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Take Care Of Yourself

Brenda Hamm | April 26, 2022

I know a CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation who meditates for two hours every day. Two hours! I’m in awe of the discipline required, not just to remain in such a focused state for that amount of time, but also to protect two full hours every day from the usual intrusions of work and life. He swears by his practice because, according to him, with it he is happier, more effective in his work, and more caring toward his family. Without it he is grumpier, more tired, and more impatient. But two hours!! Really?
You’re a head of school, which means you are “on” all the time, have more constituents to attend to than you can shake a stick at, and are responsible for the well-being of an entire institution of kids, teachers, and administrators. Thanks to technology, anyone can reach you, anytime, anywhere; and thanks to a pandemic, faculty is fatigued and everyone is on edge. If it wasn’t for your senior administrative team your days would regularly spin out of control. Senior administrators are the glue that keep the school operating within normal parameters. They take your vision and put it into action. They field day-to-day issues so you are able to look at the big picture. They handle the tyranny of the moment so you can plan and be proactive.
Relying on your senior administrators means you need them to be on the top of their games. How do they take care of themselves? And as importantly, since their role model for self-care is you, how do you take care of yourself? It may not be two hours of meditation or any meditation at all that you need, but you, and your administrators, must find ways to feed your mental, physical, and/or spiritual health. In the short run, depleted reserves of any or all of these might not be a problem. But long term there will be a toll.
There are many small ways to recharge the batteries, particularly when you make them part of your daily routine, and there are bigger ways that occur less frequently but can have sustained benefits.
Let’s take a look at a few of each, keeping in mind you are modeling the behavior you want your administrators to emulate.

1) Take vacations.
Schedule time off and time away from work. If you have two weeks for spring break, use at least one of them for time away from work and make sure your senior administrators do the same. I knew an administrator who always had a plane ticket for the next vacation they were taking, even if it was months in advance.

3) Attend conferences. Stay current and connected with colleagues outside of school. Getting off campus, talking and listening to others, and learning new ways to view schools and education can release your mindset to see alternatives to issues you may not have thought of before. Or, you may find support or evidence for an idea you’d been percolating in your mind.

3) Take a stroll outside during the day.
Even 15 minutes of outdoor time can be restorative, particularly when accompanied by a bit of exercise like walking. It is easy to get trapped inside the building all day, every day when, in fact, there is no rule keeping you in there. And leave your cell phone in your office. Tell your assistant or front desk host where you are going and for how long. That way in the highly unlikely event there is an emergency that you must immediately attend to in the 15 minutes you are without your cell phone, you can easily be found.

4) Host a walking meeting.
When the opportunity emerges, invite the person with whom you need to chat to have a walk and talk meeting. Outside, in the field house, or on a nearby track are great options for walking and talking without interruption and without worrying about footing.

5) Indulge in a hobby.
Do you like to cook, read mystery novels, garden, play fantasy football, or fix bikes? Whatever brings you enjoyment that is not work, do it. And talk to others about it. Sharing your outside interests with work colleagues both humanizes you and spurs them to consider moving their own hobbies to the front burner if they’re not already there.

6) Exercise
Yoga, bike riding, cross country skiing, basketball, jogging, pickleball, or anything that gets your body moving is good! Exercise can improve mood and make you healthier overall. Using a stand-up desk now and again throughout the day and adding stand-up desks to offices for your senior administrators can boost overall health and energy levels.

And yes, you can meditate. Two hours may not be your thing but the good news is that frequency and consistency can make 10 minutes of mindful stillness be quite beneficial. There are even meditation apps, like the ones you can find at https://www.headspace.com/meditation/daily-meditation, that you can download to your phone and be guided through a brief meditation right in the comfort of your own office, whether it’s before or after that 7:30 parent meeting.

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