How to Reconnect as a Team After COVID 19?

As we begin the process of returning to work many of us are asking, “How do we reconnect as a team?”. “How do we get everyone working together again after being away from each other for such a long time?”

It is true for most of us, regardless of who you were as a team before COVID 19, this experience has probably shifted and changed things. None of us is the same as when we went into self-isolation. For many of us, having this time at home stripped of the noise of “normal” life has given us a new perspective on what is important to us.

We are the product of our experiences and this experience will have changed how you think, and feel about yourself, your life and your priorities in some way.

Alert Level 3 is weird in many ways. We are gearing to get ready for “normal” to return. But it can be a demotivating place to be – almost as if we are stuck in some sort of holding pattern. And as much as many of us would like to “get back to normal”, the truth is that “normal” is going to be different. The anticipation of what the difference might be can be unsettling and even frightening.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Pushing the Reset Button

So what does that mean for ourselves as teachers and leaders who are part of a centre whanau?

Some of us might have grown from this experience. Some of us might have not coped as well as others mentally and emotionally. And some of us might have had a shift in values and priorities.

Depending on what you have been thinking, watching, reading, listening to or the webinars you attended over this period, this too might have shaped your thinking as an individual.

For most of us, going back to our centres this will be a period of adjusting. Self-isolation has been a good time for “zooming in” and reconnecting with ourselves and our families. However, it is now time for many of us to “zoom-out”, to extend our bubbles, and to think about how we can reconnect with our wider centre whānau. This an exciting time and the adjustment period might include reflecting on how our new priorities and values might “fit” now that we are back together.

This might be a bit of an uncomfortable experience at times. It may challenge us in ways that we might not enjoy. However, growth does not happen in the comfort zone. Change need not be a bad thing, it can lead to amazing new possibilities.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

– M Scott Peck

Creating a Culture for Change

The foundation for all change to occur is through the relationship. After months of distancing ourselves from others, it is now a time to reconnect with each other one person to another. We need to ensure that together we weave a whāriki that is big and robust enough for us all to stand on.

In order for us to be able to feel that we are able to contribute, communicate how we are feeling and express our ideas or explore together as a team, we must first feel that we belong and that our wellbeing is taken care of. This highlights the need for us all to be part of an environment of physiological and emotional safety.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE

 Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

Amy Edmondson

When we have psychological safety we make space for being human and acknowledge that human emotions are part of this. Many of us don’t see vulnerability and professionalism as being part of the same story, but then wonder why we can’t relate or feel so disconnected from each other.

Just as how our children are unable to eat, play and trust a caregiver if they don’t feel safe. It is exactly the same for the adults in our places.

Leaders Belong Here Too

Many leaders that I speak to, to some extent feel that they don’t belong, that they are an outsider to the team. When I was a centre manager, I too felt like this from time to time.

Many leaders who have moved from teacher to leader in a centre, have spoken about the hurt they feel when they are no longer invited to be part of social events or excluded from group chats. It is almost like this is the accepted norm.

I have often wondered if this is a role that we cast ourselves in as leaders if this comes from our team or a bit of both?

I was really inspired by a Vince Gowmon’s workshop – Creating Healing Cultures on The Conscious Collective’s, Play to Heal the World Festival.

Vince spoke about how anything that we want to create on the outside, we must first create on the inside first.  You cannot create a culture of true belonging and safety if it does not feel true for you too.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

How many of you when looking for connection and belonging, as the leader but also as part of a community, get stuck like in disconnection from the past and hold onto this as evidence as to why you shouldn’t trust and be vulnerable in the future? We allow our fear of what might happen, as well as our distrust in ourselves and our own abilities, stop us from realising our potentials. And, as a result, we shy away from the very thing we are wired to do – connect… Do we hide behind labels, titles and roles as a way to keep ourselves separate and safe; in case we will need to have a difficult conversation with someone in the future? Frightened by the messiness of human relationships, we isolate ourselves behind our “management” armour and keep our “professional distance” denying ourselves the joy of whole-hearted human connection. Consequently, our centre cultures and children’s experiences are poorer because of it.

Weaving Your Leadership Whāriki – Tanya Valentin

How many of us in leadership positions have the courage to “buck this trend?”.

Do we feel that we are able to be vulnerable with the people in our teams and to express how we feel, to talk about our need to connect?

How do we go about breaking down some of these walls and together with our team to build an environment where everyone truly belongs?

What would these conversations look like?

What would the space look like, where we can all be vulnerable and brave?

What types of whole-hearted connections could be forged through this healing?

Tanya Valentin ECE

Going Forward

Now that you have had a bit of time and space between yourself and “business as normal” it might be time to do a bit of a stocktake of the last year. The team of the past.

It may be timely to assess what was working and you would like to keep. Or to decide what could be improved on. We could evaluate what was not working and we would like to leave in the past. We have a small window of opportunity here to pivot, change and reset if we so choose.

You have a unique opportunity here, especially if there was some conflict in the ranks before self-isolation, to bring everyone together through our collective traumatic experience – the commonality of what we are all going through. You have the opportunity to move people past the events of the past that caused a disconnect in your team and to inspire everyone towards working towards a common goal for the greater good of your learning community.  To create an “Us-ness” –  a deep-seated feeling of belonging for everyone who was part of this experience.

The guiding questions that stand out for me when going through this transition are “Who do we want to be?” as well as “What feels right for us”.

Some Practical Ideas for Reconnection

The Reverse Bucket-List

As a team chat together about the last six months, year (whatever period of time feels relevent for you). Talk about and list all the things that you have accomplished together as a team. Create a list of milestones and things that you can feel proud of as part of this team.

Create a Manifesto

A manifesto is a statement of what you value as a unit. It communicates, “this is who we are”. A manifesto provides an expression of unity and reminds us that we are part of something meaningful.

Some of the things you might reflect on are:

  • What are the things that we value?
  • What are the things that make us unique?
  • What are the things that we enjoy doing together?
  • What would we like to be known for?

Spot Each Other’s Superpowers

What we focus on is what we will see more of. When we focus on the annoying habits of others this is all that we will see. When we focus on strengths this is too is what we will see more of.

  • In your next team meeting, take a moment to list everyone in your team.
  • One by one name everyone on the list and discuss why you are grateful for this person and what their superpower might be.
  • Make a list of everyone’s superpowers and display this in your staffroom.
  • In the coming week take the time to notice when people are working in thier superpower and acknowledge them for this.

Play

As adults we too need to make time and place for play. Things seem so much better when marinated in fun.

  • At your next team meeting, brainstorm some crazy hair, pyjama wearing, cape brandishing opportunities and how often you will have these. (You might want to get ideas from the tamariki in your setting too).
  • Number the ideas and put all the ideas in a container.
  • Ask everyone to pick an idea out of the container – the number indicates the order in which the fun will occur, and the person who picked the idea out of the container will be responsible for making it happen.
Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Make Time for Gratitude

Let gratitude become the new norm in your place. Create a team ritual where you notice and speak to each other about the good things that happened in the day. Gratitude helps our body to release oxytocin that helps us to build and strengthen relationships and build trust.

For more connection ideas check out my books 3 Good Things for Teams and 3 Good Things for Children .

I would love to hear what has helped the people in your team connect in the past.

You may also like

Embracing Change During Self-Isolation

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

This year started for me with a with great anticipation. The promise of a new decade filled me with hope and excitement for what the future might hold.

I joined groups that dared me to dream and set big, audacious, scary goals. I reached out of my comfort zone, facilitating workshops further away from home. I invested in personal development for myself by booking time with some of my favourite inspirational speakers. I bought tickets to rock concerts and planned days in the city with my daughters. I planned trips away with friends…

And in the blink of an eye, this all changed…

One by one plans that had been months and even years in the making slowly were cancelled or postponed.

