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Education: Self-care advocate has stress-reducing tips for parents, students, school administrators and teachers

Journal Scene readers may recall my April 17 “Arts Culture” column piece on Dr. Ja’net Bishop, Ed.D., CPEC, author of “How Much Joy is In Your Journey: A Creative Guide to Your Fearless Vision.”

Bishop, who is the CEO of Boots To Breakthrough, is also a transition strategist/self-care advocate, who conducts resiliency workshops and her techniques will help educators get through this school year in a more balanced way.

This October, she will present this topic at the National Alternative Education Association’s Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida.

From her personal and professional wellness experiences, she has some advice as she is also a mom, a veteran, a certified School Guidance Counselor, and was a school Principal in Georgia, so she had to learn a lot of stress-reducing techniques.

Most parents, students, teachers, and school officials are all coming off from a relaxed summer schedule into a more regimented one with this new school year.

Bishop said it’s natural for them to feel overwhelmed about a kid’s homework getting done, parent’s volunteerism, and — for teachers and principals — preparing for a new school term.

“It’s all pretty challenging for everyone concerned,” Bishop said. She noted teachers are being stressed out not only by the requirements set by school administrators but by all they are dealing with in terms of the types of kids they must teach.

“I met a teacher recently who has been teaching for 5 years. She’s already had to take a sick day from feelings of overwhelm,” Bishop mentioned, “and this school year just started.”

Principals and other school administrators also have a great deal of stress to deal with to achieve mandated educational requirements. Parents deal with everything from work responsibilities to their kid’s learning to extracurricular activities. So, they all need ways to deal with stress each day.

“As a Transition Strategist/Self-Care Advocate, I educate people to be more aware of wellness and the connection with self-care so they can build resilience in their personal life so that it supports the success of their professional life,” Bishop said.

The issue of the shortage of teachers from factors such as feelings of burnout is also very concerning. Bishop cited a 2015 U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics report that found 17% of beginning teachers leave the field in their first five years on the job. It was determined by the National Education Association (NEA) that high-quality mentors and competitive salaries makes a difference in retaining them.

“Within this context, it’s incumbent upon school administrators to have support in place to keep teachers engaged,” Bishop added.

Self-care activities can help one cope with stress and improve overall well-being. This is especially important if one has many responsibilities like going to school, working at a stressful job, or taking care of a loved one.

“A good deal of practicing self-care is learning how to understand your own ne emotionally, physically, and professionally. If you can understand your ne and learn to put yourself first sometimes, you’ll be better able to take care of yourself and your other responsibilities,” Bishop stated.

She said one may need some emotional self-care if they have felt stressed lately or may benefit from some physical self-care if they have been more tired than normal. For emotional self-care, Ja’net suggested trying relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga or repeat positive affirmations such as, “I can do this!”

Ja’net teaches the “8 Dimensions of Wellness” which covers one’s spiritual, physical, emotional, environmental, social, intellectual, occupational, and financial wellness.

“These are areas that reflect living a holistically full life,” she said, “and self-care can occur or overlap in a number of these areas.”

Bishop outlines her tips for each group below.

Parents Kids: In the midst of hectic schedules, remembering to take care of your emotional well-being sometimes falls to the bottom of the priority list. This is especially true for children, who aren’t aware of how important it is to take care of their mental health. While navigating the trials and tribulations of growing up, expecting your child to be mindful of fitting in self-care into their day can be a stretch. Bishop said there are studies that suggest the numbers of children in the U.S. with a diagnosable mental health condition are on the rise and having an emotional or behavioral disorder gets in the way of them living their best life and reaching their full potential. Hence, Bishop says, there is a clear need for taking precaution with your child’s emotional health, which can begin with a personal, healthy routine to build coping skills and mindsets that promote resiliency as they develop. Tips:

1-Create a winning family routine;

2-Focus on sleep;

3-Get healthy together;

4-When in doubt, write it out;

5-Express yourself creatively (through art, music, dance, writing);

6-Play to promote emotional and mental health;

7-Foster social skills;

8-Collaborate on the use of electronic screen time

With respect to the stress of college students, a 2014 Pennsylvania State University study found that anxiety is now the leading mental health issue for them. As these numbers rise, college faculty can’t hire enough therapists to facilitate the number of students needing some talk time. While treating yourself like you treat others sounds great, many students resort to throwing money at emotional issues by binge eating and drinking and these temporary fixes won’t help, so a more viable solution like self-care is the way to go, Bishop said.

For teachers, Ja’net said everyone’s self-care may look a little different and there is no simple way to take good care of yourself. She encourages trying some different strategies until one has a full toolbox: something that energizes you, another thing to help you unwind, and another to help you cope when you’re having a hard time. She says teachers should encourage students to do the same. Self-care helps us sustain as educators and learners.

Tips:

1-Keep ‘pick-me-up’ items in your desk during a busy day

2-Have 2-minute strategies to do during planning or class change times (yoga, fresh air, mindfulness)

3-Creatively unwind after a long day (sing, bake, knit, write, draw)

4-Connect with others

5-Have a “Positives File”

6-Get your body moving (run, dance, yoga, walk, exercise)

For school principals: School leaders benefit from setting up and maintaining a system of support to help them meet the challenges of the job.

Tips:

1-Find connection

2-Read to learn

3-Build routines

4-Reflect and reframe

5-Be mindful

As if Dr. Ja’net Bishop isn’t busy enough. She is working on her next book, which will be semi-autobiographical and will also cover the eight dimensions of wellness that helped transform her life after moving here two years ago. She expects the book to come out by the end of this year or in 2020.

She is also working on a Gratitude Journal book. Bishop can be reached via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005072055634 or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drjanetbishop/ or Email: dr.janet.bishop@gmail.com.