If you told me two months ago that there was a chance I wouldn’t return to teaching in my classroom this school year, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are, more than one month into remote learning, and it’s still difficult for me to wrap my head around. I know I’m not alone.
I’ve been trying to maintain a sense of stability by keeping with my day-to-day routine, including brewing my morning coffee and taking my dog for a walk. I’m also adjusting to this new reality we are all facing. I’m often reminded of my “normal life” and the daily happenings at my school, where I’ve spent the majority of my time over the last five years.
Each morning, our school community stands, raises our right hands, and recites our Habits for Life pledge together.
My school prides itself on its Habits for Life, which teachers and students alike embody every single day. With COVID-19 affecting people around the world, it’s essential now more than ever that we all embrace these four habits in order to live our lives to the fullest. I am not a mental health professional, but I am someone who has found these habits to have profound impacts on my mental and physical well-being. My students would agree.
Habit #1: Take care of yourself. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can disrupt our mental and physical health. Find some time today and every day to invest in yourself. Take a few deep breaths, take a short break from work, eat and drink mindfully, or acquire a new hobby. Transform your bathroom into a day spa. Light a candle, soak in the bathtub, and try a new face mask (my go-to). And of course, don’t forget to stay active! Though it might not be possible to go to the gym right now, you can still exercise by simply going for a walk outside or by participating in virtual workouts like I do! Try one activity, or try them all. However you choose to take care of yourself, make the most of it and remember that self-care is never selfish.
Habit #2: Take care of each other. Once you’ve prioritized yourself, you can then care for others. And please do, because your kindness is needed now more than ever. Stay home when it’s possible and practice social distancing when it’s not. At the same time, maintain relationships with family and friends. Check in with loved ones and neighbors. Lend a helping hand when you can. It’s possible to be together, even when we’re apart. With today’s technology, we can keep in touch with those near and far. Remind others that you are there by way of phone call, text message, email, or good old-fashioned snail mail. Receiving a hand-drawn picture and a note from my student brightened my day. Though we physically can’t be together, her presence didn’t go unnoticed. Yours won’t either.
Habit #3: Take care of your environment. Inside and out. Many adults and children are working from home. Create safe offline and online mediums by designating a clutter-free workspace and by using technology responsibly. Conserve paper by utilizing digital resources. Turn off the lights when they’re not necessary and use reusable water bottles. Trek outside and grow your own fruits and vegetables. Start a flower garden for the honey bees and butterflies. If there’s one thing that every one of us has in common, it’s this planet we inhabit. And while much of what is happening in the world right now seems to be beyond our control, the way we treat our environment is entirely in our hands.
Habit #4: Try your best and persevere. Life is filled with challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic is one that we will get through together. When life gets tough and overshadows our happiness, it’s important to validate our feelings and respond to them. Something positive can be found in each and every day. I promise. Instead of reaching for your cell phone first thing every morning, try jotting down a few things you’re grateful for. Journaling or talking about your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can be greatly therapeutic, too. Although we don’t always realize it, others can often empathize with how we are feeling in times of hardship. When life gives you lemons, accept them graciously and use them to make something sweet.
Keep your head up. I hope that you find as much value in the Habits for Life as I have, and that you uphold them in your daily life, not just now, but always. They will change your life for the better!