Hugs, handshakes and hongi disappeared.

The allowed group size of people continued to shrink. Until we were only allowed close contact with the people in our immediate bubbles.

All the things that had become a normal way of being and had seemed so important just a few weeks ago lost their urgency.

Responding to change

How life has changed…

We have gone from vague reports about a virus affecting people overseas and thinking, “This could never happen to us in New Zealand” to self-isolation in just a few months.

We are all collectively mourning. Mourning for the way things used to be and for the things that we have lost. Change happens to us all and change happens all the time. However, what has thrown most of us is the speed with which this change happened.

Please know that this is okay, and 100% normal to be feeling what you are feeling. No matter where you are – shock and denial, guilt and pain, anger and bargaining, depression, reflection or loneliness, the upward turn, reconstruction and working through or acceptance and hope, know that you are allowed to be here and so are the others around you. Own the stage you are in and don’t try to push yourself to the next stage before you are ready. Be kind and patient with yourself and those around you.

You might be feeling less than resilient right now, but be assured that you are stronger and way more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Sometimes we can feel like we are buried under all the overwhelming things that are happening around us. But in reality we have actually been planted so that we can grow.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services.

We do not grow our resilience in the easy times. Just like our muscles need stress and exercise – little micro-tears to build and strengthen them – so do we need to stretch and tear our resilience muscles. Strength and resilience grow out of adversity.

Letting go

I know that I am the eternal optimist, but this time of self-isolation has been a gift in many ways. This has been a time for me to reflect and evaluate. It is almost like taking away some of the “noise” of life has allowed me time to focus on what is truly important to me.

The gift of time has allowed me to take a big long look at myself and how I was living – to engage in a real internal evaluation of self. To notice where my energy is flowing. To decide what is working and what I would like to keep. But also to think critically about the things that are not working and what I need to let go of. This time has allowed me to grow new skills and practice mental and emotional muscles that I might not have had the opportunity to if I hadn’t gone through this. I know that this experience will make me a stronger, more creative and resilient person if I just don’t get caught up in the drama.

Lessons from nature

This is something that is mirrored so beautifully in nature around me at the moment.

We have just gone through a drought up here in Northland and the cooler and sometimes wetter days has allowed the ground to rejuvenate and the dry fields around me to sprout with renewed green pasture.

However, paradoxically, other parts of nature are beginning to let go. The trees are starting to shed their leaves and are entering their rest phase to conserve energy.

In a changing world, the constant predictable transitions in nature are something that we can all take great comfort in and learn from.

We too need to let go of things to protect our mauri, our energy and allow new shoots to grow where we once thought it was barren. Holding onto the past will just cause us unnecessary pain and stress.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Things on my “to keep pile”

George Santayana, famously said, ” Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

And so I would be remiss to not take a moment to reflect on the lessons that I have learnt during this period in my HERstory.

  • First of all, I am extremely grateful to be a New Zealander right about now. Our Prime Minister has acted with decisiveness, and transparency through what must have been some really difficult decisions. She and the government were able to put aside differences with the best interests of us all at the heart of the matter. This has been tough, but I firmly believe that we even though there are still some challenges ahead for all of us, we as a nation will be much better off because of it. As a leader, this has given me lots of food for thought around courageous decision making, putting aside ego, trusting each other and the value of vulnerability.
  • The importance of connection is another important lesson for me. Connection with myself, my husband, my children, my friends and family and the other amazing people in our profession. Often the busyness of our day to day lives does not allow for this type of connection with others. Having time has allowed for time to journal, write and process feelings. Family time around the fire, board games, movie nights and bake-offs have become part of our everyday rhythms and rituals. This has become a time we all look forward to as a way to refill our emotional cups. I would like to make more time for this when we go back to work and school. To find a way to keep some of these new rituals going forwards.
  • Although we cannot physically visit friends and family at the moment, and I really miss this, regular video chats with them have become the norm. (I must admit I was guilty of going weeks sometimes without calling my mum, sisters or friends – life simply got in the way.) Why did it take a pandemic for me to seek to strengthen these connections?
Tanya Valentin ECE
  • Professionally it has been amazing to connect with and to be there for the members of my professional bubble. It has been so inspiring to tune into webinars and with some of the leading voices in ECE, there has been a smorgasbord of delicious PLD available for us to feast on. In a funny way, this “lock-down” has allowed me to be kinder, more generous and outwardly focused than I have been before.
  • I have learnt to appreciate the simple joys in my life that I would have normally taken for granted. With Easter approaching, I have been reflecting on how consumer-focussed this holiday has become. In years past I would have spent hours shopping at Kmart and other stores for paper plates, baubles and decorations. This year without those trappings to distract me, the season seems slower and more meaningful – more of a heart moment.
  • Lastly, I am recognising more and more the importance of faith. Faith in something bigger than myself (for me it is God). Faith in myself and my ability to grow and adapt. Faith in others around me and having the best of assumptions about them in my heart. And faith in us as a wider community that we can stand together and we can come out of this stronger, wiser and kinder than before.

What are some of the things that you have learnt about yourself and others during this time?

Support for you

As you might know if you have been following me I am working to support you during this time.

If you are finding this all a little bit too much and would like to chat, please reach out for a free video support call with me.

Please also get in touch if you would like some more information on how I can support you and your team with the transition process of going back to work.

Or tune into my free webinar on how to lead your team through a challenging time.

You don’t have to do this alone, support is available.

Have an amazing long weekend with your bubble.

You may also like

How To Be There For Someone Else During A Time Of Uncertainty

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

How are you?

I am aware that for most of us this is a bit of a loaded question. There are so many thoughts and emotions swirling around inside of us as we learn to cope with our new “normal” – this time of great uncertainty.

You might be experiencing rapid shifts to your emotions. You might be fine one moment and the next have tears rolling down your cheeks. Please know that all of this is perfectly normal and allowed. There is no right way to be feeling at this time.

Today I am not writing to you as a teacher or an ECE leader as I usually would, but rather as a person. A person without title, label or position. I do this as I feel that this virus, this situation we all find ourselves in is the greatest leveller. When we come down to it we are all just humans beings trapped in our own four walls somewhere, going through the same range of emotions, doing the best that we can.

As I am writing this, I am experiencing a myriad of different thoughts and feelings and I suspect that I will have to take some breaks in writing to compose myself along the way.

As a parent, the hardest thing for me is the sheer helplessness I feel. I hate watching my children going through strong emotions such: disappointment, sadness, fear, anxiety and anger. As a child, a sister or friend it is so difficult not being able to be there to help others during their time of need, because of physical separation.

The Temptation to “Fix-it”

I know that I am not alone in this, it is a very natural thing for us to want to solve problems, or act to “fix things”. For many of us, helplessness can bring up feelings of anxiety, fear and even anger.

However, how can I “fix” my ten-year- old’s sadness over not seeing her cousins for Easter? Or my fifteen-year-old’s disappointment that her birthday will happen during self-isolation and she won’t get to spend it with her friends, or that to her all the fun has been sucked out of her world? Or my seventeen-year-old’s fear or anxiety over what the future may hold? The short answer is I can’t and that sucks.

Having Empathy

One thing that I have learnt over the years is the importance of empathy – to feel the other person’s emotion with them. Often we forget that we have a different perspective of life to our children. We are a product of our experiences and my forty-five years of experience makes me see the world quite differently from my teenage daughter. Things that might be trivial to me can seem like the end of the world to her.

