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It’s 11:00 PM on a Thursday night and you’ve finally got a moment or two to yourself. You’ve uploaded tomorrow’s lesson for 79 of your students to their virtual classroom, including that YouTube video that you had to figure out how to convert to post. You’ve answered 23 emails from parents, 17 emails from students,  2 from the assistant principal for your grade, 10 text messages and, 1 message from a parent on a social media site (and how did they find your private profile, anyway?). You’ve finished grading Monday’s tests, Tuesday’s quizzes, and started on the writing assignments from Wednesday.  You’ve been in contact with the guidance counselors about a few students who are exhibiting concerning behavior, and you’re trying to contact a student who has not been to class in a week and half. They’re a good student, and you just want to make sure they’re okay.  You’ve gone through your daily mental checklist and ticked off all the boxes. For now, everyone and everything is taken care of for the evening. So why can’t you relax? You’re exhausted, but you can’t seem to get your mind to slow down.  And that nagging headache you’ve had all day – what’s with that? And – hang on, why does it feel like you’re forgetting to do something important? 

Well, it’s entirely possible that what you are experiencing are hidden symptoms of stress. Chronic fatigue, tension headaches, and memory loss can be ways that stress is making itself known (Cedars Sinai, 2019). That headache? Stress releases chemicals that can cause changes to nerves and blood vessels in the brain – which can cause a headache. Additionally, clenched, tense muscles can also trigger a headache. That fatigue and forgetfulness? Those feelings of restlessness? They could all be stress-related. 

So now that you’ve identified some hidden stress symptoms, what do you do? Well, that’s where a little mindfulness can help, by learning how to make self-care a habit. Inner Strength has a free Self-Care Toolkit that can help you do exactly that. Here are a few tips and strategies from the toolkit to help get you started.

Prepare Your Workspace

Even though many of us are still working from home and a workspace can mean anything from a couch to a formal home office, there are still things that can be done to help with stress levels.

  • Reserve 15 minutes before the end of your workday for reflection and processing. Reframe any negative ideas you may consciously or unconsciously have about this being a “luxury” or “personal time” and recognize that reflection and rejuvenation is an essential element of good performance. Know that your ability to positively impact those you work with over the long run and the quality of your performance depend on your own stability and inner reserves.
  • Create your own Self Care Toolkit, one that works for you and that you’ll refer to. Make a list of 5 tools – things you would like to do – and put it in a place you’ll see everyday, e.g. by your computer or mirror. 
  • Take physical breaks from your computer every 2 hours. Stand. Do a brain gym exercise. Walk outside. Look out of the window. Practice mindful breathing.

Remember the moment or two that you finally got to yourself at 11pm? Why not put that to good use?

Journaling & Creative Arts

  • Get a journal and explore creative stream of consciousness writing.
  • Treat yourself to a relaxation coloring book and a nice set of colored pencils or pens.
  • Revisit a favorite hobby such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, scrapbooking, or photography

Physical Relaxation & Rejuvenation

  • Try a foot soak or hot bath with Epsom or Mineral Salts
  • Put on a YouTube yoga routine and stretch
  • Meditate
  • Take time for a DIY facial

These are just a few of the useful ideas that you can find in the Inner Strength Self-Care Toolkit; there are many more! If you have some of your own that you’d like to share, feel free to let us know in the comments!

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