Switching off.

What will you be doing over the holidays to ensure that you “switch off” and ensure you enter into September refreshed?

I was tagged into a thread yesterday around this question and it got me thinking.

I think and reflect a lot about well being and self care. If you look back through my writing, you we see that they are themes that, in fact,  I write and think about almost obsessively.

A while back, I wrote a piece for the General Teaching Council for Scotland magazine and I think that most of what I said there is still pretty robust.

https://www.gtcs.org.uk/News/teaching-scotland/73-for-the-sake-of-all-look-after-yourself.aspx

But  today I want to return to one key suggestion that I made in that piece:

“Know yourself and your own wellbeing thresholds. Mine will not be the same as yours. When we talk about mental health we need to remember that there is no normal; my mental health is not necessarily yours. What is important is that each one of us understands what we need to do individually to keep mentally and physically healthy.”

The more I grow and learn, the more I think that this is the most important thing that we can do, if we want to be nurturing, calm, positive, realistically optimistic and caring. 

So, if you are reading this piece and looking for a tip or piece of advice on how you can switch off and restore your well-being ahead of September…….

Well, firstly, you need to stop reading now. Because I’m restoring mine for August, as that’s when Scottish schools will return. 

(Then again who really knows when any of us will actually go back, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic….?)

Ok, look….This hasn’t started very well has it? Telling you to stop reading when probably all you were looking was a bit of touchy-feely, caring advice about breathing, mindfulness and yoga and maybe some pictures of cute animals….

Don’t get me wrong, I love those things. They are all part of how I look after myself and they have been of particular help during COVID. If you want some of my thoughts on them, pop over to my YouTube channel where I made 69 videos to hope get through Corona lockdown and school closures. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIF9_qSGQ6X54cS6oQgEuDA

Ok. Let me try again.

Read on if:

You are nearly 51.

You are a teacher of Secondary Drama, French and German.

You have done the Scottish Into Headship Qualification but have not managed (yet) to become a head.

You are seconded to work with Care Experienced Children.

You are in the throes of the peri-menopause.

You are married to a retired husband, have two teenage children and a dog.

Your have a mother who grew up in communist Lithuania and whose father was killed in Hitler’s army before she was born.

You have parents who were both teachers in the state sector and you never really planned to be a teacher because of that.

You trained as a therapist in your twenties.

You find it impossible not to speak out if you think things aren’t right.

You believe in the absolute power of love and relationships to heal.

You believe in the absolute power of relationships to cause harm.

You are a survivor of child sexual abuse and anorexia. And still in recovery from both, because recovery never ends.

You are called Lena Carter

Ah.

I’m guessing you have had to stop again.

Because the combination of experiences, skills and qualities which make up you and the unique, wonderful human you are, are never going to be exactly the same as mine.

And, of course, the thing is, you won’t find what YOU need by reading about what I do.

What I do works for me but won’t be whole-scale what works for you.

And, to complicate things a bit more, some things I do some days work really well and then the next day, don’t work AT ALL.

But bear with me for a minute more…….

Let’s go back to “switching off”.

(Incidentally, I once caused huge offence to someone in a school I worked in because I added this Anne Lamott quote to the end of term newsletter: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a while, including you.” From which I discovered that almost everything you say or do can be taken the wrong way…)

In terms of “switching off”, whether in the holidays or at other times when I am feeling overwhelmed or at an emotional low ebb, what works for me is generally about me “switching off” the voices of others for a while and getting in touch with the voice that is mine. What works is “switching off” the voices that perhaps have power and influence because they are those of “the system” but which don’t necessarily align with mine. And what works is “switching off” the over-thinking, responsible, adult part of me that cares for and protects the children, families and colleagues in my care and allowing the messy, irresponsible and child-like part to have a bit of time and space.

In the summer holidays four years ago, I wrote a book. It was a self-help book about how to help myself but I also wrote it in the hope that it might help others. Not whole-sale, but simply as a template for sense-making.

In it, I say:

“Of course ultimately, the only expert in your life is you.

Life is complex. But that is its simplicity. If we understand that, we can own life.”

If I have one piece of advice, then, on “switching off” this summer, it is this:

Switch off from the advice of others and tune in to doing what is right for you. 

Re-connect with things that matter to YOU and silence the external noise so that you can hear the voice of your true self, values and heart.

Stay safe and well. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

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