Are you slogging through your day with your third cup of coffee in hand, just trying to get through the afternoon so you can go home to grade papers, cook dinner, help your own kids with their homework, and crawl in bed, just so you can do it all again the next day? We’ll, it’s time to take a stand (or cop a squat in easy pose) and take care of ourselves.

Teachers everywhere are waking up and realizing that the pressure we live under with the demands of the busy school day is no way to live.  We have to learn how to take care of ourselves, rejuvenate, and recharge if we are to have any reserves to continue giving to our students and families.  The other day I read a Facebook post by a first-year teacher. “How do you all find time to exercise?” she asks.  Ha!  She will soon learn that we all start out with the best of intentions.  Scheduling our priorities like exercise, morning meditation, and time with friends and family, but somewhere along about October (and certainly by May), all of those good intentions have gone out the window and we are just trying to survive.  However, after ten years of teaching in the public school setting, I have developed a few favorite, and hopefully inspiring, vices (ahem, I mean restorative activities) I would like to share with you in hopes of inspiring you to get moving, get outdoors, eat more healthy foods, and soak in the quiet moments.

  1. Restorative Yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga for over ten years now.  I couldn’t live without knowing I can show up, Manduka mat over shoulder, to unfurl my tight muscles and weary misgivings into the solace of tranquility any day of the week.  My favorite yoga studio is a surprisingly unassuming spot nestled among the pine trees just outside of the historic town of Natchitoches called Lotus in the Pines.  The owners and teachers, Scotti and Richard Rodgers, have transformed their home and property into a sanctuary of peace and wellness complete with a rustic, cabin-style studio overlooking a tranquil pond, stone pathways, trails through the woods, vegetable and flower gardens, and a labyrinth.  I look forward to Richard’s monthly dharma talks (found here or via email) and an occasional deep tissue massage with Scotti.  I highly recommend any form of yoga for health and relaxation, but if you are ever in the area, you should definitely drop in for a class.  It is worth the twelve-mile drive through the northwest Louisiana woods.

2. Long Walks in Nature

Wordsworth “wandered lonely as a cloud.”  I once heard Gary Paulsen say he only truly feels at home when he is in the woods.  And Jerry Spinelli’s character, Stargirl, avows that, “There’s no difference anymore between me and the universe.  The boundary is gone.  I am it and it is me.  I am a stone, a cactus thorn.  I am rain.” when she describes the way she feels when sitting on the edge of the Sonoran desert as the orange sun sets behind the Maricopa Mountains.  Our favorite authors have figured out the benefits of nature.  They didn’t need scientific studies to tell them it will improve their energy, vision, concentration, creativity, and vitamin D levels (it does, by the way).  They just know being in nature gives them what they need to feel more like themselves.  You don’t have to commit to climbing a mountain to get the benefits of being in nature.  Some of my favorite hikes are short and easy to get to trails, not so far from home. These are the best kind of outdoor adventures to me because you don’t have to dedicate your entire day to a hike to make it happen and you can easily bring the kids, the dog, your parents, spouse, or anyone who wants to get outdoors, enjoy the fresh air and a little exercise.  One of Bella’s (my Great Pyr and steadfast companion) and my favorite hikes is the Longleaf Vista Trail in Kisatchie National Forest just off of I-49 between Alexandria and Natchitoches.  It is only a mile-and-a-half loop with beautiful views, interpretive signs, a creek running through the lower valley area, and a bathroom at the trailhead.  When we are in Alaska, Marc (my fiance') and I love the Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood, Alaska.  This trail has a hand-tram over a beautiful gorge.  You always meet interesting people (and their dogs) along the way and while I have seen bear scat, so far, no sight of the bears themselves.  To find a trail near you, visit AllTrails.com, an online searchable site with maps, reviews, difficulty levels, distance, and pet-friendly information.

3. Mermaid Length Tubbies

When I moved into my new home five years ago, it came recently updated with a clawfoot tub in the main bathroom.  I did not realize how deeply satisfying and what a rejuvenating ritual these nightly soaks (a.k.a. tubbies) would become for me.  I started out taking my phone with me. Bad idea. I would do stupid, non-rejuvenating things like check my email and catch up on my son’s online grades while in there because I thought, well, when else would I take care of these little demands that we teachers do not have time for during our work days.  I soon realized I needed something more relaxing and traded my phone for a book and Epsom salts.  This was good, better for my overall health and well-being.  However, this past school year I got seriously ill.  I think it may have had something to do with the six classes I was teaching during the school day, one online class for the University, and trying to launch a new business.  This level of stress can wreak havoc on a person’s immune system and I began researching ways to overcome adrenal fatigue.  I came across some great ideas, but one of my new favorite ways to naturally re-energize and get the minerals my body needs to stay healthy is using pink Himalayan salt (click here to learn more) in my bath, plus no distractions at all, just a few quiet moments in the tub.

