How To Help Yourself To Settle Back Into “Normal Life”

How are you doing? How has Alert Level 2 been for you?

Did you start out excited and joyful to see friends and family again, but now you feel a bit tired, overwhelmed or even just a bit off-kilter?

You are not alone in this. Alert Level 2 started with great excitement for most of us. Free from our homes and our bubbles, excited to see family and friends again. to go out to eat at a cafe, to go shopping and to reconnect with the children and people in our centres.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

For me the first few days felt great, I was buzzing with excitement. I was going to be so productive. I made lists of everything I would accomplish for work now that I was no longer homeschooling…

And then Tuesday came along and it was as if I had hit a wall.

I found myself feeling shaky, on the verge of tears, nauseous and unable to eat. I had so much that I wanted to do but found that I just couldn’t. After spending six weeks in my bubble, I could literally feel the stress, the hurry, the expectations and the busyness coming back into my life. It felt like a heavy weight on my heart. As you might already know, I am usually a pretty positive, motivated person, so I knew that something was up.

Have felt some of these feelings too? There is nothing wrong with you. You are 100% normal. You might just be experiencing a phenomenon known as reintegration anxiety.

What is reintegration anxiety?

Reintegration anxiety is sometimes called reverse culture shock or re-entry syndrome.

The concept of reverse culture shock dates back to the early 1960s. US psychologists John and Jeanne Gullahorn observed that after travel and culture shock and homecoming, there’s more ups and downs: readjusting to what was once familiar.

James Purtill – Hack

In the past, you may have experienced similar feelings after been away on holiday or overseas for a period of time when adjusting to coming back home or to work. This is especially severe amongst explorers coming back from an Antarctic expedition or soldiers coming home from deployment.

After the joy of reuniting with friends, family and workmates come the reality of adapting and “fitting back in” to our pre-COVID lives. This can be challenging. It is unrealistic to assume that we can just snap our fingers and pick up where we left off.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Some of the symptoms that you or others may experience are:

  • Frustration
  • Restlessness
  • Physical symptoms such as an upset stomach, sweaty palms or a racing heart.
  • A shift in values, goals, priorities and attitudes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of isolation or depression
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Overwhelm
  • Underwhelm

Changes, changes, changes…

If we think about it, it makes sense that we should be feeling this way to some degree. We have been through a lot of change during the last few weeks.

First, there was the shock of COVID 19 in our country and all the panic and anxiety that went with that.

Then there was self-isolation and the adjustment to being at home and doing everything online or remotely. Added to this all the language and messaging about how it wasn’t safe to be in our communities, to be around people (even friends and whanau) and that we needed to act like we all had COVID 19.

Then there was the shifting through the levels and the rules and restrictions, worries and anxieties that went with this.

And then it was decided that we were safe to go to level 2 and that we could go back to life as “normal” with the restrictions around this.

We have been constantly adjusting, adapting and going through various stages of shock and grief. If we think about it our nervous systems have been on alert over the last 4 months.

During Alert level 4 and 3 the majority of us spent our time in our bubbles, living at a much slower pace, shielded by noise pollution of life. However, we have suddenly switched realities. We are also adjusting to the new messaging about how it is safe to be at work, school and with other people (but don’t get too complacent, don’t stand too close to someone, use hand-sanitizer, wash your hands!) It is a lot to take in. This can feel confusing, frustrating and counter-intuitive. It is going to take a wee while for our brain’s, nervous systems and hearts to catch up to this change.

It is going to take time for us to get used to the hustle and bustle of life. To be able to trust being out in our communities – to be around people again without fear. Many of us will be grieving the simple joys of life in our bubbles.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Strategies to help yourself manage reintegration anxiety

