- Paula Cristina Azevedo, PhD
The Need to Rest and Recharge
Thank goodness it’s summer...right?!? At the end of every academic year I find myself dragging to the finish line, but somehow I magically complete all the end of the year grading, meetings and events. Even though there are weeks in the summer filled with professional and curriculum development it is a time to rest and recharge. By this point, you probably have been showing the signs of running empty for a while. When we are not aware that we’re running on empty we struggle to complete even the simplest tasks. In addition, exhaustion can impair our judgment and make us really cranky.
So often we are running on automatic without realizing that we have very little energy and this often leads to trouble. For example, perhaps you uncharacteristically snapped back at a student or colleague, or you took a benign comment too personally or are more forgetful (“where did I put those copies I just made?”). However, being mindful of how your body feels, what your emotional and mental states are can help you in identifying when you’ve stretched yourself too thin. Once you recognize that you’re energy levels are depleted you can easily remedy the issue by resting and recharging. I’ll share with you some of the simple ways I like to recharge from a stressful academic year.
Recharging the Body and Mind
When I fantasize of taking a break from work I imagine myself lying under an umbrella on a beautiful beach, listening to the waves crashing to the shore, feeling a cool breeze sweeping over the warm sand, reading a mystery novel and drinking cold adult beverages that seem to magically appear. Ahhhh, doesn’t that sound incredible. Did you picture yourself on that beach too? Well, not all of us have access to the beach or can afford such luxurious vacations, but we can afford to take mindful moments, meditate, and do free and simple activities that recharge our bodies and minds.
Body Scan Meditation
We all carry our stress in our bodies. I’m sure you’ve experienced unexplained aches and pains and when you focus on where those pains are and check in with your stress level you’ll probably notice that the more stress you have the more unexplained aches you may have. You may even notice you gain a little more weight during stressful times. This is all normal, but it’s not normal to feel this way all year round.
Regular check-ins with your body is important. I like to do this with a body scan meditation. In this practice you systematically check in with each part of your body starting from the soles of your feet all the way to the top of your head. This type of meditation uses the breath to reconnect our mind with our body. Through this meditation you have the opportunity to become fully embodied and notice what is happening with the physical body. A few months back I wrote about how to conduct the body scan meditation. You can find it here. www.themeditatingteacher.com/single-post/ReconnectingWithTheBody
It seems counterintuitive that more activity can recharge the body, but it does! Physical activity gets the heart pumping, the blood circulating, and oxygen increasing in your body. It’s been shown that physical activity also stimulates the brain, especially when you’re practicing a new form of exercise or incorporate complex movements in your exercise routine. The summer break is a great time to return to your exercise routine or start one, especially since the weather is warmer. I love starting my morning with a quick cardio and weight training combo workout at home. I also practice yoga a couple times a week, which supports my connection with my mind, breath, and body. In addition, during the summer Zoe, the loveable three-year old poodle, and I take long walks and hike on our favorite trails. These types of physical activities don’t require a gym membership. There are so many incredible free cardio workout and yoga videos online and walking or running outside costs nothing. The most important thing when choosing a physical activity is that you love it and it doesn’t feel like a chore. You’re more likely to stick with it through the summer and maybe make it a habit for the rest of your life.
Be in Nature
As I mentioned above I enjoy walking and hiking with Zoe and find that simply being outdoors rejuvenates me. As I’m writing this post it happens to be a beautiful day, and I have my windows open to freshen up the house. I can feel the cool breeze come in and hear the birds chirping in the treetops. Just hearing birds puts me in a better mood. In addition, being outdoors really grounds me. The minute I’m surrounded by trees that are centuries old and native species that have survived and evolved to their habitat I’m quickly reminded of how magical the world is and how interconnected we all are even from the tiniest ant to the oldest redwood tree. Such moments can be very moving and powerful. It really does help me put all of my stresses in perspective. So, take some time and take advantage of the warm weather this summer to enjoy the outdoors. It’s really not too hard to find a local county, state or even national park in your area that is free or has an inexpensive fee to enter and park your car. I’m really lucky that I live in an area surrounded by local, state and national parks and nature preserves. For some of you it may take a little thought and planning, but it’s so worth it.
