The I Factor In Your Wellbeing

Back at the start of this year I read a tweet by Paul Dix, inviting people to pitch ideas for shows on a new radio station called TeacherHug Radio.

You can find out more about the station here: About – Teacher Hug Radio

My pitch pretty much went like this:

“I have been involved for many years in writing and talking about well-being, with a focus on the fact that each and every individual will have a different version of habits, routines and activities that assist in keeping them well.

The focus of the show will be on talking to a range of individuals about what works for them and reiterating the fact that there is no model or one size fits all template for ensuring well-being and self-care. We all need to find the I-Factor in our Wellbeing; listening to two fantastic guests on the show each month, as they explain what they have done, in their individual ways, to achieve this will be re-assuring, inspiring and entertaining.

By making sure that our teachers are well and thriving, we are making sure that the children in our educational settings are the same. It is a wellbeing win-win for all concerned.

Back in 2018, I was invited to write a piece for Teaching Scotland, the magazine of the General Teaching Council for Scotland on Teacher Wellbeing.

The key takeaway from that piece remains my mantra: “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.“

I can also talk from personal experience of trying to hard to find answers in the wrong places and eventually deciding, aged 51, that I need to look less for external answers and fixes and more at working with the material I have! I wrote a book about my experiences of overcoming mental health challenges and made it into a podcast:

I advocate that staff in education should be Professional Humans and would be keen to explore the idea of authenticity and that wellbeing is often impacted in schools where the diversity of staff is not celebrated and embraced.”

Luckily for me, Paul and the team took a punt on me and my idea and today saw the six month anniversary of my show.

I have absolutely adored being part of Teacherhug, as the values of the team are aligned completely with mine and I get to talk, laugh and sometimes even cry with amazing people and share their important voices with the world of education.

I cannot deny that doing the show has been a huge part of my own strategies to stay well, over what has been an exceptionally challenging time for me in recent months.

I owe huge thanks to the team at Teacherhug for being patient, encouraging and gentle with me as I have learned how to curate a radio show.

I also owe huge thanks to the guests who have been so generous with their time and stories and connected with me and the listeners with authenticity, courage and integrity:

Christine and Julien in February

Fiona and Alison in March

John and Mal in April

Robin and Clare in May

Nic and Emma in June

And Charli in July.

And to every listener who has let me know that this show has brought some insight, calm or breathing space into their life, I am hugely grateful.

I feel very proud of the first six episodes of the I Factor in Your Wellbeing. I have many wonderful guests lined up for future shows and I would love to hear from YOU, if you’d like to come and talk to me about the I Factor in YOUR wellbeing.

You can listen again to the June episode on the Listen Again page of the website:

Listen Again – Programmes – Teacher Hug Radio

If you read this in time, you can also catch the sixth show at 1pm on Sunday August 8th.

For a taster of that episode, here is my introduction:

Hello there again gorgeous listeners.

I’m Lena Carter and I’m absolutely delighted to be with you here again today on Teacher Hug Radio. This my show, The I-Factor in Your Wellbeing and once again, over the next hour, we will share some time and space to explore, quite simply, how we as teachers keep ourselves well. How do we do this in a profession that can be incredibly exhilarating and rewarding but also at times challenging and downright exhausting? If you missed us last time don’t worry at all, as whenever you join us on this journey will be the right time for you.

In today’s show I’m going to spend a bit of time pausing and reflecting on the fact that this is my sixth show and that I’ve been doing this now for six months.

I have to confess to feeling a sense of pride in that fact and I’m both humbled and honoured that many of you fantastic listeners have been with me from Show One back in February right through to today.

Now, of course, almost all of us will now be on a break from teaching.

I talked in the last month’s episode about what holidays might mean to us and how each one of us needs to work out how we make the most of holidays, to ensure that we get the most out of them… and as ever, there is no one size fits all.

I hope that whatever plans you made for this holiday are coming to fruition and that the stop-start nature of holiday planning that we’ve all experienced over the last year and a half in the face of COVID-19 has receded a little.

And wherever you are and whatever you’re doing I also hope that you’re finding a little time to just stop and be still.

There is a wonderful quote by author Anne Lamott, which says “almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Now of course the reality is that, as living, breathing human beings, we are never completely still or “off.” Even when we are resting or sleeping, our brains and physiology are working away and there is an activity going on in the background that our conscious brains aren’t even aware of. And in reality, complete switching off only comes when it’s time for us to shuffle off this mortal coil.

But regardless of that, almost every single philosophy or programme relating to our mental or physical health places value on the importance of stopping and taking a pause. Whether it’s the rest day in your marathon training or the shivasana in your yoga programme, pausing and being still is a universally recognised factor in helping us to stay well.

Last year during lockdown I listened to a really interesting programme with Michael Palin, the traveller and writer. He talked about the inherent need in humans to explore and keep moving out of the valley we are in and towards the next horizon. Curiosity, exploration and learning are certainly important parts of human existence and yet it’s also hugely important that we remember to enjoy and appreciate the journey we are on and all that we are and have already achieved, as well as aiming for the next destination.

This is so important in education, where we can allow ourselves sometimes to be trapped by the hamster wheel of attainment, constantly pushing for children to achieve the next level but barely pausing for breath or to celebrate what has already been achieved.

So in the interests of both moving forward and bringing something new to the show AND pausing and focusing on what we have already achieved together, today’s programme is slightly different to usual.

After the break you’re going to hear from my first fantastic guest Charli Prime as she talks about the I Factor in her Well-being and the amazing discoveries she’s made in recent years about how to and how not to keep herself well.

And then in part three we’re going to go back to the very first interview that I did on the show with my wonderful friend and colleague Christine Couser.

Maybe,if you didn’t hear it first time round, this interview will be new to you but for those of you for whom it isn’t, it will be a chance to pause, be still and remember that we don’t always need need novelty to ensure quality.

Something very important that connects Charli, Christine and I is the fact that all of us have engaged with a program called Columba 1400. This is a leadership program which works with children and young people, teachers and school leaders to help bring out the best in themselves and achieve their potential. It was the brainchild of Norman Drummond, who is a former headteacher and minister amongst many, many other things. If you haven’t read his book “The Spirit of Success” I would strongly recommend it, as a book which is about connecting your authentic self with your work self, your head with your heart and your personal beliefs with your pedagogy.

When you attend the Columba 1400 headteacher leadership Academy, as Charli, Christine and I have all done, you’re introduced to the idea of the daily “chill and still”. This encourages all of us, even on our busiest days, to take a moment to stop and be still. In The Spirit of Success Norman writes that “this is a marvellous thing to do regularly, perhaps at the beginning and end of each day. Enable your mind to clear itself of all thoughts by relaxing to some beautiful music for a few minutes, looking at a stunning view or simply listening to the silence. This kind of mental detox can produce marvellous results. If your mind is allowed to clear itself and rest, new ideas and fresh energy will result.”

I hope that you manage to find your still and chill moments this holiday. I hope your mind clears itself and that you find the new energy that will enable you to move forward with new ideas but perhaps some old ideas too.

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