Congrats! You’ve made it to Winter Break and have survived what I’m sure was a crazy home stretch this week. Now, what to do with all the time you’ll have?
Let’s fight the pull toward either end of the spectrum. On one side is completely vegging and disconnecting. On the other is running frantically between parties, last minute shopping sprees, and family obligations. What’s the middle ground? What will help you go back to work in January feeling rested, recharged, and eager to enter the New Year?
Here are some tips for making the most of this year’s break:
1. Reorient by returning the main things to the main things.
Enjoy your family and friends. Deepen your faith. Sharpen your mind. Serve others well. Something on this list has probably been neglected over the last four months; use this vacation to course correct.
2. Finish the grading early
Finish it before break. If you can’t, plan to finish it by Friday. If that won’t work, leave it for when you get back. You’ve labored hard enough. It’s going to sit in your bag and taunt you and pressure you all week. Find some time to dedicate to it when you get back, put it on your calendar, and then leave the work at school. Or, if the thought of leaving it gives you angst, take it home but don’t touch it till the morning/afternoon of December 31st , knocking it out as a bit of a challenge to yourself to begin the New Year 100% caught up on grading. 🙂
3. Plan ahead
Map out January from a broad level, but save the specific plans for after break. It will reduce stress to have next month planned from 30,000 feet (and maybe the first few days back from a bit closer than that). Your lessons will be more engaging and creative once you’ve had some time to refresh your mind.
4. Read good books
Maybe you’ll receive some new titles as gifts. Dig into them. Read one all the way through, or start the first few chapters of several. Let yourself get lost in the pages. Give yourself permission to read texts that don’t deal with teaching, unless of course there’s one you have been setting aside for just the right time. Drink in the words; let your mind wander. And dream about things that could be.
5. Check off some items from the “regular life” to do list
Been saving that house project till you had some time? Or really need to get the car into the shop because the maintenance light has been on since Halloween? Tackle some of these items, and hit the New Year feeling ahead of the curve.
6. Rest and recharge your body, soul, and mind
Exercise, pray, meditate; pamper yourself. Sleep in (but not too much, or going back will be rough). Build in time for quiet moments. Spend time just being.
7. Eat well
I love cookies and brownies…and chocolate covered pretzels and fudge. Sweet tooth and then some, that’s me. But I’m feeling kind of sluggish and a bit…well, gross. Can you start cutting back this week? I know it seems counterintuitive, but your body will thank you. And we all know that a happier body sleeps better and thinks better than a sludgy one….and I’m really ready for that.
8. Be grateful
List as many things you can think of that have been awesome so far this school year. Now express gratitude for each one. Make it more meaningful by writing your thoughts down somewhere. We have great jobs and are privileged to do noble and valuable work. Yes, this profession is draining in ways that only teachers (and their significant others) understand. But it’s also wonderful. Spend time reflecting, and end 2016 giving thanks.
Aren’t you ready for a break from the constant stream of input? Yes, the emails and phone calls at work, but also all the noise on social media. This has been an especially noisy year. My ears (almost literally) are sore from it all, but more worrisome is that my soul feels a little beaten up. I plan to limit my time watching news or reading about other people’s lives, and instead just focus on my own life, and those of the people whom I love most.
Have a wonderful holiday break. And here’s to a happy, peaceful, and fruitful 2017!