In the past, I might have dismissed her disappointment over the band that is no longer performing due to Covid 19. Or told her that it is okay, that they will come back. Or avoided feeling her pain because it feels so uncomfortable (and who likes to feel discomfort?). However, in order to support others, we first need to feel with them. There is power in stepping into the other person’s shoes, in sitting with them in discomfort.

Acknowledging Emotions

Something that we don’t tend to do very well is acknowledging emotions. Most of us don’t even do this for ourselves and so doing this for others can seem unnatural. The fear is that the other person will “milk” the situation or make this period of discomfort last longer if we acknowledge the emotion they are feeling.  We might try to distract someone from what they are feeling or tell them that it is going to be okay, as we feel that this will move them out of what going through quicker. However, when we practise empathy we realise that we all like to feel that someone understands what we are going through, that they get us. Giving voice to what others are feeling does just that.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Holding Space

Holding space means that we are willing to simply be there with another person in whatever they are feeling without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. This means curbing comments, withholding sage advice, and our need to rescue others from their feelings. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

When we hold space for with or for someone we acknowledge that they matter and that their feelings are valid and important. Holding space can feel like doing nothing and can be extremely difficult given our natural tendency for “fixing”. Holding space is often awkward as creates a feeling of vulnerability in us.

If we dismiss someone else’s feelings as unimportant (even if it is a toddler expressing outrage for not having the blue cup) or try to “logic” them out of emotions we have the opposite effect to what we intend. Instead of making them see that it’s not so bad we unintentionally send the message that their feelings are not important or even that they are not important.

Being There For Someone During Social Distancing.

Self-isolation shouldn’t stop us from being there for someone else. It is more important than ever to make consistent contact with your family and friends a priority, even though you might not be able to physically be with them.

Check-in regularly, let your loved ones know that it is okay to feel sadness, fear and anxiety and that you are there for them if they need you. Remember that trust is earned by us extending our trust to others in return. Banish ideas that you need to keep your feelings to yourself and that you don’t want to burden others with them. When we are vulnerable we make it okay for others to be vulnerable too and this nurtures real, wholehearted connection. Holding space with someone can be done over the phone or via video chat too.

Please remember that you are not alone.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or that you need to off-load to someone or to have someone holding space with you please reach out.

I care about your mental and emotional health and so I have made a limited number of FREE 30 minute chats available for people who would just like to connect and talk about what they are feeling. You can book a time with me HERE.

I also have a range of FREE webinars and other freebies and special offers available to support you during this time of self-isolation.

You may also like

Why You Should Include Gratitude As Part of Your Daily Practice

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Have you ever thought,“If only everyone could be just a little bit nicer?”

Or “I wish everyone could assume the best about each other instead of always focusing on the negative?”

You wouldn’t be alone in this, especially now with everyone panic buying etc. However, as a teacher and centre manager, I would often hear people complaining about each other and I wondered these exact things!

In these uncertain times when we are all experiencing a lot of fear and anxiety, this is, even more, prevalent. It is a tricky time for all of us, as we navigate managing our own fears and mindset, as well as keeping everyone else around us calm. We can easily get caught up in the habit of obsessively checking social media for updates every half an hour or unintentionally feeding the fear in each other. None of which is healthy for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

It is important as the world of unpredictability, to focus on what we can actually control. As an intentional teacher, the one practice that I ensure that I carry out daily is to remember to be grateful.

Now, you might be wondering why I would choose to say this especially with what is going on globally. But did you know that practising gratitude you can play a huge role in helping your teachers and the children in your centre to build resilience?

I am not downplaying everything happening around us or living in naivety. However, I do believe that one of the biggest impacts that Covid-19 will have on the majority of people will not be on their physical health, but rather on their mental health. It is time to look at how we can maintain a resilient mindset.

Our negative bias

The first step behind changing this behaviour is understanding some of the theory behind our natural inclination for negative thinking. We all have a tendency to focus more on the negative than the positive.

Your brain’s primary function which is to protect YOU. Which means that when your brain receives information that you are under threat (real or perceived) it will follow certain patterns in order to defend you. Because of our evolutionary urge for defence, we will always look for the “threats” (the negative) in every situation.

This could be the reason why even when we know a person really well and we are aware of all their good qualities, it can only take one small misstep for us to automatically think the worst in them.

Harmful behaviors such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs which leads to a change in behavior.

Educate Inspire Change

Reprogramming our brains to be more positive

Mindfulness and gratitude are two ways that we can use to rewire our brains to be more positive.

Both of these practices ground us in the present. If we are thankful for what we have, we are less likely to obsess over the past, or anxiously worry about the future. 

Gratitude is similar to mindfulness in another respect as well: it helps increase our resilience to stress. As one researcher states, it is an extremely effective way “to fill the resilient tank.” Other research has found that gratitude can act as a natural anti-depressant.

When we focus on something, the object of our focus is what we will see more of in our day to day lives. Our brains are programmed to selectively filter what is going on around us. This is another defence mechanism of your brain – it simply couldn’t process all the information that you are bombarded with daily. For example, if you buy a yellow car you might start seeing more yellow cars. Your brain starts filtering for the thing that you are putting your attention to.

Choose Gratitude

It may seem counter initiative to tell you to choose to be grateful, I know that many of you are going through genuine hardship. However, if we really think about it there is always someone worse off than us – a reason to be thankful.

The act of noticing and focusing on all the good things that you already have instead of what you don’t can help you to experience more joy. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improves their health, helps them to deal with adversity, and build stronger relationships.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Studies have shown that gratitude can also improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Some research has shown that expressing gratitude over a sustained period of time can even change our brain structure.

Berkeley’s Great Good Science Center cites recent research showing how feeling grateful enhances functioning in regions of the brain governing social bonds, and our ability to read others. Moreover, even though we think of gratitude as an emotional state, it also enhances cognitive functioning and decision-making. In one study, writing gratitude letters produced measurable brain changes that lasted months after the intervention. This research confirms Barbara Fredrickson’s assertion that gratitude has a “broadening” effect on how we think, and at how we look at the world. It allows us to “discard automatic responses and instead look for creative, flexible, and unpredictable new ways of thinking and acting.” When we are grateful, we are more inclined to seek support from others, to reframe challenging situations through a positive lens, and to engage in creative problem-solving.

Naz Beheshti

How does being grateful help our work team culture?

When someone is nice for us, and we return the favour, that is what we would naturally expect. However, when people who are the recipients of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, make a point of feeling grateful, they are also more likely to help a third party. Research into kindness has shown that the giver, the receiver and any witnesses to a kind act all will experience positive benefits to their wellbeing.

Robert Emmons is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. As he points out, feeling grateful is a two-step process. First, we recognize the presence of something positive in our lives. Second, we acknowledge it comes from an external source, often another person. Gratitude involves a humble recognition that we are interdependent, that we need one another.

Gratitude can become a kind of “social glue” connecting not just individuals, but our centre communities.  One study found that when teammates actively practised gratitude towards each other they experienced a greater feeling of connectedness, belonging and better job satisfaction.

When we are trapped in a cycle of fear and worry we tend to think more inwardly and act selfishly. When we shift our mindset to being grateful it helps us to think outside of ourselves and it makes us a calmer, nicer and kinder person to be around. This is really powerful when we are trying to shape a culture that promotes the wellbeing and belonging of teachers, children and their families. Or when we are trying to help our people to get through tough times.

Putting this into practice

The great thing about gratitude is that it is free, it can be done anywhere and any place.