  • Be patient and kind with yourself and those around you. Your feelings are normal. It is going to take 2-3 weeks to adjust and will involve a rollercoaster of emotions.
  • Don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel like being around others or catching up with family and friends let them know – your loved ones will understand.
  • Keep your expectations off yourself and others small and realistic. Don’t overschedule yourself for the next couple of weeks. It is normal to feel tired, demotivated or to need a little extra rest.
  • Notice when feelings come up for you and name them. It is okay to feel frustration, worry, anger and anxiety. The power in naming your emotions is that it helps your body to process the feeling and know what to do with it.
  • Remember, you are not your emotions. Just because you are feeling anger or anxiety this does not define you. Allow yourself to experience the emotion and tell yourself, “this too shall pass!”
  • Talk to a friend or someone you trust about how you are feeling. Chances are that they are feeling this too.
  • Give your relationships with others outside of your bubble time to “gel” again. Relationships are built through mundane everyday happenings and shared experiences. Our experience with “lockdown” might have been different from other people. These experiences will have changed us. It might take a bit of time to get in sync again.
  • Remember that how you are feeling will influence how you perceive others actions or situations, try to not take things too personally or make hasty decisions during the next few weeks.
  • Limit your screen time and time on social media. Give yourself some time to just “Be”.
  • If possible find time to intentionally move your body. Our emotions are stored in our bodies and when we move this helps us to release them.
  • Spend time outdoors. There is amazing healing in connecting with nature. Sunshine helps our bodies to produce vitamin D which is great for keeping bones strong, but also for boosting your mood.
  • Journal how you are feeling. We often give ourselves permission to be more honest or open about our thoughts and feelings on paper when we feel that no-one else will read it. This can be very helpful for working through your thoughts and feelings. (You can always rip up the page or burn it afterwards.)
  • If these feelings continue to persist past a few weeks reach out to your doctor for help.

Further Support

If you are feeling like life is just a wee bit stressful for you at the moment join me for a FREE WEBINAR: Coaching Yourself Through Stress

Or reach out for a FREE Health and Wellbeing Discovery Call where we can discuss how I can help you to make your health and wellbeing a priority.

Call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or text “Help” to 4357.

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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.

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How to Create Positive Change To Your Health And Wellbeing Using Small Steps

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE

Today is day 38 of being in COVID 19 self-isolation for New Zealanders and what an emotional roller coaster it has been for many of us.

Being in Alert Level 3 is also a bit of a weird place emotionally speaking. What we have been doing collectively as a country has paid off (Yay!) and there is light at the end of the tunnel… However, after five weeks of everything being on hold, it is normal to feel a bit stir-crazy, frustrated, depressed, overwhelmed or demotivated (or all of the above).

We know that there is change on the horizon, our brains and bodies are trying to prepare us for change – but we don’t know when this change will occur and what it will look like.

Our brains are doing their jobs as nature intended, but are wired to prepare us for the worst-case scenario. This can mean that they are firing on alert, trying to keep us safe as we try to make sense of everything.

Overcoming Guilt and Shame About Feeling Lazy and Unproductive

You might also be feeling guilt and shame in yourself for wasting this time. Or for not being as productive as you feel that you should have been. Most of us went into this period of lock-down armed with a list of things that we wanted to achieve. You might not have achieved all or any of these things. Well-meaning social media posts could have fuelled these feelings of guilt by informing us that this was the perfect time to learn a new musical instrument, a new language or to write a book.

Now if you are feeling guilt and disgust in yourself for being lazy and unproductive at this time let me stop you right there! If you don’t emerge from lockdown more enlightened, more knowledgable or with a new skill or new side-hustle you are 100% normal. We have just been through a collectively traumatic event. Your body is still processing what has happened to it at a sub-conscious level. When you look at the diagram below (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) You might think that you should be at the level of self-actualisation (living out your full potential), but in reality, your body is crying out to have its basic needs of food, sleep, shelter, safety and security met. So give yourself a break.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE

Shifting Gears

If you find that you are still at this level, notice this without judgement and accept it. This doesn’t mean anything about you, nor does this mean that you will stay stuck here forever. You can choose to stay here if this feels right for you but realise that you have the power to move yourself out of this place if you so choose.

If you feel that you are ready to start shifting gears but not sure how here are some things that you can do to start creating a positive change in your life.

Acknowledge the feelings

Take the time to notice the feelings that are coming up for you, the fear, the anger, the disgust and thank them for such an amazing job of keeping you safe. Then gently tell your feelings that although you acknowledge how helpful they have been in the past at protecting you, you are in fact safe and ready to move on. You might need to release them through journaling (you could try this FREE downloadable reframing exercise), talking about them to a loved one or through exercise and movement.

Start Small

You might be tempted to move into “fix-it” mode and set yourself all kinds of goals, but start small. Choose just one new positive habit that you would like to embrace.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear, highlights how making just a 1% change can have a huge impact. For instance, an aeroplane that makes just 1% course deviation could end up in a different country compared to it’s intended destination.

