Let’s be honest – there’s a lot to be negative about on any given day. Some of it’s legit and some is just invented drama that adds to the chaos and noise that seems to have become our new “normal”. We all have legitimate concerns – health, family, financial stability, safety, and just plain survival. We have worries and stress from work, family, relationships, and life choices. We have fears – old and new – and we have baggage we bring along with us that feels like those links Jacob Marley forged in life and carried in death from A Christmas Carol. When put together, we have every reason to feel like we’re trekking across the Sahara Desert – naked and afraid – with nothing but those chains we’re dragging around with us. In the midst of the negatives that feel soul crushing at times, I find myself asking, “What’s the point? Why am I putting myself through this?” It’s so easy to give into the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything and just quit trying to feel hopeful or positive about anything. But in the education field, it’s our business to teach – to model how to get through those times, to have the knowledge that we can reason and think our way out of these perceptions, and the ability to share that knowledge with others so they, too, can learn how to navigate themselves through it. So how do we keep our own mental health positive when all around us is striving to bring us down into the abyss with it?
In my little corner of the world, the school year is winding down, and it seems like the bad behaviors, ornery attitudes, and grumpy staff just increases. I get it – we’re all tired. We all need a break from one another. As the admin, I see the whole school community – so much more than I’ve seen in any of my other roles so far – and I’m finding the weight of all of it becoming heavier as we approach the finish line. I’ve found myself feeling like I’m just trying to keep my head above water most days, and that’s not the mental place I want to be in, for myself, my staff, or my students. So what to do?
Well, there are those moments . . . the ones that come out of the blue and lift me up and inspire me to keep on keeping on, like a breath of fresh air . . .
. . . like our Music teacher who has literally taken on three extra assignments this year – totally not related to music – with a cheerful calm that helped keep special events for kids going by filling in the gap for missing staff . . .
. . . or our Behavior Whisperer (who’s regular job is a classroom teacher) who volunteers her lunch and plan time to work with our kiddos in crisis . . .
. . . or our amazing Custodians who never bat an eye or let their calm way and easy smile slip, even when we send them some rather eye-popping requests . . .
. . . or our Sunshine and Rainbows guy (who’s actual job is a SPED teacher) who never fails to bring a sunny smile, an infectious laugh, and a sparkling wit just when you need it most . . .
. . . or our Zen master (whose real job was a Reading Specialist) who helped us all stay centered, balanced, well, and calm in the midst of any crisis . . .
. . . or my secret supporter who leaves me small presents and cards that lift my spirits just when I’m sure I’m the most hated person in the building . . .
. . . or any of the other dozens of people who pitch in, come alongside, and shoulder some weight to lighten the load – just to be helpful. I’m so grateful for every one of those acts of teamwork, selflessness, and comraderie that go so far in helping us all accomplish the mission, which is teaching and supporting students.
When the day is kicking me down, I don’t have far to look to find someone who’s willing to help, offer a kind word, or just be encouraging. I can’t do any less than they are doing, and that gives me the motivation to “keep the pace” even when my energy (and attitude) is flagging. And there’s the key – seek out help around you, in whatever form it shows up or in whatever form you need it.
And that got me thinking – what would happen if every time I felt like things were going downhill I looked around and found something to point to that was positive? What if I found things to be grateful for in the midst of the swirling mess? Hmm. That sounds like an idea worth pursuing. I’ll keep you posted on what I find.
Meanwhile, as we wrap up another school year, I challenge you to find five things that made you smile, made you feel like it was all worth it, or you’re just plain grateful about. It’s amazing how much “making your own sunshine” lightens up the space around you! And then take those things and see if there’s some way to pay that forward next year / next season by being intentional about being positive, looking for the good, or simply cultivating a new habit of being grateful for all the blessings that surround each of us everyday, if we take the time to look.
Gratitude is an attitude. Embrace the “sunshine” in your life!