the capacity of others so the work is done collectively.
This entire chapter reminds me of the elusive “balance” we all strive for in life. I’ve learned that for me balance looks different that I used to imagine. Each day is not equally balanced between work and personal life obligations, but across a week I find balance. If I have a few late nights at work, I make sure to plan in extra rest by rearranging my workout schedule. I also seek to ensure my weekends are free for whatever me-time I need. These adjustments help me find the balance I need most weeks. It’s not perfect, but as Aguilar reminds us, humans are not perfect, so I’m right on track.
It’s hard to believe I only have one more chapter left to reread in Onward. Stay tuned for December!
Posts in the Building Resilience series: