For many of you, the school year has ended and your summer vacation has begun.
For others, hang in there. You must be close.
As you prepare for your transition from caring for the 20+ students in your classrooms, to nurturing your family and yourself, I wanted to offer some suggestions of how to make the most of your time off.
These few months are the perfect opportunity to relax, rejuvenate and recharge. I usually do these things in that exact order and here is why.
In my school-based OT days, I remember pulling out of the parking lot on the last day of school and having the mixed emotions of wanting to cry from absolute relief; and jumping for joy with freedom and excitement.
In these states of very mixed emotions, it can be confusing and lead to a sense of overwhelm. Part of you is absolutely exhausted and the other part just wants to get sh*t done that has been lingering in the “incomplete” pile of your life during the packed school year.
Start with allowing yourself to have some time to simply relax. This allows your body and your mind to re-center and re-calibrate. Most of the school year, you were probably functioning off of your sympathetic nervous system. This is your stress center, which is fueled by the continual release of cortisol and adrenaline. Now is the time to practice turning on the relaxation centers of your nervous system. The best way to accomplish this…. you guessed it, breathing practices.
Here’s a great way to start.
Find a comfortable spot in a seated position, on the floor or chair, where you won’t be disturbed.
Set a timer for 2 minutes. As you practice this, you can increase your time each day or week. Gently close your eyes, or softly gaze at something in front of you towards the floor or your lap.
Begin to notice your breath, moving in and out of your body.
Notice the point at which the air enters your nostrils and how it moves through your body, filling your lungs.
Feel the sensation of your lungs expand and notice where you feel your breath in your body. Does it reside in your chest, side body, or belly area? Maybe all 3.
Just take a few breaths to notice and nothing more.
Release your desire to judge yourself on whether or not you are doing this correctly. If air is moving in and out of your body, you are breathing with great skill (A+).
If your mind begins to wander and grab onto a thought, try one of these two phrases to say to yourself.
“Breathe in. Breathe out.” OR “Just,” on the inhale, and, “this,” on the exhale. It helps calm a busy mind when, giving someplace specific to place its attention.
Next in your summer plan is taking the time to rejuvenate. This is your opportunity to do something that you LOVE. What have you not had time for, that feeds your soul? For me, it is doing various crafts, dinners with friends, travel and reading for pleasure rather than purpose. What have you been missing? Is there something new that has been calling you? Investigate and rejuvenate your soul.
Last, but not least, recharge. The best way to describe this is, become like Frederick. Remember that classic children’s book by Leo Lionni? All of the mice were working away to harvest the physical things that were needed to help them survive through the long, cold winter. Instead, Fredrick gathered things to nourish their heart, minds and souls. He gathered sun rays, colors and words.
“I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.”
“I gather colors for winter is gray.”
“I am gathering words for the winter days are long and many.”
“Close your eyes. Now I send you the rays of the sun. Do you feel their warmth and glow?”
Your school year was long and emotionally and physically challenging at times. Now it’s time to harvest your sun rays, colors and words. Appreciate your time at the beach, or a long walk amongst the trees and mountain. Allow yourself to feel a sense of pleasure as you feel, smell, touch and move in these environments. See the colors around you, the beauty that is everywhere you go. Gather words that nourish you such as, “I am grateful for this time to notice how I feel, and have the time to hold onto the good feelings without being thrown off by those around me. I know I am strong and can stay relaxed and this is my time to practice these feelings. I notice that when I feel good within me, there is more goodness that shows up around me. I am able to manage more in my day when I notice that what I am doing brings me joy.”
Gather sun rays, colors and words or phrases that make you feel good. Do it all day long. The more you gather, the more resources you will have for the cold winter months, the difficult students, the overwhelm with paperwork and the communication challenges with colleagues.
Wishing you sun rays to melt and relax you, colors to rejuvenate you and positive words to re-charge you,