Photo by: Richa Laddha

October 13, 2021 / Fall 2021 / Idea File Magazine

Healthy Resilience: Thriving during difficulty through self-care

Written by Julie Marshall and Paula Griffin

Increasing our resiliency was the only choice we had, right?

Being resilient may not have been exactly what was on our minds this past year; just making it through each day was all we could ask. Teaching during COVID pushed teachers and administrators beyond their limits.

As the world tried to figure out how to deal with the crisis, it was educators who came together to find a way to take care of the most basic needs of their students. Story after story emerged about teachers and administrators going above and beyond to reach their students.

There was the administrator who drove the bus routes into the most rural parts of his community every day for weeks to deliver meals to students at home who were accustomed to eating two meals a day at school. Teams of teachers ran an elaborate assembly line to provide worksheets for students to be able to continue their learning process, even without the benefit of Wi-Fi. Yearbook advisers found ways to reinvent the entire production process and still bolster staff. However, the stress of doing what was required took its toll.

Over the past 18 months, we learned many things. One, we can do great things. Two, great things require much effort and without refilling our tanks, we can easily run empty. We can be very much like cars in that we will run for miles with little more than fuel – in other words, coffee from Starbucks. But if we continually skip the crucial maintenance, one day, we will hear a funny noise and the next thing we know, we will be on the side of the road stranded.

Linsey Cramer gets her boxing gloves on for a workout. Because stress manifests in our physical bodies, tension may be felt in our muscles. Many individuals turned to exercise to provide a healthy outlet for relieving stress. Photo by Ava Speropoulos

Our maintenance is termed self-care and has become an important topic. We know we have to take time to care for ourselves first or we won’t have what we need to give to others. Self-care is the ultimate responsibility that will help keep stress in check if practiced routinely. It’s key to building resiliency.

Resilience is the muscle that keeps us going. If we are not careful and don’t build this muscle, we risk losing the spark that inspired us to get into education. Under the best of circumstances, teaching is demanding.

Advising publications adds another layer of demand with deadlines looming, coverage opportunities being more challenging, not to mention the stress of checking facts, spelling names correctly and covering as many students as possible. All the added stress created by the extra work required to keep our students engaged can potentially zap our energy, keeping us from performing our best. This exhaustion impacts our ability to inspire our students.

Stress manifests in different ways for different people. Consider doing a stress self-check for these three areas in your life.

  • Stress is physical. The tightening of your neck and shoulders.
  • Stress is emotional. Tears or anger present at the most inconvenient times and come out of nowhere.
  • Stress is mental. An inability to focus on even the simplest of tasks.

When we get to the point where the emotional, physical and mental tolls of stress take over, we lose our edge and ability to positively impact those around us. This is especially challenging for those of us working with students, publications and deadlines. We can’t control everything that causes stress in yearbook and in life, but we do have the ability to make it a smoother drive by taking care of our daily maintenance, a.k.a. self-care.

Check out our top tips to navigate trying times:

  • Move your body. Even a short walk outside feeling the sunshine on our shoulders allow us to breath more freely and see our problems in perspective. That little boost of Vitamin D can do wonders for the mind and body.
  • Focus on things you can change. Identify what’s causing stress and determine what you can impact and what you can’t. Change one thing within your control. Discover ways to do things more efficiently or delegate responsibilities differently. Don’t get stuck worrying about the things you can’t control.
  • Seek support from colleagues and friends. Connect with the people around you and ask for help. Now is not the time to go it alone, no matter how strong you are.
  • Evaluate and adjust your environment. Our brain loves order, and tidying up our workspace does wonders for clearing a crowded mind. Adjust your lighting, play music or burn a scented candle to adjust the mood in your space.
  • Rest regularly. We know that sleep has an enormous impact on how we feel, both emotionally and physically. However, it’s often the first thing we compromise when there’s not enough time.
  • Write it down. Make a list of everything that is on your mind, including all of your to-do’s. Make sure important

    On the first day back to fully in-person learning, students walk through the crowded halls underneath balloons that read, “not today virus.” Schools employed a variety of tactics to keep up morale. It was part of an effort to keep both the mind and the body healthy. Photo by Emma Kate Squires

    deadlines are written down. Organization and having thoughts out of your head and written down on paper can relieve some of the burden.

  • Schedule it. Whether it’s sleep, exercise, appointments or personal time with a friend, deciding what you’ll do with the hours you have will ease overwhelmed feelings and help you focus.
  • Establish boundaries. Identify what is most important to you and do that. Practice it. Try “It wouldn’t be responsible of me to take this on right now.”
  • Practice gratitude. Intentionally reflecting on the things and people we are thankful for brings more of that into our mind and the practice strengthens our positivity muscles.

These lifestyle practices can help you maintain and build resiliency in your life, even as uncertainty surrounds us. We each experience highs and lows, but recognizing the signs of stress and being able to react accordingly will help you recover.

As author, speaker and our Resilience Reset webinar host Anne Grady says, “Every time you fall and get back up, you can add that to the database of things that did not defeat you.”

Next time you feel the stress seeping in and taking over, think of it as a “check engine” light. Practicing self-care as regular maintenance can help us get back on the road and become more resilient.

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Julie Marshall and Paula Griffin

Julie Marshall is a sales manager for Walsworth Yearbooks, based in Austin, Texas. She has served schools in the southern U.S. for 27 years; and been awarded the Friend of Journalism Award by the Texas Journalism Educator Association; and the Edith Fox King Award by Interscholastic League Press Conference. Paula Griffin is a Walsworth Yearbooks sales rep, based in Austin, Texas, with fellow rep Davis Gamble. She is a certified journalism, communications, speech, technology and English teacher with more than 20 years of experience working with high school publications.