At home:

  • You can start by simply noticing the good things that already in your life or by creating a daily practice of writing these down.
  • You could have dinner time conversations with your children about the good things (even though they might be small) that happened today. Even though these are challenging times, I am sure that there are still many things in your life to be thankful for. Or you could use 3 Good Things For Children to create a family gratitude ritual.
  • Let your gratitude inspire you to a kinder, more tolerant and empathetic human being. Think of others, generously assume that other people are doing the best that they can, donate to your local food bank, check in on your elderly neighbours.
Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

At work:

  • Start noticing the good qualities of others or the kind things that the people around you do and make a habit to point these out to them regularly throughout the day.
  • Create a space in your staff room where people can leave each other “warm-fuzzy” notes of gratitude
  • Print of a bunch of gratitude cards (available in the freebies section of my website) and give these to your teachers and remind them to give these out freely to each other throughout the day.
  • Talk to the children in your centre about the good things that they have experienced in the day.
  • Start a gratitude practice with 3 Good Things for Teams.
Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services, 3 Good Things For Teams

Final Thoughts

Being grateful won’t solve all the problems make Covid 19 go away. However, it will help us all to focus on what we can do as opposed to what we can’t control. It will help us to experience more joy, less stress, build resilience and help us to emotionally healthy which is often the biggest struggle when times are tough. What is going to really matter after all of this has passed is how we treated each other.

You can’t calm the storm…so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.

Buddha

Kia kaha Aotearoa

Arohanui,

Tanya

You may also like

Getting Clear With Why

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

This year I decided to make my physical health a priority. This has been the same goal that I have had for myself for the last 17 years. This is also the age of my oldest child. I put on a considerable amount of weight when I was pregnant with her that I haven’t been able to shift. So, in reality, I have spent 17 years trying to lose the “baby weight”.

Now I have had many cracks at this. I have been on many diets, joined gyms, read countless books… In fact, I could speak to you for hours on end debating the pros and cons of each weight-loss plan.

You can clearly see that my problem is not knowledge. I also don’t see motivation as my problem. If you have ever met me you would know that I am extremely self-motivated in many areas of my life.

But yet I remain “pleasantly plump”.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

“WHY” instead of “WHAT”

Maybe you could relate to my story above.

It could be that there is an area of your life that have been struggling with for quite some time.

That you too are an “expert” in the knowledge on how to make the change.

Perhaps you have asked yourself the same questions that I have of myself.

Maybe, you are a depleted mother, teacher or leader reading this. It is likely that you know WHAT you should be doing to make yourself less depleted. However, you could have like me (in my story above) made your self-maintenance a priority for a while but given up at the first hurdle…

Well, here is what I discovered that has made a HUGE difference in my life… It is not a question of “WHAT” or even “HOW” that is the issue.

It is more a series of questions beginning with “WHY”

Start with “WHY”

The first “WHY” question you need to get really clear with is:

WHY do I want to do this?

This is something that I had to really dig deep to find for myself. Sometimes the answer goes a lot deeper that you first thought.

For me, my obvious answer is :

I want to weigh less or to fit into smaller clothes.

But once I dug a bit deeper I discovered that I wanted to lose weight because:

  • I have spent so much time around family members and friends with avoidable weight-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, joint problems mobility issues and strokes. These illnesses really hamper them from doing certain things that they love as well as the overall enjoyment of life. I don’t want the same thing to happen to me.
  • I have a legacy that I would like to leave and I need to take good care of myself in order to achieve this.
  • I would like to set a good example for my children so that they don’t repeat my behaviours
  • I want the energy to enjoy my work and to be present and available for my children instead of being tired all the time.

Once you move past the obvious there will probably be several deeper reasons “WHY” for you too.

In order for you, to do this for yourself I invite you to complete this sentence:

I want to ……………. so that ……………..

Keep this somewhere handy so that you can refer back to this when things get a bit wobbly.

Any type of transformational change is challenging. When we focus on “WHY” we want to change instead of “WHAT” we want to achieve, this inspires something deeper inside of us and keeps us going when the going get tough.

WHY do I continue to do WHAT I do even though I know WHAT I know?

Now, this is a much bigger “WHY” question.

I eat cake because I like cake

or I can’t exercise because I don’t have time

or I’m too tired might be obvious reasons why a person might be overweight.

You might have some pretty obvious and reasonable reasons why you are struggling to make changes in your life too.

Remember, you are stronger than your excuses. When we value something we make time for it, when don’t make something a priority we make excuses.

However, it goes a bit deeper than this. In order to make real and long-lasting changes to our behaviours and habits, we need to examine our habits our behaviours as well as how we view ourselves but we also need to examine how we would like others to view us.

Examining ourselves through a new lens

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

We all have received programming in our “downloadable years” about who we are, what our culture values or the behaviours that we need to exhibit in order to “fit in” or to be successful in life. Who we are and what we value is shaped by the environment and the culture that we grew up in.

The human brain is designed to be moulded by the environment it encounters.

Nathan Wallis

Think back to your childhood. What might have been some of your programmings around taking time for yourself or taking care of yourself? It could be that you received repeated messaging about the importance of hard work and the perils of being lazy.

You might have taken that to mean that: if you are not working really hard all the time – giving less than 110% – or if you take a sick day or time to meet your mental health needs, this is laziness.

What are your labels?

We all have labels that we attach to ourselves (and strive for). These labels might be kind, friendly, a good person, generous, fun-loving, a good teacher, a good parent, a good leader. What these labels mean to us depends on our experiences with people, places and things as we were growing up.

Depending on our experiences we develop a description for some of these labels. Some of these descriptions are helpful and some of them damaging.

Let me illustrate this point to you in the following example:

You might have had a mother who made you feel loved and safe as a child. Every morning she got up at 5am to make the school lunches and breakfast for everybody in the family. She worked really hard (often doing 2 jobs) to make sure that you got to do the ballet lessons or the swimming lessons rarely taking time for herself. She might have done everything for everyone and not accepted anyone’s offer of help…

If this was your upbringing you might have developed the perception that “a good mother” does everything for everyone and never prioritises her own happiness or asks for help. This could then become your description of “a good mother”. Which could be why, when you want to take some time for yourself you might feel guilty because this goes against your description of what “a good mother” does.

A leadership context

Or perhaps as a beginning teacher you might have had an amazing leader who seemed to have it all together. She was smart, funny, she always knew just what to say. Your leader never took a day off, she was the first one at the centre in the morning and worked till well after closing time every day – she was there even when she was sick. The whole team loved her and she never set a foot wrong or made a mistake…

This leader might have really connected with you and inspired you along your leadership journey. You might aspire to be “a great leader” and hold your perception of this person up as the leadership ideal. Your experience with this person has shaped your definition of what it means to be “a great leader” as unrealistic as it may be.

However, this unrealistic ideal is what we strive for. When we do something that deviates from this ideal, fearful of our perceived loss of approval from others, we criticise ourselves, put ourselves down and perpetuate a pattern of negative self-talk. This causes us immense amounts of stress and stops us from doing the things that we know that we should be doing for ourselves.

In my blog Leading From the Heart – The Principles, Strands and Goals of Te Whāriki for Teachers, as well as my new book Weaving Your Leadership Whāriki  I outline ways that leaders can take steps to keep their light burning bright as well as creating an environment where the Wellbeing, Belonging, Contribution, Communication and Exploration of everyone in our centres can thrive.

Flipping the paradigm

Unfortunately, our culture perpetuates the “toughen up” attitude. That asking for help, making mistakes or not having all the answers is a sign of weakness.

Fighting against our programming is challenging. We have had many years of repeating these behaviours and there is security in them. Often these ways of being have become coping mechanisms that have kept us safe. Change can be scary and painful and fill us with self-doubt.

