Transitions Are Hard - Be Gentle With Yourself
This week is teacher work week.
As I write this, I am now at home after an all-day, off site professional development training with all the certified staff at my school. The details of the training itself aren’t particularly important. What is important is how I felt by the end of the day: really, really tired.
That’s probably not any kind of shocking revelation, but as I was sitting there, preparing to leave, I thought about what the post-school afternoon held for me. My internal dialogue was something like this:
• I wish I hadn’t forgotten to put my gym bag in my car this morning.
• If I did, then it would be so much easier for me to go right to the gym right now.
• But I didn’t, so I guess I could stop back at the house and change and then go to the gym.
• Or not.
• But maybe I could go for a walk or a bike ride or something.
• Or not.
• I could stop at Target on my way home to pick up the stuff I have on my list.
• (You see where this is going…)
• Or not.
• Dammit, why am I feeling bad about not going to the gym when I’m super-tired anyway? Arg!
< fade to black with frustrated, guttural sounds of exasperation in the background >
I could go on, but you get the idea. What runs through my mind is an internal dialogue where I beat myself up (and since mindful awareness and self-compassion are my “thing,” feel tempted to beat myself up for beating myself up – talk about a cycle of violence). As studies by Dr. Kristin Neff have shown, self-criticism like this is ineffective at best and self-destructive at worst. Arg!
Whether you’re an educator or not (we have some folks in the Teaching Balance community who aren’t), August is a time of transition. In spite of my desire to be exceedingly resilient in the face of any challenge, I’ve come to the honest conclusion that I struggle with transition. I struggle with the big ones, like the beginning and the end of the school year, as well as little ones, like when I start teaching an after-school class or just dealing with coming back to work after the winter holidays. Hi, my name is Kristin and I am transitionally challenged.
What I’ve learned, after finally admitting this to myself, is that I need to be particularly gentle with myself at times of transition.
I did not go to the gym. I came home, checked the mail, washed the coffee pot out, ate a couple of ginger snaps, pulled out my gym bag to remember to bring it tomorrow, sat down at my desk, and started writing this post. This was a balance of things I needed to do and wanted to do. More importantly, I did these things with an attitude of acceptance for my tiredness, and chose to let go of my impulse to trying to accomplish too much.
The theme/invitation for August is to be gentler with yourself.
If you’re anything like me, you get into the habit of holding yourself to a certain standard in life. While it’s totally fine to aspire to function optimally, circumstances that we cannot control can keep that from being an even remotely realistic expectation. The key is to realize and acknowledge these challenging circumstances and loosen the pressure we put on ourselves. This month, try to make an effort to go easy on yourself, and remember to be as kind and gentle and supportive to yourself as you would a good friend.