Return to your Hobby
During the school year I simply struggle to find time to engage with some of my hobbies. So, the summer is where I can commit a little more fully to some of my hobbies. Having a hobby or a few hobbies can be a healthy outlet. Consider hobbies, such as gardening, drawing, painting, mechanics, sewing, crocheting, writing, playing a musical instrument, woodwork, and so much more as a space to be creative and to learn new skills. Many times it’s when I’m in the middle of a hobby that I have an idea or a solution to a problem I’ve encountered in my work in the classroom. More importantly, it’s a time and place that I give myself permission to not do work and it’s where I can be free to just be my fullest self and as creative as I’d like.
Another great way to rest and recharge is by taking mindful moments throughout the day by simply pausing and being in the moment. You can take this mindful moment while you’re doing mundane chores, such as washing the dishes. For instance, while you’re washing the dishes focus your attention on how the soapy water feels on your hands. Focus on your breath and how your breath moves through your body as your wash the dishes. Pay attention to your entire body and what muscles are activated as you wash the dishes. Maybe even focus this mindful moment on the dishes themselves, the colors, patterns, imperfections, chips and cracks of each dish you touch. You can take a mindful moment while you’re in the grocery line and go within sensing what is going on internally at that moment for you. These mindful moments can be so brief, but can have a powerful impact on your day and give you opportunities to just be present even for a moment.
I wouldn’t be called “The Meditating Teacher” if I didn’t mention meditation as another avenue to rest and recharge. Many people have difficulty meditating and this is understandable, but there are also some misconceptions about meditation, such as “you shouldn’t think at all during a meditation” or “meditation is a waste of time because you’re just sitting there doing nothing.” I’ve written about these misconceptions and others in a couple of blog posts several months ago. The first is How Much Do You Know about Meditation? and the other post is The Truth About Meditation. Meditation is about exploring your own mind, heart, and the world around you and seeing it for what it is. Many times our ego, or our self-concept, gets in the way and creates a story about ourselves, others, and how we interact in the world around us that may not actually be the reality. Our ego tries to not only to preserve itself, but highlight its self-importance. As a result, we lose touch with our true selves and do not notice the world around us as it truly is. Meditation provides a space to be quiet and explore, rediscover, and be fully present with ourselves and the world around us. So, find time to meditate once a day. You don’t have to start meditating for 30 minutes each day. You can start practicing by meditating for just 1 minute and building the time as you feel more and more comfortable. Feel free to use guided meditations to support you in this practice. I have several free guided meditations you can use. You can find them here. Also, keep an eye out for a meditation challenge later this summer. I’ll be sending out more information later.
Give yourself permission to sometimes do nothing
Finally, give yourself permission to do nothing. I know this is a hard one. I am someone who can’t sit still and needs to constantly be doing something. If I’m not doing something I feel like I’m wasting my time. I’m always on the move and on to the next project, but going on like this for a long time is not feasible and can actually lead to burnout. So, before you reach the point of being burned out, give yourself time in the day or week to simply be still, be silent, and have nowhere to go or be. Grab a warm cup of tea, sit on the couch or floor (I always prefer the floor...while my dog lays on the couch...hahaha!) and do nothing. The goal isn’t to sit there all day, but just the process of giving yourself the time and space to just chill is a gift in and of itself. So, give yourself the gift of doing nothing for just five or ten minutes and see how you feel afterward.
I hope you found this post helpful and inspiring and that you find time this summer break to rest and recharge your batteries for the upcoming school year. Share this article with your friends and colleagues and share in the comment section of Facebook how you like to rest and recharge. Also, don’t forget to sign up for email updates, like my page on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.