Take a Break
The words of the Hamilton song, "Take a Break", are forever running through my head the moment I get home from school.
The week before Thanksgiving break, we were back to 100% remote, which is what we had been for the first 10 weeks of school. I felt like I had everything under control and that I could handle what this year was throwing at me. My body, on the other hand, had a different opinion. I had never felt anxiety like that before in my life. For a solid week, I constantly had a pit in my stomach that I couldn't seem to get rid of no matter how much I worked ahead. I couldn't sleep...maximum 5 hours a night. For those that know me, I cannot function on less than 7 hours of sleep.
On about night 4 of little to no sleep, I made the decision to take my work email off of my phone and to delete the app altogether as of 3 p.m. Friday, the last day of school before break.
Following Meredith White's (@PRHSspanish) advice, I created a "To Don't" list for break. My items included not checking school email, not grading and not lesson planning. I worked throughout the week on planning for our return so that I wouldn't have to work over break at all.
If you've been following me or my blog, you know how hard it is for me to set up boundaries. I work a ton. I don't know how productive I am since I'm online all day, but it seems to never end. However, this recent episode of anxiety caused me to take a closer look at my mental health and how I was going to feel better. (If you are dealing with anxiety, please talk to someone about it! As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety for the majority of my adult life, there is no shame in seeking professional help.)
I knew I couldn't completely step away from my other side hustles, but I knew that I needed to limit my work to maybe a couple of hours for the week to fully detox myself while also not feeling that my to do list was growing as I wasn't doing anything. Because teachers know that there is anxiety that builds up in the down time and we feel guilty about all of the things that need to be done that aren't getting done because we are taking a break.
I had a game plan, and I was ready to tackle stepping away from school. 3:00 PM on Friday came, and my school email was deleted off of my phone. I let my students know that I wouldn't respond to them or grade work until we got back from break. I wasn't giving them work over break, so I wanted to remind them that I deserved a break, too!
As I drove away from the school Friday afternoon, I could start to feel my anxiety subside. My stomach wasn't in knots, and I felt like I could breathe. Throughout the week, I read a book for fun, from cover to cover, in 4 days. I worked on a little housework. I spent quality time with my husband and didn't discuss school. I worked a couple hours here and there on my side hustles, but I completely stepped away from school.
When I checked my email Sunday evening before school started the next day, I fully expected an inbox full of emails that would need to be dealt with. However, I was surprised to see that I didn't have a single email that needed my attention right away.
I learned a lot last week. I learned that I can step away from school, and the world didn't end.
So after that I made a promise to myself. I wasn't going to put my email back on my phone. I was going to work as much as I could during the school day to ensure that I could fully step away in the evenings and the weekends. I've also made plans to keep my mind occupied in other ways. Remember those peaches I peeled and froze? They are going to end up in a cobbler on Saturday. I'm going to work a little here and there on my side hustles, but as for school, I'm going to try my hardest to keep it at school.