Shifting into 2021 with More Peace, Joy, and Ease

Teachers, Now that the school year is in full swing, and you’ve been doing all the things to build relationships with your students and to give them the best learning experiences possible, it’s time to turn to your well being, if you haven’t already.

These four wellness and resilience practices will take you to the new year with more peace, joy, and ease.

Embrace self-compassion. If you’ve traditionally been hard on yourself, overachieving in every way from planning into the evening and grading student work on the daily, it’s time to give yourself permission to take a break. Many times our compassion includes everyone except ourselves. It’s now time to activate kindness and care for yourself like you would a best friend. As we move into the last part of 2020, give yourself permission to be human, permission to rest, and permission to put yourself first. It’s only then that you will be able to be at your best for others.

Create a happy list. Instead of the shopping lists and the holiday lists filled with to-dos, it’s time for a change. Brainstorm all the things that bring you joy--especially around this time of year--people, places, events, traditions, rituals. Write them all down and then add some to your calendar to be sure the season does not slip by without experiencing some of your favorites. When you need an injection of joy, just check your list!

I like to create a list with simple pleasures and family experiences. I have a warm cup of peppermint tea on my list because I can drink it even before bed, since it’s decaffeinated, yet it still gives me a lift during the school day and won’t dehydrate me like too much coffee can. Another favorite on my list is evening snow tubing. Even though my boys are 16 and 18 we make snow tubing a priority every season. One year when the boys were 5 and 7, we had the whole place to ourselves on New Year’s Eve. It’s one of our best family memories. Making a giant tree cookie is on the list as one of our holiday traditions too. I love chocolate chip cookies but don’t like rolling out the individual dough balls, so I press the cookie dough into a large tree pan and bake. My family and I decorate it with green frosting, candy and sprinkles, while other times we eat it warm out of the oven. What about binge watching Harry Potter? Reading by candlelight under a blanket? Zooming with your favorite people? Creating new traditions like friendsgiving around a bonfire or displaying extra decorative lights? This year honor what brings you joy and simplicity and then forget the rest.

Clear your mind and breathe in nature. Nature heals and rejuvenates us yet most of us don’t make this sacred time a priority. During the last part of 2020, take walks in a forest or by a beach, bike ride on a trail, or simply sit under a tree--completely unplugged--and just breathe. Let go of your thoughts and clear your mind, releasing any stress, fear, or overwhelm. You will feel lighter, renewed, and ready to take on the holidays.

See through the eyes of gratitude. Several studies have shown that having a simple gratitude practice can help us to be more generous, compassionate, forgiving, and optimistic. Gratitude can even help boost our immune system and lower our blood pressure. Yes, gratitude is my superpower that changes my mindset by showing me the good that I already have in my life and then leads me to more of it. Interested in a simple practice of gratitude? (1) Name the things you're grateful for everyday like laughing with friends, enjoying your favorite bowl of soup, or applying lavender essential oil before bed. (2) Be thankful for the big and small wins in life. (3) And invite feelings of gratitude to wash over you in the moment like when your students really get it or when you finish an extra-long walk. The more you invite gratitude into your days, the more you will reap the benefits of this powerhouse emotion.

Making yourself a top priority throughout the holidays is critical, especially this year. In order to enjoy your students, friends, and family, take the time to care for yourself in new ways that will deliver--just what you want this holiday season--more peace, joy, and ease into your life.

You've got this!

Take good care,

Julie /

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Julie Sochacki is a clinical professor at University of Hartford, focusing on resilience and wellness practices for teachers.

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