Finding Balance to Find Your Purpose: Part One

CEO and founder of Innovative Educator Consulting

SEL, Self-care, and Gratitude Strategies and Techniques

Over the past 15 months, many educators were thrust into an online teaching and learning environment that was all but normal. We had to quickly adapt, think on our feet, and redesign lessons and activities to transform them into digital learning experiences to meet the needs of our students. Yet all that effort and late nights of designing these creative activities often resulted in poor participation from some of our students, or the lesson failing due to poor internet connectivity, or lack of student engagement.

Many educators felt physically and emotionally beat up by the intense amount of the stress overload. We became extremely disheartened that our students did not want to participate to some degree, and many of us felt we were somehow failing our students. These feelings of inadequacy and the intense stress of teaching both online and face-to-face at the same time took an immense toll on our emotional well being and our physical bodies. Something had to give…..
When we combine our innovative personalities with recognizing the critical value and importance of self-care tactics, you will discover an optimal wellness alignment between your everyday tasks, family and life obligations, and career expectations with your teammates. With this in mind, it is vital that we identify helpful methods for managing our priorities, and prioritizing and preparing school projects or lessons for our students. 
To help myself to personally and professionally find balance and purpose, I refer to the Love-Play- Work-Health Balance Dashboard. This is one of my “system checks” that I utilize each week as a visual reflection tool that measures the four core facets of my daily life: health, work, love, and play. Think of it as your visual “fuel gauge of your life.” 
What does your visual health, work, love and play wellness dashboard look like? What is one area that you can hone in on to improve the wellness of your Love - Play- Work - Health Dashboard at work or within your home environment? Let's take a moment to review each category to understand its effectiveness on our own self-care and SEL practices. 
Love - The Love gauge is a measure of how you feel about relationships that are important to you. This can include relationships with: Yourself, Family, Friends, Significant Others, Pets, Children, or even Spirituality.
Play - The Play gauge is a measure of your energy spent doing activities that are for fun or for personal enjoyment. This can include: Hobbies, Extra-Curricular Activities, Intramural Sports, or Creative Outlets.
Work - As a university student or educator, the Work gauge can be a mix of curricular and various types of paid and unpaid work. This can include the following: Coursework, Paid Jobs, Research Projects, Lab Work, Internships, Athletics, Volunteering, and Leadership Positions.
Health - The Health gauge is a measure of your physical and mental health at the moment. 
Now let’s take a moment to access and download the Love - Play - Work - Health balance document and reflect on your Love-Play-Work-Health wellness. 
Each area is an integral part to leading a full, and meaningful life. Take inventory of these areas frequently to ensure you are accountable for your well being. I also think the category of Play is most often neglected, as some may write it off as “wasting time.” In fact, it may be the most critical area for our overall feeling of completeness, well-being, and connectedness with the people and places we care most about in our lives. The LEGO Foundation’s free Coping with Changes: Social-Emotional Learning Through Play course explores the practical and emotional challenges facing children and how learning through play (as well as stress management strategies) can help.  
And here is how you can model and implement the Love-Play-Work-Health activity in your classroom environment with students, or at your next staff meeting, or even within your own family unit. 
Many of us have now realized that the stress of teaching during a pandemic has not let up. Yet if we don't have a strategy in place with how to deal with these stressful moments, it can lead to negative results that will impact our relationships and our work and family environments. We may also feel a tremendous amount of responsibility placed on ourselves, and we may be unsure how to—or if we even can!—cross the finish line. These triggers of stress can cause mood swings, anxiety attacks, and feelings of depression, which can lead to negative work-related emotions and burnout.
Knowing that we have the power over whatever situation we are faced with helps us to become even stronger teacher-leaders: leading by example on how to manage these uncharted territories, such as when changing a project's workflow, or when things go wrong and tension sets in. This allows us to share our milestones with peers, letting them know we too are human. Documenting and focusing on difficult circumstances also enables you and your colleagues to deal with, resolve, and support constructive workplace recovery strategies.
Please make a copy of this self-care action template to assist you in identifying helpful solutions and strategies for identifying stress and anxiety in your own life. When you feel comfortable, share your learning insights with a colleague or a friend on how you have been more aware about what triggers your tension, and celebrate your effective approaches to regaining control of your work-life-family balance! As a bonus, here is a great collection of self-care check-in templates from the Virgina Beach Public Schools to use with colleagues, your students and even your family members. 
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is emerging as a critical factor in sustaining high achievement, retention, and positive actions, as well as improving life success. Schools, educational institutions, and corporate companies are gradually turning to EQ for a more comprehensive approach to optimizing student and social outcomes (such as school attrition, student satisfaction, peer relationships, and health).  
Take a minute to read this school case study from 6 Seconds, which I refer to in all of my Social Emotional Learning (SEL) courses for adult learners. It will assist you in identifying EQ areas that will help you create and follow an EQ visionary roadmap. And if you’d like to practice making EQ permanent in your life, check out Actions for Happiness for daily intentional actions to help you discover more meaning and purpose in life. 
If you are looking for more “do now” teacher EQ practices, please review the InspirED project, as this educational leadership toolbox offers a host of powerful tips and strategies to:
  • Practice emotional intelligence for yourself as an educational leader
  • Apply emotional intelligence to strengthen student and collegial relationships
  • Supercharge your classroom and staff meetings with EQ strategies
Finally, I recently enrolled in Google Grow's free Coursera course The Science of Well Being to develop my leadership confidence, social emotional well-being, and presence with others. Every day, I aspire to be my best self and share my creative positive genius with others, which means I must continue to learn and invest in myself too. Others view me as at the top of my leadership game as a result of these modeled acts of self-directed continued development, and it also illustrates that life upskilling is an important leadership trait to lead a team with dignity, credibility, and sound analysis to enhance the learning atmosphere for everyone involved. This is why you should prioritize your learning commitment in yourself first, as it can evolve and foster more empathy-based interactions with your peers and family members, resulting in action-based outcomes, as you listen, consider, and learn from the individuals closest to you in your learning community. 

Related toolkits

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