Another reason I suggest that you start small, with just one thing is that you want the change to be sustainable. Starting too big can lead to self-sabotage, failure and a reinforce negative thought loops or a fixed mindset that you have about yourself and your abilities. Ultimately you want to reinforce an identity as a capable, competent person. You want to be able to trust yourself and your ability to succeed. Most sustainable changes start small which gives us the foundation on which to stack future successes upon. Good habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. When we automate something as a habit it allows our brain space to engage in higher function thinking such as learning a new skill.

Just Start

What you choose to focus on is up to you. It might be the smallest thing that will give you runs on the board so that you can get a taste for success. Or it might be the thing that is causing you the most pain. It is not important where you start as much as that you start.

You can easily get stuck in preparation or planning because this feels like you are taking action. However, this is motion and a form of procrastination triggered by the fear that you will fail.

Don’t wait for perfect – Just start!

Set Yourself up for Success

In the book, Atomic Habits mentioned above, James Clear identifies four things that we need to do in order to successfully adopt a new habit. Make it Obvious, Make it Attractive, Make it Easy and Make it Satisfying.

When we make a habit obvious we first need to identify the habit that we would like to adopt and why, and then we need to create an environment for success. Say for instance you would like to adopt the habit of drinking 8 glasses of water a day you can make it both obvious and easy by ensuring that you place a glass next to each tap in your house as a reminder about your intention to drink more water. And so every time you wash your hands you are reminded to pour yourself a glass of water and to drink it.

You can make the habit of drinking water more attractive and satisfying by adding slices of fruit, cold brew herbal teas or infusions to your water. Another way of making the habit of drinking more water attractive and satisfying might be to track your progress on a habit tracker and reward yourself at the end of the week after completing your new ritual seven days in a row. (I have a FREE tool that you can download here.) You can also make this easier, more attractive and satisfying by implementing this change as a member of a group as nothing keeps us motivated like being part of a tribe.

How could you use these four principles to create success for yourself when embracing a new healthy habit?

Keep Going

We have all been there. You start implementing a new habit and for a couple of days or even weeks, you are doing really well… And then for some reason, you stop and all your good work is lost. You then use this as evidence that you can’t make the change, or even as a self-torture device to prove how useless you really are.

You are not alone in this. Keeping the momentum going on a new habit can be challenging especially if you don’t see immediate benefits. Most of us get stuck in the “Plateau of Latent Potential”. This is often what happens during the “in-between”. This is the time between starting a new healthy habit and seeing physical results or benefits.

What to do if you need an Extra Bit of Motivation?

It is important to be prepared for setbacks happen. We often have the hardest time sticking to commitments to ourselves. However, you can give yourself a bit of extra motivation by using a commitment device.

A commitment device is something that you create to make it easy for you to stick to your goals.

  • For example, you might enlist the help of a friend as an accountability buddy and give her/him permission to say or do certain things if you don’t stick to your commitment to yourself. There may be certain consequences if you don’t follow through on your commitment. You might even formalise this in a written contract.
  • You might delay gratification by not allowing yourself to do something you want to do unless you have completed your healthy habit. Such as no social media unless you exercise.
  • Or you might create cue cards reinforcing why you are committed to this new action for when you are tempted to go off track. For example, your new healthy habit is to take a lunch-break away from your desk. You might make yourself a little card and stick it to your computer that says, ” Hey you, I know that you think that you are too busy to have a lunch break, but remember this break is going to make you a healthier, happier, more resilient and productive person. You will have more energy and be nicer to be around Xx”.

So where will you start?

What can you commit to?

Remember that every day you practise your new habit is a vote for the person that you would like to become. Where you are going and who you would like to be is way more important than how fast you get there. Progress might be slow but you can do this!

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How To Lead Your Team Through The Transition From COVID 19

It has been a weird old time.  

One day you are going along with your business, battling the challenges of running an early childhood centre and the next we are all in lockdown and you find yourself adapting to a new set of challenges. How do you keep your business afloat? How do you remotely manage your team and how can you be there for your teachers during a time of crisis? You find yourself grappling for the delicate balance of keeping team connection and being compassionate to what is going on for your teachers at home? 

