The Back-to-School Balancing Act

Today I wrapped up Day 6 of my fifteenth year in education. Honeymoon period notwithstanding, I am already 99% less stressed out than I was at this time last school year.

I’m not exactly sure what’s got me feeling different. I definitely haven’t lessened my workload, having taken on some curriculum-related responsibilities at the district level that I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve slacked off on the past couple weeks.

(Word is I’m not alone in the slacking department. I think everyone’s gotten a bit behind. We’ll catch up.)

It’s certainly not due to a stress-free summer, because that has definitely not been the case. I feel like I barely had summer break this year. I had all these grand plans to relax with books, take a nap on my screened in back porch, take my daughter to the little local beach on Lake Norman. None of that happened.

So why do I feel so much better going into this school year, after a year that had me questioning my career trajectory?, I’d like to think it’s because I’ve started thinking very carefully about the level of balance in my life and the way I’m choosing to self-care.

I’ve take a few smallish steps toward ensuring that I not only keep a decent work-life balance, but that I also take care of myself and better manage my stress.

  1. No bringing school work home. One thing I’ve always sucked at, especially at the start of the school year, is bringing the school day home with me. In past years, it hasn’t been a big deal because I didn’t have a tiny person reliant on me. If I had to spend an hour or so grading papers or making presentations, whatever. No biggie.  But I need to protect my planning time at work, use my workdays to the max, and keep school work at school so I can devote my evenings and weekends to my family first, and then to my writing.
  2. Use a planner. This is a small thing. When I was in college, I was great about my planner. Assignments and tests and meetings and everything else were all written down. For a long time, I’ve valued a good desk calendar at work with upcoming important events jotted down from September to June. We have a family wall calendar that is full. But my personal planning game tanked somewhere around 2008, and I never really got it back. This year, I have vowed to turn that around. I bought a nifty 18-month calendar that not only has monthly and weekly pages – which are already filling up at an alarming rate – it has monthly goal setting pages and weekly exercises in self-reflection. And stickers! It comes with stickers, y’all!
  3. Eat better and sleep more. It’s been a struggle to step away from the soda and junk food (I type as I snack on Milk Duds), but I’m trying. I need to be more proactive in packing my lunch and making sure I eat a breakfast with enough protein to get me from 6:30am to 12:05pm (when I finally can sit down to shove my proactively packed lunch in my mouth in twelve minutes flat). Sleep is also essential to deal with, since my school day is shifted fifteen minute earlier. I’ve got to put a 10:30 bedtime in place and stick to it.
  4. Treat yo’self. Read a book that has nothing to do with work. Get a pedicure. Get my hair done. Soak in the garden tub. Play the piano. Snuggle those extra ten minutes with my child at bedtime – it’s as good for me as it is her, because we do have so little time together during the work week.
  5. Keep moving. I’d gotten into a good routine of taking a 20-minute walk right after putting Babycakes to bed, but that’s dropped by the wayside since school started. I guess I could argue that since my job isn’t sedentary that I shouldn’t stress too much. But I want to try and build in a solid time to exercise. If I can get the commute home done by 4:15 (possible most days if busses are on time and I’m in the driver’s seat by 3:50), I think I can squeak in a short workout of some sort as soon as I get home.

The work-life balance is important, and I’ve known for a long time that my balance has been way off. I feel like I can figure it out this year. I’m optimistic about my students, I’m excited for new idea and opportunities on the horizon, and I want to make these positive changes in my life.

So here goes the balancing act!

Making Better Choices

A couple weeks ago I discussed my total lack of motivation to do anything remotely worthwhile, as well as my semi-fervent promise to myself that I was going to do at least one thing starting the week after Disney that would change that.

I chose to try and lose five pounds.

I will be frank and say that this is not an easy course for me, for several reasons.

Number one, I am a horrible junk food junkie (just read my food blog and you’ll see that the majority of my posts deal with some sort of dessert).  I generally do pretty well about not buying junk food, and I usually also do well with not baking junk food (cookies, cake, brownies, and the like) unless I have an occasion or means of distributing the vast majority of it to family and friends and coworkers.  But both of my grandfathers could sniff out sweets from a mile away, and I seem to have inherited this trait.

Number two, despite my best intentions to follow a strict workout program, life usually butts in and takes away all my energy and free time, especially at the beginning of the school year.  I have my fingers crossed that this will not happen this year.

Number three, I don’t seem to gain/lose weight very quickly.  It’s a very long process.  Before my wedding, it took eight months of TurboJam to lose four pounds (and several inches). It took a year of being married for me to gain ten pounds back.  It took almost another year of various workout programs (and hiatuses from workout programs) to lose four pounds.  And since then I’ve sort of fluctuated between 134 pounds and 136 pounds.

To some that doesn’t sound like much, and I am within the healthy weight range for my height and age – except that it all goes to my butt, thighs, and, more recently, my middle.

So I’m about a week in to TurboFire.  I have maintained my weight at 134.8 pounds.  My husband thinks my tummy is a little tighter, but I think he’s hallucinating.  I realize it’s only a week in and it’s going to take at least another four weeks of intensely following this program schedule before I see any real results.  I’m hopeful, especially since in the past, when I did TurboJam, I did lose the weight and inches without modifying my diet too much.

I really do generally eat pretty healthfully.  I have breakfast every morning, usually something like Frosted Mini Wheats, and I bring a lunch to school that includes whole grains, low-fat yogurt, fruit, and sometimes something very small and sweet, like a sugar-free pudding cup.  I have a balanced dinner with fresh vegetables and lean meats.  I try not to snack too much, and I’ve definitely upped my intake of water the past couple years.

And as for soda…. I gave up soda for Lent two years ago and really have done a decent job of not drinking it since then.  Sometimes you’re stuck, and sometimes you just want a Coke, but for the most part, I don’t drink soda anymore, except as an occasional treat.  That’s really pretty good, considering that a few years ago I was drinking so much Coke that the caffeine was giving me an eyelid twitch.

It’s hard to make better choices about your lifestyle.  I’m lucky in that my husband is very supportive about what I’m trying to do.  Sometimes he even reminds me that it’s okay to indulge a little.  More than once, when we treat ourselves to dinner out at a restaurant, I’ll comment that I really want a Coke.  He’ll say something to the effect of, “You can either get a Coke or we can share a dessert.”  Usually dessert wins, but every now and then, I want the Coke.  But he never says stuff like, “No, you can’t.”

And I really don’t like working out until I’ve finished a workout (and feel all sweaty and accomplished), and he does a great job of being my cheerleader and affirming what I’m doing.  That kind of support is very important.