New Year, Same Issues
By Holly Miller
After almost two full weeks off of school and a really nasty upper-respiratory virus, I found myself unmotivated to start a project I so happily signed on for earlier when the world seemed a lot more bright, shiny, and promising; this blog. And every year I have to remind myself that ‘this is just how it is’ this time of year for me. As a teacher who also struggles with anxiety and depression, having my routine shaken up, spending hours of unstructured time alone, and then being thrust back into ‘the real world’ again after winter break can be really tough. And I know it can be so hard on my students too. After the lights are taken down and the cheerful trappings of the season are packed away, the world sometimes looks even darker than it did before the holidays.
And you would think that after over 30 years in academia, I would be used to this – having my routine come to a screeching halt and then having to re-start it again in the new year. But every new year presents the same main issue I always struggle with – starting again. Although it is never easy, I guess I have a good amount of experience in starting again (and getting 150 teenagers to re-start again with me when we return from break). While these are not groundbreaking tips, these are things that are tried and true and always help me struggle less when heading back to school after the winter break or just starting again in general. So whether you or your kids are heading back to school after some time off, here are some things to help.
1. Be prepared.
It always eases my anxiety by picking out my outfit the night before, packing my lunch, and knowing what I’m making for dinner when I come home from school. Having a plan helps push out some unease.
2. Ease back into your routine.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with things I need to accomplish. I allow myself some time just to go to school, put in a solid day, then come home and do nothing else. I try not to overschedule myself. I give myself permission to relax when I get home for the first few days back from break. While things need to be accomplished, giving a little downtime is absolutely necessary.
3. Plan something you look forward to.
One of my colleagues a few years ago started “Taco Night” in our group of teacher friends. Once a month, someone would take a turn to host dinner and we would all gather for a night of food and board games. It was fun to look forward to those dinners after the holidays were over. Something small like a movie night or allowing your student to pick a meal for dinner one night a week goes a long way.
4. Yoke unpleasant tasks with something you enjoy.
Getting back into a routine means getting back to things we don’t always love. I HATE doing dishes. (Yes, our house built in 1955 has never been updated to include a dishwasher). So I set my iPad up above the sink and watch Gilmore Girls while doing a task I dread. Pair something not so great with something enjoyable helps unpleasant tasks go faster.
5. Watch your self-talk.
Somebody once told me “speak to yourself as you would your best friend on their worst day”. I try really hard not to put myself down or beat myself up for things I didn’t accomplish. My mantra for teaching is “you get done what you get done, and whatever didn’t get done wasn’t all that important”. Our to-do lists are never-ending. So recognize good stopping places and congratulate yourself or your student for a job well done.
As we go into 2020, a lot of us may feel overwhelmed at the whole year ahead of us. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” I don’t know about you, but looking at the whole staircase raises my blood pressure. But taking the first step, that’s something I’ve done a hundred times and that something I can do again. I am looking forward to a year of blogging about mental health, education, and just being a human. And I just took my first steps into doing so!
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life.
Holly can be reached email@example.com
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