You might have struggled with dilemmas like, “If I’m paying staff, is it the moral thing for me to expect them to work during this time?” Or battling with the social media peer pressure of what you should be doing.  Perhaps you puzzles over how to keep connections with families and children?  You did this all while balancing our own emotions and fears and the needs of our own family as the cases of the virus rose. That was just in the first 2 weeks!

Fast forward to this week,  it is amazing that the number of cases of COVID 19 is decreasing, this means that what we are doing is working. However, this brings up with-in us a whole new set of fears and challenges. This is especially after yesterday’s announcement of what Level 3 will mean for ECE services. Regardless of how you make sense of this, for most of us, this means that yet another change is on the horizon in short succession. The transition of going back to work outside of our safe little bubbles. For most of us into the real world that is not the same as it was when we left it.  This can seem daunting, terrifying and totally overwhelming. 

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

The Challenges for Early Childhood Centres

For most professions, the idea of leaving the safety of our bubbles can be scary. But if you are an early childhood centre owner or manager this can seem like a mammoth task. 

Our profession was stretched for staffing before this virus and this has just added another layer of complexity to the mix. We all know that our role is not just about managing tasks.  It is not simply taking ourselves back to work and being responsible for ourselves or a couple of others. We are responsible for (or feel responsible for) the health and wellbeing of many other people – teachers, children and their families.   

However, with our current ratios and the nature of our work, social distancing is just not possible.  Children need cuddles and care, they play in each other’s space, they put things in their mouths and they are still learning the basics of good hygiene. You might be wondering, “How do we do this and keep everyone safe?”

How to cope with these changes

You may be kept at night worried about all the “what ifs?” and all the possible scenarios.

You might be feeling upset or angry with the government decisions around Alert Level 3.

You might be thinking, “I don’t know how to do this!” or  “I don’t have the resources or the tools to do this!” or even “I am going to stuff this up!”

It is in our nature to leap to the worst-case scenario, things are always bigger, more terrible and scarier in our heads.  Let me stop you right here,  you are already enough!

It is not the case of resources, but rather a case of resourcefulness and believing in yourself. You already know how to do this. You know how to access the resources that you might need.

None of us has done this before, as I write this, even I struggle with the idea of advising as I have not done this before either. However, we have tackled tough things in the past and made it through with lessons and wisdom gained and this will be no different. Will you do it perfectly? – No (none of us will). Will you make mistakes? – Yes (all of us will.) But you can do this! 

You don’t have to be the most knowledgeable or the most capable, you simply need to show up day after day with your heart engaged and your work boots on – you just have to care and to show that you care.

Try not to get caught up in the drama of it all. It is all too easy to try to consume every bit of information and social media advice in your struggle to make sense of this all. But try to focus on what you can realistically control – your mindset and attitude, your thoughts, your actions, your media consumption and your half of interactions.  

Your mind is an amazing tool, you control how you use it by what you feed it.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

During this transition you are going to need three key things: a mindset for success, an end goal(or a reason why) and a plan.  

The Mindset for Success:

Your mindset and attitude are key.  Your mindset as the leader sets the tone for the whole team and whether this transition will be a success.  You might have to work-out and strengthen some muscles that you have not used in a while such as flexibility, adaptability, creative thinking, resilience, curiosity, and self-compassion.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself here are:

Who do I want to be during this process and what are the actions of this person?

When the people in my team, the children and families look back at this experience, how would I have made them feel about themselves and about being part of this centre family? 

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 End Goal

This is where you “zoom-out” to six months or a year from now and ask yourself “What we would like to achieve as a team?” 

You might look at ways of how you are going to inspire others to be part of this.  This is going to be a bit of a marathon and none of us can do this alone without the support of others. We need our people to do this with us and this is going to need for us to trust them to be part of the process and leaderful in their own way. 

As Anthony Semann said recently in an interview on Facebook,

“The leaders we need are already here.” 

This end goal is made meaningful with your mission or your “why”. 

Try frame your goal like this:  Our goal for our centre is……………….. so that……………..

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

The Plan

This is the what and how. Here are some of the things that should be on your plan:

Firstly, you should plan for managing yourself and your energy.  How well you take care of yourself will have a direct influence on your mindset and how you show up for others.

The number one thing on your plan should be:  

How am I going to preserve my energy so that I can last the distance? 