Awareness is the first step. Recognising your “whys” as well as your “why nots”. But also an awareness of the label descriptions that are harming you and the ability that you have to change these at any time. Remember, you are powerful – YOU are the master of your thoughts and YOU get to determine your own self-worth.

Try thinking of ways to flip your disempowering or limiting beliefs of yourself and create new more empowering statements that you can use to upgrade your programming with. I have included a limiting beliefs worksheet in the freebies section of my website for you to work through to determine some of this thinking for yourself.

Further tools can be found on my Making Yourself a Priority Facebook page or catch-up with me at one of my live events.

I would love to hear from you! What are some of the labels or descriptions that continuously come up for you? Reach out if you would like to chat.

You may also like

But it’s Not MY Fault!

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

I recently wrote a blog which posed the question:

“Is it time to change how we view resilience in early childhood education?”

This blog resonated with many of you, however, a comment I often get is – but it’s not my fault!

I firmly believe that the purpose of blogging is to provoke thinking and professional discourse. Not everyone is going to agree with me and that is okay.

My purpose for writing is not to highlight how important my opinions are, but to remind you of how important, precious and powerful you are.

Who’s fault is it?

It is so easy to feel disheartened by everything that is going on around us, or by the things we read on social media.

However, today I would like to challenge your thinking a little further, by talking about fault vs responsibility.

I am sure that we can all agree that there are many injustices in this world.

In the profession of early childhood education, there are many things that could and should change.

We could blame mental health issues in our sector or depleted teachers on the shortage of qualified teachers in our profession. Or perhaps on the amount of paperwork we have to do. (And you may be right)

We could find fault in the value that the government (and society) place on early childhood teachers and allow this to wear us down.

You could blame your poor wellbeing on the manager who you feel doesn’t value you in your workplace. Or perhaps the difficult colleague that you have to work with, or the parent who always complains, or the child with additional needs that you aren’t getting any support for.

Perhaps you are right and it is their fault!

After all, shouldn’t centre owners and managers provide an environment that promotes the wellbeing and belonging of everybody in the ECE setting including teachers?

The problem with assigning blame

But here is the problem with finding fault and assigning blame…

In the complex problem of teacher wellbeing, we all share responsibility.

There is a collective responsibility in any profession, but there is also individual responsibility.

When we focus on who’s fault it is, we focus on the problem. We cast ourselves as victims. We get stuck in place and are powerless to change or improve our situation.

When we focus on responsibility, we focus on the solution. We become empowered.

And as I said in my opening paragraphs – I truly believe that we are all important, precious and powerful!

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

What I am responsible for?

In each and every day how we are with ourselves is all that we can control.

Our attitude, our habits, our thoughts, our actions, our choices, how we treat ourselves and allow others to treat us, how we treat others as well as our part in interactions with others. This is what we have direct influence over. You are responsible for yourself and the value you place on yourself, your happiness and your wellbeing.

You cannot control or change other people, the decisions or actions of others, what others think about you, things that happened in the past or what might happen in the future.

These things might concern you greatly, but this is where we start going down the path of blame.

You can, however, inspire and influence those around you. As kaiako, we have tremendous influence over our lives, the children in our settings and the other people around us. You have the power to change the narrative about our profession and what you post on social media. Where we focus is where our energies will flow.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Our first step is to put aside the blame game and to take ownership for our part in this issue and to stop seeing each other as the competition.

Three choices

In every situation, instead of complaining, we have three choices:

  • You can accept the situation – accept that this situation is unavoidable and part of life, plan for it and surrender the stress associated with it. For example: if someone close to you has been diagnosed with a serious illness there might not be much that you can do about it. You might have to accept that this is your new reality for a while and be there for the other person as well as planning ways for maintaining your own health and energy levels.
  • You can change it – if you feel frustrated with the current situation you can take action to improve it. For example, if you feel that someone in your workplace is being treated disrespectfully or being bullied you can speak up or take steps to improve your workplace culture.
  • You can leave it – if you feel that the situation is unbearable you always have the option to leave.

In every situation, we have the option to say “this choice, it’s mine and I accept whatever comes out of it.”

Justin Sebastian

So instead of feeling disheartened by what you read on social media. 

Next time you want to hang your head and say, I am just one person, what difference can I make? Remember that you can be the change that you wish to be in our profession. You have control over being the best possible version of you and you are already enough.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”

Martin Luther King

If you would like additional tools on how to make your health and wellbeing a priority please join me on the Making Yourself A Priority Facebook Group.

Or join me for a Building Resilience workshop. Click here to look for one in your area

You may also like

What Your Feelings Are Telling You?

Tanya Valentin

Have you ever suffered hurt or disappointment?

Do you ever get angry with yourself or others, or feel guilty?

Have you ever had an emotional response that has left you so triggered that it is all you can think of for days and days?

Chances are that we have all felt these emotions in our lives from time to time. Sometimes these emotions can be really intense. We can really feel upset by them or feel so stuck that we just can’t move past them.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me recently…

I was facilitating a workshop and it was all going well. In the break, someone came to me and said, “Excuse me but, there is a typo on one of your slides.”

Now I acknowledge that it took a lot of courage for this person to come up to me and tell me this. I know that she was doing this because she cared about me and my professional integrity. I personally value professional discourse and honest direct feedback.

I know that to you this might seem trivial… So then why was I feeling so triggered?

To be perfectly honest this emotional response hung around me for days after the workshop like a bad smell. So I decided to put pen to paper and to curiously and courageously unpack some of what was going on for me.

I learnt this process at a personal development course that I attended a few years ago. I have since added my own bits to it so that works for me.

Today, I would like to share this experience and the process that I used with you. My hope is that this might help you with some of the feelings or emotions that have taken up residence in your mind and heart.

How I got myself out of Stucksville

First of all, I found a time where I was able to be undisturbed and I able to focus on my thoughts. I then tried to, as accurately as possible, to write down all the facts about the situation. (Just the facts)

I then tried to think about what I am projecting – something from my past (in this case, the first-ever presentation I did in front of a group of people many years ago) or was it fear or something that I am worried about for the future?

In this instance, I realised that I was in my circle of concern rather than my circle of influence and that I needed to move back into where my power was.

Tanya Valentin

I then confronted myself and wrote down everything that I was saying about myself and this situation.

I usually take a “no holds barred” approach to this as I feel that once these words are on paper they are no longer taking up the room in my head. I then acknowledge them and draw a line under what I had written to signify that I am now moving past them. I reminded myself that nothing has meaning except the meaning that I give it.

What are my feelings telling me?

The next step is to pinpoint the emotions that I am feeling.

For me, it was anger and disappointment.

I have three choices with these emotions. I can either wallow in them(and make them mean something about me) try to bury them (we can easily fall into the habit of labelling our emotions as “bad” and to try to avoid feeling them) or … I can see them for what they are information.

“Information for what?” You might be asking. Information for what my next move should be.

(I have included a list of common emotions that we don’t like to experience and what they might be telling you below.)

When I examined what my emotions were telling me, I realised that I had not met my own expectations of myself. I had also violated my “rule” about excellence and professionalism.

I then needed to challenge my expectations – were they realistic? As well as my perceptions around my “rules”.

What did excellence and professionalism mean to me?

Life is all about perception and what we tell ourselves at any given moment of time. Once we realise that we control the narrative of our lives it opens a world of new possibilities. What you tell yourself everyday will either lift you up or tear you down – YOU decide.

Decision time

So instead of perpetuating the narrative of not being good enough, not professional enough, et cetera, et cetera (that we all can fall prey to).

I chose to change the narrative.

