Can we really reclaim 2 hours a day?

I’m a big fan of The Blue Zones - an organization that helps people live better and longer lives based on research from some of the world’s longest-lived cultures (https://www.bluezones.com/)  Perhaps you're familiar with the founder Dan Buettner’s best-selling 2017 book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World's Happiest People.

When I saw the latest Blue Zones blog post headline Free Up 2 Hours a Day with This Exercise today, it caught my eye. Blog titles are meant to grab our attention, make us stop what we are doing and read. But is this title misleading?  (Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/35yB8Xl)

In my work as a teacher well-being and self-care advocate and writer, the number one reason why teachers tell me they can’t practice self-care is they don’t have time. I was an educator for more than 20 years and never practiced self-care, so I get it. People seem to be busier and more stressed due to growing personal and work demands and the influence/impact of technology that has invaded our lives. As well, more people are part of the sandwich generation which means their time is stretched looking after kids and aging parents.

As teachers, we know the demands of the profession and how it can contribute to our stress. This is what the research tells us about stress due to our work:

  • teachers experience as much stress as paramedics and police officers (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald, Taylor & Millet, 2005). 
  • 80% of Canadian teachers feel their stress levels have increased over the last 5 years (Froese-Germain, 2014).
  • the chronic use of empathy and depletion of emotional resources are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout for teachers (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).

Keeping an open-mind, I wanted to see if this article might be useful in helping me reclaim 2 hours a day.

According to Marie Forleo, a successful entrepreneur and author who was quoted in the article, she says

 “It’s never about having the time, it’s about making the time”. 

Now before you stop reading, let’s see if some of her ideas have any merit. Forleo argues that some of the biggest time guzzlers are:

  • social media
  • email
  • the Internet (going down the rabbit hole)
  • inefficient meal planning and prep
  • TV
  • traffic and commuting
  • meetings (many of which don’t really add value to our jobs, or could be more quickly and effectively addressed in email)
  • running errands
  • being on your cell phone (e.g., talking, texting, gaming, watching videos or listening to podcasts). One recent study estimates that Americans now spend nearly five hours a day on their phones.

Forleo’s list makes me feel like watching tv and using our phones is a bad thing but teaching is exhausting and watching Netflix or talking to a friend isn’t a terrible way to spend an evening. When I was a full-time college faculty, after my longest teaching day, I routinely crashed on my sofa for the night. We should never feel guilty for doing these things when we need to!

As teaching professionals, there are things we cannot control that require a lot of time such as preparing for lessons, marking, meetings and traffic, however, I do believe that there are some things that we can control that might be stealing our precious time.

I have to admit that I have wasted hours on many occasions by going down the Internet rabbit hole or looking at social media endlessly (this was the main reason why I closed my Facebook account). I know that I watch far too much news (especially CNN) so I’m seriously thinking of cancelling cable.

Do you think you might be surprised if you looked closely at how much time is spent on certain activities?  Do you feel that you don't have time now for activities that you would like to do such as spending time outdoors, having dinner with a friend, enrolling in a night class to learn something creative like painting or pottery, or taking a yoga class to unwind?

It boils down to our choices, habits and making a decision to increase our well-being, improve our health and practice self-care. Self-care is not an indulgence but necessary in the work that we do!

Sometimes we just need to crash, order in dinner, rest and take part in guilt-free mindless activities.  My biggest take-away from going through professional burn-out (and never taking time for me) is that “time is non-refundable”.  Maybe it's time to find those 2 hours!

Thanks for reading. Patrice

References:

Froese-Germain, B. (2014). Work-Life Balance and the Canadian Teaching Profession. Canadian Teachers’ Federation. 

Johnson, S., Cooper, C., Cartwright, S., Donald, I., Taylor, P., & Millet, C. (2005). The experience of work-related stress across occupations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20(2), 178-187.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02683940510579803

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422. https://www.wilmarschaufeli.nl/publications/Schaufeli/154.pdf

Bio

Patrice Palmer has more than 23 years’ experience as an ESL teacher, trainer and writer in Canada and spent seven amazing years in Hong Kong. Her experience with professional burn-out in 2015 prompted her to reflect on her own lack of self-care and adopt positive psychology interventions which she now shares with other educators and administrators. Patrice's new book Teacher Self-Care Manual: Simple Strategies for Stressed Teachers by Alphabet Publishing will be available in October 2019. http://bit.ly/2OC2Gmd

 

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