This should include a self-care plan and will be individual to you.  However, you should include things that bring you joy, feed your spirit and energise you.  Take stock of who you have in your support system and have someone outside of your centre who you can speak to when you are feeling stressed or having a hard day. You should also acknowledge and plan for barriers to your self-care as well as putting in place the boundaries that you will need to keep yourself and others emotionally healthy.

Once you have done this for yourself, the next step would be to facilitate this process for the teachers in your team.  Create a health and wellbeing team contract.  I know that many teaching teams are in regular contact with each other over this time so this might be something that you could map out together before you go back to work. 

How we take care of ourselves and each other is going to be vital to the transition process.  Tired, frazzled teachers will not be effective at being emotionally available for settling upset children or for supporting scared, worried families.  We will need to dig deep at times over the next few months and so keeping our own emotional cups full so that we have enough to give to others without depleting ourselves should be a priority.

Remember for this all to work, open and honest communication is the glue that keeps us all connected. You will need to keep things as safe and predictable as possible and this requires you to be fair and transparent about your communications with your team members and families. Be consistent with keeping your people informed with regular updates about what is happening, how people might be affected and how they can be part of the whole process. You also need to make it safe for people to express their feelings and have a plan for how you are going to support each other with this in an empowered way.

The next part of the plan is to work with your team to create an environment of safety for everyone in your centre.  You will need to review health and safety policies and adapt them to meet new health and safety procedures set in place by the MoE and the MoH. Discuss concerns with staff and parents and make them part of the consultation and problem-solving process.

If possible take a couple of “teacher only days” before the centre opens to regroup, reconnect with what is important in your setting and reset your environment. 

Create a plan for how you are going to welcome families and children back into your place and talk through the strategies that you as a team will use to help settle everyone back in. How you are going to ensure that everyone is kept physically and emotionally healthy.  Take it one day at a time.

Take stock of the rhythms and rituals of your place and how these will help you to create security and predictability for everyone in your place. 

Set realistic expectations, there are some things that you are going to have to let go of at this stage and that’s okay.  You are all human beings going through a human experience, caring for other humans and everyone is going through this in their own way. Have empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Trust each other and keep the best assumptions of each other in your heart.  Remember, everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have.

I know that it may be difficult at times but try not to let things become so dire that you forget to play, laugh and have fun. Talk about how well you are all doing and how proud you are to be part of this amazing team.

My last point is around gratitude.  One of the most significant protective factors of resilience and mental and emotional wellbeing is the ability to experience and express gratitude.  Look for the good things, the “golden” moments in your day and talk to each other about what went right.  Be a strength finder, catch each other doing good things and point these out, say thank you and be kind.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

If you would like to find out more information about how I can work with you to support the health and wellbeing of yourself and your team please follow the link HERE and I will be in touch soon with more info.

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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.

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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

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Do You Have A Fixed Mindset About Your Wellbeing?

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Have you been following my Resilient Teacher Series of blogs? This year I have been working to support teachers and leaders to change their thinking about their wellbeing. My aim is to give you tools and strategies to build your resilience and enable you to make yourself more of a priority.

Why am I doing this?

Well for many reasons really. However, my number one motivator is to remind you about how important, precious and powerful you truly are as a person and as an early childhood education professional.

I firmly believe that the biggest influence on the wellbeing of our children (and future society) is the wellbeing of all the significant adults in their lives.

How intentional we can be as a teacher, leader or parent depends on how intentional we are with ourselves.

A fixed mindset about our wellbeing

I would like to challenge you to consider whether you have a fixed or growth mindset about your resilience and wellbeing.

Mindset is the attitude that underpins your thinking, feelings and behaviour. How you think about yourself has the power to make or break any new habits or behaviours that you are trying to embrace as part of your life.

If your mindset sees the amount of effort required to change your behaviour as “too hard”, then this could mean that you have a fixed mindset around this area of your life.

A fixed mindset is rigid and causes you to say things like, “I can’t”. We then put up walls that are a barrier to growth or change. A fixed mindset can cause you to self-sabotage your efforts and to see problems as unsolvable. When we have a fixed mindset we allow mistakes or minor setbacks to completely derail us.

In my previous blog; Getting Clear With Your Why – I discuss how the labels we give ourselves and the meaning that we attach to these labels can hold us back from making changes that we would like to make in our lives. This is a fixed mindset that we can have about our identity.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about how our habits can shape who we are or become part of our identity.

