As we reflect on Mental Health Awareness Month, the Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) believes that educators need to be intentional about their own wellness. Thus, PIE offers the following insights by Judy Madden, ACE’s associate director of student support services and faculty in the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program. Judy has provided pastoral support and counsel to ACE program participants for over 20 years, and we are grateful for her contributions to PIE. We hope you’ll read and reflect on Judy’s framework for habits of wellness, and join her to discuss these issues on A Little Slice of PIE with follow up resources.
The glory of God is YOU fully alive!
Say that out loud, but put your own name in.
“The glory of God is <insert your name here> fully alive!”
While I don’t think St. Irenaeus really used your name, I think that is exactly what he meant. God created you to be you. You have everything you need to be your best self, because your loving Creator made sure of it. Now, we also know that life can sometimes throw things at us that keep us from being our best selves. Thus, the multi-billion industry of Health and Wellness is ready to help us restore, relax, and refresh.
Sounds great, doesn’t it!? Who doesn’t want a good vacation, a quiet corner to pray with a cup of tea, or a gym membership? All that is really good! But I submit that you already know what you need, and if you took some time to reflect, you could be a really effective wellness coach for yourself.
So how do you begin?
I like to begin with what science tells us, and research has a great deal to say about the topic. First, it’s helpful to acknowledge that there is a need for intentional wellness. This means to do some thinking about where you have been and where you would like to go. Research tells us that resilience isn’t so much of a “bounce back,” as it is intentionally processing experience and looking for what you learned while you have gone through it. How are you different today than you were before going through the challenge? In what ways have you grown?
Let’s get started! The following steps take you through a process of reflection for a personal wellness plan.
First, think back over the past year or two. Can you identify any factors that led to experiencing ambiguity? Time pressure? Depletion? Take a minute and jot some thoughts down.
Next, organize your thinking about wellness. Use the following Four Domains of Wellness:
- Fuel: How are you fueling yourself for your day? Are you hydrating? What does your caffeine, soda, alcohol intake look like? What might you be dependent upon? Are you able to plan your meals in advance and put things into your body to get maximum benefit from it?
- Sleep: Do you have a sleep routine? We know sleep routines are good for children, but they are just as important to adults. How can you send messages to your body that it's time for sleep, and do you sleep well through the night?
- Move: We know that mental health is dependent upon moving with intention at least 20 minutes per day; that is when our "happy hormones" are released. What does your routine look like?
- Check-Ups: Have you been able to get to your annual doctor and dentist appointments, screenings, etc? The pandemic really disrupted these routines and many people have not reestablished them. How can you get back on track?
- Are your emotional responses to stimuli proportional?
- When was the last time you laughed?
- Are you able to cry when you feel like that expression is helpful to you?
- Would counseling be helpful?
- Are you able to keep your personal prayer life routines?
- Are you able to be honest with God and bear His light to the families and children you serve?
- Who are the most important people in your life? How are you intentionally and regularly in contact with them?
- Who is in your personal “Council of Advisors?”
- How do you spend your free time (e.g., computer games/social media or with real people who are life-giving to you)?
Now, take some time and evaluate where you are today in each of these domains. What are you doing that is working for you? Are there things that you’d like to add or take away that are not working? If so, what? Brainstorm here – make as big a list as you’d like in each domain.
Next, look into the future. Picture yourself in March 2023. How would you like to describe yourself in each of the four domains? What would you like to say about yourself and what behaviors would lead to that? Again, dream big!
Finally, look at the lists you’ve made in each category. Choose one – ONE – behavior that you can implement today in each domain and make that your focus for the next 30 days. If four behaviors are too many, choose one behavior in one domain – that’s totally fine!
How will you remember to do this one thing? Maybe you put a sticky-note on your mirror, or your computer. Maybe you ask a friend to check in with you weekly (accountability increases success). Perhaps you put a calendar reminder on your phone. Whatever it is, make it concrete and check in on yourself regularly.
Over the past few years, additional pandemic stressors have made it difficult to attend to personal wellness. Educators have sacrificed even more to meet the needs of their students and classrooms. However, being more authentically YOU will lead to flourishing. As John reminds us in John 10:10, God wants us to have life and have it abundantly! Intentionally focusing on your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social wellness is critical to this abundant life.
Register here for A Little Slice of PIE and hear more from Judy Madden on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 at 7 pm EST.
Interested in becoming an inclusive educator? PIE 7 Applications are open! Apply on the PIE Website: https://ace.nd.edu/programs/inclusion/apply