Self-isolation, quarantining, social distancing, and not going to school is going to be the norm for a while due to the Corona virus. Within weeks, our lives as we know them have changed drastically. As educators we find ourselves lost without our students and the connections that brought us into the profession. We struggle to structure our days at home and develop new routines that will help us fill each day. Many decisions we make during this period will play a pivotal role in our well-being and happiness.
Personally, I struggled greatly during the first several days of being detached from school and society. Regardless of how much I slept or how much Netflix I watched, I was exhausted. During the day, I felt like taking naps and in the evening I could not find the energy to exercise or write. Eventually I was getting annoyed with myself. I had all the time that I had dreamt of in the past and I was squandering it. Even worse I was not happy.
It felt like everything changed overnight as our two week shutdown turned indefinite. Not knowing if or when the school year would restart, the focus quickly shifted to remote learning. As technology consultant for a board with over 35 000 students, it was obvious things were going to get busier than ever. From that point on, I jumped from one virtual meeting to another while watching the emails pile up. It was stressful making decisions and finding solutions, but guess what… I was happier, I was exercising and I was writing again.
My greatest learning this week is that our happiness is highly dependent on the purpose that we find in our lives. Stepping up and supporting all of the amazing educators who want to support their students, gives me purpose. It gives me something to wake up for, something to be proud of and something that makes each day meaningful. During this global pandemic, it is more important than ever that we have a purpose. We need to give meaning to each day by supporting those who need us. Whether that is our students, neighbours or strangers, it is crucial that we find our purpose.
This reminds me of a fact I read on the island of Okinawa, Japan. The Okinawian people do not have a word that means ‘retirement’. However, they are considered to be one of the healthiest and happiest people in the world. Why? Because they do not see work as work, they see what they do for a living as their reason for being, their purpose. Retirement to them would be giving up your purpose for living, so they do not stop until they have to. This brings them a great deal of happiness and results in many extra years of healthy living.
What will be your purpose throughout this unprecedented time in history? How will you invest your time into something meaningful? These are important questions to consider if you are looking to focus on your emotional wellbeing during these trying times. Often we think of self-care as taking time to relax and unwind. But it is more than that. Self-care is about rejuvenation and making time for things that are important to you. It is about feeling alive and energized. Having a purpose is a fundamental component of feeling better and being happier.
Many studies report that those who volunteer live longer and are happier. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Acts of kindness towards others have been proven to show the most elevated levels of mood hormones in study participants. Combine this with the fact that volunteers feel purposeful through helping others, and it all makes sense why, on average, they live better lives.
When you look back on CoVid19, how will you remember these times? We know that there is going to be great sadness and despair, but it does not all have to be for nothing. There is an opportunity to spread kindness, connect in unique ways, learn new skills and better ourselves. There will be many days where we have the time to self-reflect and grow. This is our opportunity to slow down enough to ask ourselves, what is our purpose and what are we doing to achieve it?
Over the next how many months this takes, find something that engages and inspires you. Something that puts a smile on your face and the faces of those around you that are in need. Find a purpose that pushes you to be better, do better. Do not let self-isolation take these months away from you. Value this time, invest this time and respect this time as being important. I would like to leave you with this song lyric. It reminds me that we will never get time back, so make it purposeful.
“Life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table.”
-Breathe by Anna Nalick