Our fixed belief that these habits are simply part of who we are can easily cause us to fall into the trap of saying things like:

“That’s just the way I am”

“I’m just not a gym person”

“I’m terrible at math”

or

I’ve always been like this, I can’t change now”

Once you have adopted an identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change. Many people walk through life in a cognative slumber, blindly following the norms attached their identity… The more deeply a thought or an action is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change.

James Clear – Atomic Habits

Can you think of a specific time when you allowed your fixed mindset about who you are to hold you back?

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

The power of a growth mindset

While a fixed mindset has the power to hold you back, a growth mindset has the power to transform your life. Within a growth mindset, there is flexibility. It recognises that although things might not be achievable right now that this will not always be the case.

A growth mindset about ourselves and our identities leaves the room for us to think of ourselves as ever-growing, ever-evolving beings. We view ourselves as capable of adapting, learning and mastering new healthier habits. A growth mindset sees mistakes or setbacks as temporary and provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow.

Changing our mindset can be very tricky as some of this thinking can be deeply engrained, as discussed in my previous blog. How we think of ourselves or speak to ourselves takes self-awareness, work and time.

According to author James Clear in order for us to change our habits we need to change our perception of who we are or our identity.

For example instead of saying things like:

I would like to start running” we should say “I would like to be a runner”

or instead of saying:

I would like to eat healthier food” we should say “I would like to be a healthy person”

The same goes for our resilience. In order for us to be more resilient, we need to first believe that we are a resilient person.

We then need to assume this new identity and to ask ourselves “How would the person I would like to be, act?” “What choices would this person make?”

For example; if we were wanting to become a healthier person and we were faced with a decision between a pie or a salad – we could ask ourselves, “what would a healthy person eat?”

Or if we were faced with the choice of going for a walk after work or watching television, we could ask ourselves, “What would a healthy person do?”

The more we start acting in accordance with our new desired identity, the more this identity will be affirmed. As we gather more evidence for this new identity we learn to trust ourselves and it becomes part of the fabric of who we are.

The act of simply catching ourselves and correcting a fixed mindset thought with an empowering growth mindset thought can move us towards the growth and change that we desire.

Using the superpower of “Yet”

We all have a mixture of fixed or growth mindsets about various areas of our lives. The quality of our thoughts and internal dialogue matters.

I have found that the word “Yet” although small and unassuming in its make-up packs a powerful punch!

By simply using “Yet” at the end of a fixed mindset sentence we can transform it into a growth mindset statement.

For example:

“I can’t do this” becomes “I can’t do this yet”

or

“I don’t know how to do this” is transformed into “I don’t know how to do this yet”

By adding this little word to the end of a sentence it signals to our brain that although what we are wanting to do might not be achievable at this moment, our brains have the capacity to grow and learn new ways of being, thinking and doing.

This is a powerful example for our children because they learn how to be by watching us.

Tanya Valentin Professional ECE Services

Children learn to learn in the way their parents, carers and teachers learn…  If they watch adults being experimental, inquisitive and tenacious in their learning, these habits will rub off…If their role models have no time for ideas or become angry the minute their efforts are frustrated, that too is what they will learn.  

Guy Claxton – Learning Power

Putting this into practice

Are there habits in your life that are part of your identity?

Is it time to rethink these habits or to perhaps open yourself up to the possibility that you could change them if you wish?

Perhaps, the next time when you catch yourself having a disempowering fixed mindset thought you could:

  • Become the objective observer of your thought
  • Ask yourself, “was this a fixed mindset or growth mindset thought?”
  • Evaluate if this thinking is part of the new identity you would like to embrace.
  • Reframe your thought to be more in keeping with your new desired identity or end the sentence with the power of “Yet”

It might be a bit tricky at first because some of your labels might be a wee bit sticky, but keep going. Once you become more aware of your fixed mindset in certain situations and the more you practice, the better you will be able to shift your thinking.

Look out for my next blog which will give you tools and strategies to support you to create more intentional habits.

Let me know how you go. I am always grateful to receive feedback or to hear your stories.

References:

James Clear – Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (2018), Penguin Publishers

Guy Claxton – The Learning Power Approach: Teaching learners to teach themselves (2018), Crown House Publishing

Are you part of my wellbeing community? Why not join me and other heart-led professionals making their wellbeing a priority?

Look out for my new book due to be released on 31 March 2020.

Weaving Your Leadership Whariki
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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.

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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

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