4. Red Wine

Ok, this is NOT a recommendation to drink every night.  However, according to a recent Medical News Today article, red wine, in moderate consumption, “may help people live longer, protect against certain cancers, improve mental health, and enhance heart health.”  Hey, that’s enough to convince me.  One of Marc’s and my favorite wineries is called Vannatta Wines and is located in the beautiful, agrarian countryside of Elk Grove, California, just outside of Sacramento.  The owner, Steve, specializes in hand-crafted, small-lot wines, offers free tastings (great on a teacher budget) and encourages guests to bring their own picnic to enjoy on the patio while playing scrabble or corn hole toss with your friends and family.  Plus, the wine is exceptional!  I am currently enjoying the Primavera.  It’s a Mediterranean-style blend that seems to pair well with everything from spaghetti bolognese to dark chocolate brownies.  The last time I was there, Steve told me that he had a group of teachers booked for an evening of wine tasting and camaraderie.  He seemed a bit surprised by this, but I assured him, teachers really do need a night like that on occasion!  If you are ever in the area, check out Vannatta Wines.  If you don’t live in California, but want to enjoy the wine, Steve will ship it to your door!

5. Cooking Meals for Family and Friends

Cooking is a relaxing and creative endeavor for me.  I enjoy making a roux, stirring a risotto, or chopping vegetables (while sipping my favorite red wine, nibbling on some delicious cheese, and listening to a little Amos Lee or Van Morrison, of course).  We eat healthier when we cook for ourselves versus going out to eat, and spend less, too. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to add a new dish to my repertoire.  French onion soup.  I have long enjoyed a good cup of French onion soup (visions of gobs of melted swiss and provolone over the crispy french bread crouton and dark broth from Maspero’s comes to mind), but I had never learned how to make it myself.  This past fall, my book club read Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel.  I LOVE when an author can weave food and recipes into a book and J. Ryan Stradal did this expertly.  I was inspired by the particular recipe in the book that reads, “Use Gruyere from Switzerland, or you’ll be wasting your time.”  If you enjoy cooking, get back to it.  If you don’t know where to start or are feeling a little bored with your old standby menus, we can begin sharing our favorite, easy weeknight recipes on the Literary Wanderings Facebook page.  Let’s inspire each other!

6. Reading

I aim to make reading (at least a few pages) my bedtime ritual.  This helps me relax, unwind, get lost in someone else’s story and forget about any of the pressures from my own day.  I personally enjoy historical fiction (I’m still telling people how good The Nightingale is by Kristin Hannah), contemporary fiction (recent favorite: The Art of Racing in the Rain - be prepared to cry), and young adult and middle grade novels (latest read: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus).  I also pore over cookbooks and nonfiction books like education professional development, business and investment, self-help, and spiritual/religious journeys.  I save these nonfiction, self-improvement books for moments when I can be fully attentive, ready to learn from them and be inspired by them. Bedtime reading, on the other hand, is sacred.  An escape into another life, another place, another time. Nora Ephron wrote in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, “Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real.”  If you are a reader, or a want-to-be-reader again, let’s connect on Goodreads and post our latest favorite books to keep each other inspired and motivated with plenty of great reading suggestions.  

Action Steps

Your homework (and this is the easy part) is to choose just one new relaxation endeavor and begin it today while it is fresh on your mind and you are still excited about it.  Ok, so we both know the wine category is the easiest go-to vice, so let’s rule that one out (you probably already know the benefits of red wine all too well anyway).  Choose one of the other suggestions or your own outdoor, exercise, or relaxation activity that will help you unwind after a long day or week at school.  

If you need a little guidance in figuring out your energy-giving and energy-draining activities and how to recalibrate your day or week, I have created a printable workbook to guide you through the process with suggested activities and resources available in my TpT Store, or just click here.  

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Take pictures and share below in the comments section or on our Facebook page.  I truly want to hear from you.  I want to know what works for you so you can help empower, inspire, and encourage other teachers.

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DISCLAIMER: At this time, I do not receive any income from the mention of products or services.  Any products or services listed are strictly my own recommendations based on my own experiences and opinions.