I decided to tell myself that I am human. That everyone makes a mistake from time to time – even professionals.

I chose to tell myself that I will take action to do better in the future. However, I would probably still make mistakes and that this is okay.

I decided to take the lessons from this experience. To forgive my younger self for the disastrous workshop from years ago (and for my mistake in the recent one.) And to let it go.

What are your emotions telling you?

Here is a list of common “unpleasant” emotions and the action that they are telling you to take:

Fear – I am unsafe/I need to prepare – get prepared, change your situation or change your perception about the situation.

Hurt – unmet expectations – adjust your perception or your expectations.

Anger – one of your “rules” has been violated by yourself or by others – You can accept the situation, take steps to change it or move away from it.

Frustration – what you are doing isn’t working – change your behaviour or try something new.

Sadness or Disappointment – unmet expectations – adjust your perception or your expectations.

Guilt – you are out of alignment with your values – adjust your values or realign with your values.

All unpleasant feelings stem from some sense of loss – real or imagined.

What had I lost in this situation?

It turns out that my sense of loss was merely a projection, an idea that I was aspiring to be.

What about you?

How do you choose to deal with your feelings?

Have you ever thought about your emotions as feedback or information on an action that you had to take in your life?

Could use these often perceived “negative emotions ” as an agent for change or as a powerful way to empower you?

If you found these steps useful or helpful and you would like to chat with me about mentoring, wellbeing coaching or whole team PLD please get in touch.

You may also like

How To Show Meaningful Appreciation At Work

Tanya Valentin ECE

Have you have felt like you weren’t appreciated at work?

Or, tried to show appreciation towards someone else and felt that your efforts did not quite hit the mark?

It could be because you were not talking the same love language.

Showing gratitude towards the people in your setting is important for creating a thriving team where everyone feels valued and like they belong.

It has been my observation that not everyone likes to be acknowledged and have appreciation shown in the same way. In a parenting course I attended years ago I discovered the love languages, and this has been a strategy that I have applied as a parent time and time again.

I knew how this worked in a family context, but recently I discovered a book by Dr Gary Chapman and Dr Paul White entitled The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, which really made me think about how this can be applied in a work context.

The 5 Languages According to Gary Chapman and Paul White are:

Words of Affirmation:  People who have this love language thrive on and are motivated by kind words and praise. It could be about their performance, their character or their personal qualities. Let me give you an example:

Maria is the type of teacher that everyone likes. She is friendly to both teachers and parents. Children are instinctively drawn to her.

Where other teachers might enjoy tickets to the movies or a bunch of flowers as a sign of appreciation, this doesn’t really motivate her. What really makes Maria feel cared for is an encouraging word or praise for a job done well. Maria loves it when her Centre Manager gives her positive feedback about her work, or when her teammates tell her that her wall display is beautiful or when a parent pays her a compliment.

Do you have any Maria’s in your team? Do you have people who bask in the glow of verbal appreciation?

As a leader, it is important to ensure that you give positive feedback to the Maria’s in your team, however, don’t just praise for praise sake. Rather keep praise meaningful and specific. Lazy praise can have the opposite effect to what you intended.

Quality Time: People with this love language relish spending quality time with the leader or with the other people in the team. For example:

Tala is a team player, she likes to organise parent events at the centre and staff outings. She really enjoys talking to colleagues and parents and going the extra mile to ensure that everyone feels welcomed into the centre. What really helps Tala to feel supported and affirmed is when her Headteacher, Tracey, comes to spend the morning in her classroom and she can talk to her about all the amazing things that the children are doing. Tala also loves meeting up with her fellow teachers for a coffee or having conversations in the lunchroom.

As you can see, Tala’s love language is quality time. If you have people in your team who have this love language, show them that you care by giving them the gift of your time through one-to-one moments of full attention.

Acts of Service:  Kaiako with this love language feel your appreciation when you do things for them, like making them a cup of tea or helping them solve a problem. Here is an example:

Sam is a hard worker, he has loads of energy and he is extremely efficient. He doesn’t care about praise or recognition, he just likes to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing a job done well. What Sam really appreciates is when his workmates help him to tidy up the playground at the end of the day or rake the sand-pit.

You see Sam’s approach to appreciation is “don’t tell me that you care – show me.” If you have a Sam in your team keep this person’s heart tank filled by performing kind acts of service.

Gifts: Show this person you appreciate them by giving thoughtful gifts. Let me share this example with you:

Stephanie is a hard worker, she is meticulous at what she does. Stephanie has aspirations to be a manager and she thrives on a challenge. Although she appreciates positive feedback from her Centre Director, Sally, this doesn’t really motivate her. Stephanie loves it when Sally buys her, her favourite coffee from the local cafe and leaves this on her desk with a little note. Stephanie really feels special when a parent brings in home-baking for morning tea and her fellow teacher gives her a gift of fresh honey from her bees.

If you have a Stephanie in your team they will feel your appreciation with tangible gifts such as flowers, a massage voucher or time off.

A word of guidance of tangible gifts – get to know the other person and what they value. Think about what they would like when giving a gift and not what you would like to receive.

Physical Touch:  This can be a bit of a tricky one in the workplace as this can be a bit polarising for some people. However, you might have people in your workplace who thrive in this form of appreciation. Let me give you an example:

Jenny is a warm and bubbly person, she is quick to greet others with a hug or even a kiss on the cheek. Children love coming to her for cuddles or sitting on her lap for a story. It is little surprise that Jenny’s love language is physical touch.

Do you have a Jenny in your centre? Someone who loves hugs?

Some ways to show a person with this love language that you care for them is to give them a hug, a firm handshake, a high five or a pat on the back.

We are luckier than most in that appropriate physical touch is more readily accepted amongst colleagues in early childhood setting than in other professions. However, when you choose to use these actions really does depend on the person that you are showing appreciation to. Consider their comfort levels and how well you know them.

Tanya Valentin ECE

Further Ideas for Using Love Languages in Your Setting…

Spend some time getting to know the love languages of the people in your setting. Use this as a tool to build trust and meaningful connections.

You might want to discuss this at a team meeting or complete a quiz as an icebreaker exercise.

Our love language is usually how we choose to show love. Learn to show appreciation by observing your teammates and how they show love and appreciation to others.

Some further ideas for showing gratitude towards your fellow kaiako might be:

  • Giving a teacher time off so she can attend her child’s sports day.
  • Spending time having a conversation with fellow kaiako.
  • Cooking a meal for a kaiako who is sick or has had a bereavement in the family.
  • Leaving a hand-picked bunch of flowers and a hand-written note for a teacher who is going through a difficult time.
  • Speaking words of encouragement.
  • Paying someone a compliment.
  • Random acts of kindness.
  • Spending time with teammates outside of work.
  • Giving a hug.
  • Celebrating a teacher’s achievement or special moment.
  • Baking someone a cake.
  • Helping a teacher to tidy up at the end of the day.
  • Shouting morning tea.
  • Doing someone else’s job, like folding the washing, unpacking the dishwasher or tidying up the art sink.

What do you think?

Perhaps you have identified your love language or the love language of others in the examples below.

What makes you feel loved and valued?

How could you show that you appreciate and care for someone in your team, in your family, in your life?

I would love to hear from you.

Be sure to check out 3 Good Things for Teams, which is based on some of the research that I did on love languages. Find out how you can improve your wellbeing, belonging and happiness at work through the power of gratitude.

Tanya Valentin - 3 Good Things for Teams
3 Good Things for Teams

You may also like

How To Be Your Priority?

