Lifestyle

12 Days of Balance

By Darri Stephens

You’ve heard of the 12 Days of Christmas but this year, how about trying the 12 Days of Balance? We know that there are never enough minutes in a day to get our professional work done, never mind personal to-dos. Plus, many educators are truly passionate about their jobs and research shows that creative jobs tend to be more all-consuming. During this winter break, we’d like you to give yourself a gift. We know you are used to thinking about others — especially those 20+ kids in your class — so, if you were able to choose a gift for your own self-care, what would it be?

Here are 12 ideas to inspire you.

1. Shopping: They call it “retail therapy” for a reason. Research conducted by the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that not only does shopping make people feel happier in the moment but it also fought “lingering sadness or stress.” However, the sport of shopping does include window shopping — an inexpensive pastime. And did you know that many retailers give educator-specific discounts? Here are just a few that provide year-round discounts:

  • J. Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, Madewell, Talbots, Eddie Bauer
  • Barnes & Noble, Half Price Books, The New York Times
  • Overstock membership, West Elm
  • Hobby Lobby, Office Max, Jo-Ann Fabric, Michaels
  • AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon

2. Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is a healing treatment to improve the mind, body, and spirit via fragrant essential oils. You can gift yourself time to literally smell the roses! Consider the relaxing aromas of candles, incense, diffusers, bath salts, and body oils.

3. Culture: Did you know many museums give teachers admission discounts? Many other institutions also are free. Google your local town or city’s calendar of events to find street fairs, performances, and other local fare.

4. Personal growth: Your town or surrounding towns may offer city-based classes through a local community center, YMCA, JCC, or college. Many are evening classes, which is great for us working folks. Look online and consider taking a 6-12 week class. The fees are often low and they offer a wide variety of topics: tennis, art, pottery, yoga, calligraphy, foreign language, swimming … I’m always surprised when I see the variety of seasonal offerings.

5. Social events: Check out sites like meetup.com, Bumble, DoStuff, and Eventbrite for local social opportunities. Go to brunch, listen to a band, or take a hike. Getting out and spending time with people that share your interests provides fantastic health benefits, including boosting your brain health and lowering your risk of dementia.

6. Reading: My favorite way to lose myself and check out for a bit is to crack open a new book. You can access many free digital books through your local library or sites like Goodreads and Open Library or audiobooks via Overdrive or Spotify. Plus, you get  50% off on a New York Times subscription. Or check out our latest recommended book lists!

7. Gardening: Create an indoor garden of herbs, vegetables, or microgreens with a south-facing window or grow light. You can use cups, pots, boxes, plastic bottles. bowls, planters, containers of water, wall hangings, terrariums, a mini greenhouse, or a hydroponic garden (or just go for a zen sand garden!)

8. Cooking: Use those homegrown herbs or vegetables in a new recipe! You may have to find some willing guinea pigs, but break out of your comfort zone and try some baking or one-pot creations. Follow a recipe, watch a cooking show, or craft your own dish.

9. Movies: Try a little escapism to take your mind off of your to-do list or worries. How about some good ol’ storytelling. Many theaters — such as the Regal and AMC chains — even provide teacher discounts. What is your favorite genre? Is it nostalgic Disney flicks, action-adventure, or romcoms? 

10. Walking: Exercise is therapeutic, but you don’t need to go to a gym or purchase special equipment to reap the benefits. Walking is easy to do and great for your health. So try going for a walk each day during the break and take the time to enjoy the outdoors and breathe.

11. No devices: Give yourself the gift of no technology. Go device-free for an entire day (or just an hour or two, if a day seems too daunting). Enjoy some mental space without the pressure to reply, post, or like.

12. Sleeping: Many professionals will tell you that the key to good health is sleep. Go to bed an hour earlier, try an afternoon nap, or, if sleep doesn’t come easily, try to unwind in a soothing bubble bath or something that allows you to wind down physically and mentally.

I hope you take the time to take care of you over the break. Enjoying 12 days of balance can recharge you so that you are in tip-top shape for your students when you return to the classroom. Hopefully, these 12 days will get you into the practice of carving out some time for self-care even after the break is a distant memory.

Darri Stephens is a former member of Teach for America and a seasoned educator, with more than 10 years’ experience in Los Angeles and New York City public schools. She’s a published author, who has also worked for education-focused media companies including Nickelodeon, IMAX, EdSurge, and Discovery Education. With master’s degrees in education from both Harvard and Stanford, she’s passionate about creative curriculum development that pushes boundaries, especially considering the influx of today’s technologies. Her most recent positions as Senior Director of Content at Common Sense and Director of Education at Wonder Workshop underscore her love of instructional design, writing, and the ever-changing edtech world — so much so that she has now founded her own content consulting agency, Darrow Ink.

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