Three Simple Ways to Reclaim Focus in 2021
I don’t know how 2020 felt to you. For me, it felt like I curled into a ball, climbed in the dryer, and spent five years bouncing around on the tumble cycle, with a pair of size-12 tennis shoes smacking me in the head every five seconds.
And now, even though 2020 is over, the head wounds, overheating, and dizziness remain. Ouch!
On any given social media platform, you’ll find comment after comment about the atrocities of 2020. I hear them all and feel the pain. However, it is the voices of educators—my colleagues and friends—I hear loudest. I heard them loud and clear during the holiday break, worrying about 2021, concerned for their students, and what the coming year will look like.
So, these suggestions are for my friends in the trenches—the educators who are responsible for the future of our world.
How can educators maintain a certain sense of well-being at the start of the new year given legitimate fears about health and safety, educational gaps, and a social and emotional disconnect from students? How do we put 2020 in the past (where it belongs) and look to a happier, healthier 2021?
Like many of you, I have visited doctors, counselors, and therapists throughout my life to help deal with unexpected bumps in the road of life. A similar message prevails no matter which healthcare worker I visit: I need to take time to focus on myself—my health and happiness. If I am not happy and healthy, how can I expect to bring happiness to others? And for our teacher friends, “others” include students—the most precarious and influential “others” you can imagine.
With this in mind, I’m sharing three simple but effective ways to reclaim yourself—mind, body, and soul—this year, and become the best version of yourself as an educator and person.
I am sure this has already been said, but I still believe it is worth repeating. My first tip is to focus on the mind: Let go of what you cannot control. Easier said than done, I know. It does not mean you should not worry, but if you fill your mind with worries and doubts, you have little room left for the good life can bring.
One simple way to focus on your mindset—I ask you to stay with me here—is through meditation. I can hear some of you chuckling and saying, “Meditation is not for me. I can't imagine sitting quietly in a dark corner of my bedroom humming ‘om.’”
I could talk about the mental, physical, and emotional benefits of meditation ad nauseum, but for the purpose of this blog, I will focus on its ability to help you find a positive perspective, so you can acknowledge and let go of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. That is the goal here: Let go of what you cannot control.
Headspace is an online site that offers guided meditation for all areas of life, and educators can sign up for FREE subscriptions to “Be Kind to your Mind” at headspace.com/educators. If you need to focus on health, happiness, work performance, diet, exercise, sleep, or managing anxiety, take just a few minutes out of your day to focus on yourself. You can even jumpstart your practice and find Headspace on Netflix here: netflix.com/title/81280926.
Once the mind is in a calm place, it is time to reclaim your body. The second tip is: Treat yourself to at least 10 minutes each day for your body. The key word here is TREAT, and it is imperative that you see it that way.
When an activity isn’t a chore, we are far more likely to approach it with intention. I'm not asking you to set an alarm for 4:00 a.m., and jump up as if you were the Energizer Bunny™. I just ask that you invest 10 minutes in some form of exercise. In time, you will see and feel the benefits and the time you devote to your body will naturally increase.
Best of all, there are so many free videos on YouTube to choose from. I have some favorites that give me just the right amount of exercise to get my body pumped, stretched, yoga-ed (is that even a real word?) and ready for the day. Here's my YouTube channel playlist: Jen's 2021 Workout Playlist, where you can see some of my favorite, quick, no equipment needed, 10- to 30-minute videos for beginners.
With mind and body in a great place, the soul will need nurturing, too. The third tip is: Find activities that bring joy to your soul. I forgot about the value of nourishing the soul until I reached for a book—an actual book—and read it from cover to cover, loving every minute of it. Amid all the stress and negativity last year, I forgot how it felt to do things I loved, activities that brought joy to my soul.
Maybe you need a getaway to revitalize the soul? Hop in the car, grab your favorite travel snacks, and head out into the countryside, singing along to jams from your younger years. Find a park or hiking trail on the opposite side of town and connect with nature. Need more ideas? Success magazine offers 33 Ways to Feed Your Soul.
The pandemic may change the way we conduct certain activities, like enjoying live music, fellowship, worship, or dining, but it should not eliminate the things we love. We can find enjoyment, albeit in an altered form, and still find ways to love life.
Your world is not all about your career, but your career will benefit if you take time to focus on you. You are in control of 2021. Leave 2020 in the dust and let this be your year to reclaim your mind, body, and soul.
Your students deserve the best version of you, and so do you.