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

The phone rings at 6 am, it is one of your opening teachers calling in sick followed by another and yet another.  You get yourself ready to go in and cover the opening teachers and organise your children to have before and after school care, it is going to be one of those days….

On the way to work you are calling relievers and rearranging staff hours while driving, to meet the needs of the children, teachers, and the centre.    You get to work and dive right into your day, settling in children, reassuring staff and parents. The pile of paper and deadlines on your desk will have to wait.  Before you know it, it is lunchtime and you haven’t even eaten breakfast.

At the end of the day, you go home feeling tired and drained.  You pick your children up from after-school care and your children eat Weetbix for dinner.

This is a common scenario in the life of a centre director in an early childhood centre.  For most of us it is a role we love and we enjoy making a difference in the lives of others, but… in a profession where you are so much to so many, how do you keep your love and inspiration flowing? 

How do you keep your energy levels up so that you can serve others?  Who looks after you the leader?

The short answer is YOU.

Be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others

When I am feeling exhausted or overwhelmed it is a sure sign that I am not taking enough time for myself. The role of a leader can be at times a lonely, isolating one.  Each of us has the responsibility to take care of our own health and wellbeing by practising self-care.

Are you taking time to replenish your vessel?

Rest and self-care are so important.  When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow.  Self-care is not selfish, you cannot serve from an empty vessel. 

Eleanor Brownn

As leaders, teachers, parents and grandparents we are the care takers of others.  We give so much of ourselves every day to others and we can quickly be running on empty if we do not take time to replenish our vessel.

Some ways that we can do this:

Meet your basic needs – As simple as this sounds, we often neglect ourselves and our basic needs.  You cannot serve others without nourishing yourself with regular nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, hydrating yourself by drinking enough water and regularly moving your body.  When we neglect our basic needs, this can have detrimental consequences for our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, and we become more susceptible to depression, anxiety and emotional outbursts.  Neglecting our needs makes us vulnerable to colds, flues and other viruses.  You are a person first and a leader second.

Either you spend the time nourishing yourself and meeting your needs.  Or you spend the time dealing with the consequences and the behaviours that result from not meeting those needs.  Either way, you spend the time.

Tanya Valentin Professional Early Childhood Education Services

Take time off when you need it – As the leader, we can often feel duty bound to be at work no matter what.  When a member of our team comes to us with a leave request, we try our best to accommodate this as we know how important personal time away from work is for teacher wellbeing and team morale. 

However, when it comes to our own leave (sick leave or holiday) we often find it extremely difficult to give ourselves permission to take the time for ourselves.  Often, we will drag ourselves to work when we are sick – feeling very sorry for ourselves or justified for doing “the right thing” or we spend the day at home feeling guilty for not being at work and letting everyone else down. Perhaps for you, it is duty that compels you to be there, or you secretly long for recognition for how dedicated you are and then feel hard done by when no one says anything.  You might think that you are doing the right thing, but you are not doing yourself or anyone else any good. 

Check your personal boundaries – Life happens and some mornings it is inevitable that you are going to be woken up by the phone.  On occasions, it may be necessary to finish a piece of “paperwork” at home. However, this should not be the norm.

Are you reaching for the phone as the first thing you do in morning to check emails, messages and notifications, before you have had a chance to ease into the day?  If you are staying up till midnight every night doing admin tasks, then you need to check your boundaries. 

You need adequate rest in order to keep yourself healthy and to do your best. Try banishing your phone, computer and anything relating to work from your bedroom.

The hours before we go to bed and first thing in the morning are important for nurturing your physical, emotional and mental health.  The first and final moments of our day set the tone for the minutes and hours in between.

Take a closer look at what your habits are in the hours before you go to bed?

Are they conducive to slowing down and signalling to your body and brain that it is time for rest and renewal?

How are you starting the day?  Do you have a morning self-care ritual that helps you prepare yourself emotionally, physically and mentally?

Maybe, you need to put in some boundaries around taking on too much by being compelled to say “Yes” when you really should be saying “No”.

Know “WHY” According to self-care experts having a clear sense of purpose can help to stave off feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and even burn-out.

Train your mind and control your thoughts – Be the guardian of your mauri, your energy. In the scenario above, it is all too easy to wallow in self-pity, drama and play the victim and the martyr.   

Or you could flip this all on its head and ask yourself what this situation has to teach you?  Learn to guard your thoughts and watch your self-talk.  We often say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to anyone else.  Be compassionate, and kind to yourself. Would you treat one of your teachers the way that you are treating yourself?

Think back on your day…

Was it really a bad day, or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day?

Our brains are wired to focus on the negative aspects of our day. Even though there were parts of the day that were challenging and stressful if you look for them, there are always moments that are gold.

Moments where you witness persistence in a child that pays off.  Moments where you lose yourself in being fully present in the learning of a child.  Moments where you witness children or teachers being kind and compassionate to each other.  A kind word from a parent or a fellow teacher.

These moments are the gold; our reasons why we have chosen this vocation.  The gold is what energises us as leaders and as teachers and keeps us inspired and motivated.

Look for the gold.

Whaia te iti kahurangi ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei  – seek the treasure in what you value most dearly, if you do bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain .

I found that I became a lot less stressed and a lot more focused and positive in my mindset when I started a gratitude journal.  I keep my gratitude journal next to my bed. At the start of the day, I write down three things that I am grateful for, my intention for the day and a positive affirmation.  In this way, I have trained myself to be more intentional in the energy I give out to others.  I am choosing to control my thoughts and attitudes and for them not to control me.

Your mind will always believe everything that you tell it – Feed it truth.  Feed it faith.  Feed it love.

Self-care rituals – The rituals you choose to practice will depend on what feeds your spirit.  For me it is taking a bath with essential oils and candle-light, going for a walk out in nature, sitting on the sand looking out at the ocean, practising yoga, journaling or meditation. Lately, I have started a Sunday evening self-care ritual that helps me to prepare myself for the week ahead. There is no right or wrong way to do this – tune into your own cues and figure out what brings you joy and make time for this in your life.

Be Prepared – Self-care is about treating yourself with love and it is okay to indulge yourself with luxuries and pampering.

However, self-care is also about boring everyday stuff that allows you to take better care of yourself and those around you. I am talking here about taking a realistic look at your life at the moment and intentionally planning and preparing so that when the proverbial hits the fan that you have things in place to keep yourself nourished and nurtured. For example, have a stock of quick “go-to” items in your pantry or prepare a meal plan for the week ahead. Invest in a slow-cooker or cook extra portions so that you can have a stand-by meal ready in the freezer as well as extras for lunch.

Reconnect with your passions –  This is closely related to the point above.  Many of us have passions and talents not related to our jobs.  Maybe you like to write, paint, garden, surf, read, spend time with friends. Perhaps, it is something that you used to love doing but have stopped doing for some reason. It may be something you always wanted to do but have always found an excuse not to do.  Look at yourself from a holistic perspective, there are many layers and dimensions to you.  We were not just born to work, pay bills and survive.  Embracing your passions will make you a more joyful, well-balanced person – it will add depth and value to you as a leader and a teacher.

Tanya Valentin Professional Early Childhood Education Services

Take stock of your environment –  Never underestimate the influence the environment has on you. Scan your surroundings as if you are seeing it from someone else’s perspective. Is it messy and chaotic? Is there clutter that needs to be cleared out? This may or may not be your thing but, I always feel heaps better after I have cleaned my house or tidied out a messy cupboard. For me, organisation has a calming effect. Perhaps you suffer from mental clutter – jobs that you have been putting off, but need to be done?

Be intentional with your environment it has a life of its own. Surround yourself with beauty such as plants, fresh flowers, homely touches, art, candles and essential oils – whatever is your jam!

I can hear you say, “But, Tanya I don’t have time/money/know how…” which leads me to my next point.

Become a priority to yourself

You won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you have to be a priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, become your own support system. Your needs matter.  Start meeting them.  Don’t wait for others to choose you. Choose yourself today! –

marcandangel

If you are anything like me, you will wake up early and ensure that you pack your children a healthy lunch.  You will prepare and ensure that your family have a healthy breakfast before they leave for work, school, daycare or playgroup.  We will actively seek out after school activities such as dance lessons, sports teams, girl guides, scouts, swimming lessons for our children and make the necessary sacrifices to pay for it.  At work, we will be punctual for work, come prepared, meet deadlines and work extra when required.

Why is it okay for us to use the excuse “I don’t have time” to deprive ourselves of a nutritious breakfast and lunch that will ensure that we have the energy to meet the needs of others?

Why is it okay for us use the excuse “I don’t have the money” not to prioritize our own physical and mental wellbeing, by depriving ourselves of exercise, leisure activities and creative pursuits?

Why is it okay to use the excuse ” I am too tired/I don’t have time” to break our promises and commitments to ourselves.

If we deprived our children of meals it would be neglect and abuse.  If we spoke to our friends and family the way, we speak to ourselves we would have no friends left.  If we broke promises and commitments at work, we would have no job.

Why then is it okay for us to treat ourselves with such little respect?

It is not about having the time, it is about seeing yourself as a priority to yourself and making the time.

Tanya Valentin Professional Early Childhood Education Services

Am I worthy of imitation?

As leaders, our team look up to us an example to aspire to, in their careers. What example are we giving them to aspire to?  What legacy are we leaving for the teaching profession?  What qualities do we want to see in our future leaders?

Is my example good enough? Am I role modelling how to be a resilient leader who respects herself and is responsible for her own well-being?

Ask yourself “Am I worthy of imitation?”

Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.

Rudy Francisco.

If this blog resonated with you and you would like to give yourself the gift of your own self-care why not join me and other centre directors at the Prioritise Yourself – Winter Wellness One Day Retreat for Teachers?

I know that you spend a lot of time taking care of others and it is your turn for someone to take care of you. At the retreat, I will support you to create your personalised self-care plan which will enable you to refuel your tank and build resilience as a professional leader and as a person. Click here to find out more information.

Until next time…

You may also like

When “Smarter Not Harder” Is Not Always Best

Spending time together and meaningful interaction that focus on connection this Christmas

I am sure that you have all heard the saying; “work smarter not harder”.  As teachers, parents and human beings with a lot to do and not a enough hours in the day, this saying sets us in good stead. 

I mean, we would be silly not to use our time wisely so that it serves two purposes. Like for instance, checking your emails while eating your lunch, or wrapping gifts while the Christmas cookies are in the oven, or using one piece of documentation for our planning and as evidence for our teacher registration – Right?

For the most part, learning to multi-task is an essential life skill.  We are all time-poor and “time management” is often a skill that we are constantly working on.  Getting the most out of your time and being more productive is a human obsession – you just have to look at the internet and social media – after all who doesn’t love a good “life hack”?

When we shouldn’t multi-task

Multi-tasking is all good and well for tasks.  However the danger creeps in we are trying to “multi-task” our interactions with the people in our lives. 

As life gets busier and especially at this time of the year when there is so much to do, it might be tempting to do “something” while having a conversation with someone.

Dr Emmi Pikler spoke about

Full Attention – especially when involved in caring moment 

The relationship is all.

Now this principle was in the context of caring for infants and toddlers, however, I recon that this is a pretty good principle to use to live life by.

How many of us have had a conversation with someone and switched to “multi-tasking mode” by doing something else (like thinking about we will say next, thinking about what’s for dinner, typing on the computer, texting, checking an email, checking your status). 

I get it, we are busy people trying to get the most out of our work hours.  Our minds get really busy with everything that we have to do and we are easily distracted.

However, how would you feel if you if you are on the receiving end of such an interaction?

I am sure that we have all had conversations with someone where we haven’t felt listened to.  Where the other person’s focus has been elsewhere or they have made a random comment that didn’t pertain to the conversation at hand?   I am sure that we might have felt hurt, undervalued, angry and frustrated.  We might have thought to ourselves “well that was a big waste of my time” or “why did I even bother?”

We often do the same to children.  How many of us teachers have been feeding a baby a bottle or changing a nappy while talking to a colleague or another child? How many of us have been distracted when we should have been engaged in a moment of connection with the child and missed the opportunity to fill their emotional tanks? Only to complain about how impossible their behaviour is when they try to get their needs met in another, often disruptive way?

Either we spend the time meeting children’s emotional needs by filling their cup with love, or we spend the time dealing with the behaviours caused by the unmet needs.  Either way we spend the time. Pam Leo.

As leaders  the same applies to our akonga (learners), the people in our teams.  If we don’t spend the time connecting with them in a meaningful way we spend the time putting out fires from not meeting their needs.

The gift of time

One of the most important things that you can gift someone is your time. 

When we give some-one the gift of our full attention it communicates to them that we care for them. 

We are saying; I respect you, you are important to me. Your thoughts, needs and opinions matter to me. I value this time that we are spending together. I value you.

So how do we do this? How do we give someone the gift of our time and our full attention?

We can start with being intentional about having more meaningful, respectful interactions.

  • Create a hygge.  A hygge is a danish art-form of creating intimacy, warmth and contentment in any given moment. A hygge is not a thing, or a place, it is about the feelings this evokes.  It is the feeling you get when you curl up in front of a fireplace or a child curls up on your lap for a warm hug.  Infusing more hygge into your interactions means being prepared in your heart as well as your head.
  • Plan to set this time aside to give the other person your full attention.  This could mean having a conversation with your team about how important connection time during care moments is and supporting each other to be more present with the child in that moment with no interruptions. Or as the leader you might have an understanding that if you are speaking to someone in your office with the door closed, that this means no interruptions. As a parent it might mean letting your other children know that this is your special time to spend with this child, and that their turn will be later.
  • Get rid of distractions. Switch your mobile phone or your tablet off and put it away. Close your lap-top or switch of your computer.
  • Slow down.  This is the time for connecting in a meaningful way with another person.  Rushing or conveying that you are in a hurry to end the conversation is counter-intuitive and will not serve you in this instance.
  • Be an active listener.  Active listening is listening to the other person and hearing everything that they are saying.  It means being interested and present in the conversation – not thinking about what you will do later or how you will respond or that clever anecdote that you just have to add to the conversation. This interaction although beneficial to you, is not about you it is about the other person.
  • Look them in the eye.  You can’t give someone your full attention when you are looking at someone or something else.
  • Be aware of body language.  Our interactions and and conversations are often so much more that what is being said verbally.  What is the other person’s facial expressions and body language telling you? Use this to tune into cues of how they are feeling in the moment. What are your facial expressions and body language communicating to the other person?
  • Listen with empathy and respect.  Meet the person where they are at in that moment of time and accept them even if they are not who you would like them to be, but rather a person who has rights and freedoms and is worthy of your respect.  

Empathy has no script. There is no right or wrong way to do it.  It is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly healing message, “You are not alone” Brene Brown.

In this festive, busy time, although we might have a lot to do, this is also a time for love, joy and connection. So remember to slow down and be present and give your loved ones the gift of you time. 

I would like to take this time to thank you all for your kindness and support during this year and for giving me the gift of your time. 

I wish you and yours, a Christmas that is decorated with cheer and filled with love. Have a wonderful holiday!

You may also like