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September Will Come and Go in the Blink of an Eye! Let’s Try to Enjoy it!

Fall comes with not only the fact that I head back to work but also the joy of warm sweaters and leggings, busy days and nights and maybe a little stress. Well for me, definitely some stress! Do I love it? Yes! Do I fear it? Yes! This year, September will be especially busy for me because I am involved in several projects, all of which I take part in very happily. It’s interesting though, that even though I want to be involved in something, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t at least a tiny bit stressful. Have you ever felt that?

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I used to do various presentations earlier in my career, some when I worked in Japan for fellow teachers and some when I was part of the Manitoba Association of Teachers of French (MATF) when I worked Selkirk. Once I moved to my current school, I chose to take a back seat for a while and to listen, rather than speak. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I also felt that I had needed a rest.

Now, I am kind of out of practice for presenting to large groups (other than students), so I thought it should be a new goal. I have mentioned in previous blogs that I have lots of goals set up for myself. This particular one was kind of a long-term plan, that I was hoping to reach over the next 10 years, nothing too immediate. Well, to my surprise, my sister asked me to be the MC at her wedding. So, I accepted with pleasure, because I love my sister and her fiancé and because I can get started on my goal even sooner.

Recently, I also realized that I had some information to share with the teachers at my school and volunteered to help plan a Professional Development day that is coming up. Again, it seems that this is an opportunity to work on my goal even sooner. I just love how putting something out there into the universe brings you what you need, whether you are ready or not. Has this ever happened to you?

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So I find myself in the very fortunate position of having two potential speaking engagements planned, within a week of each other. I have to finish writing and planning everything that I will use during those presentations as well. During the same month, I will also be starting a new class, for which I have not yet heard what book I have to buy and I have to attend to all of the other roles of a Student Services Teacher. How will I get through this? Hopefully with the same 7 tools that I posted last week and with a little help from my friends, colleagues, and family! I am lucky to have many amazing people around me with different skills and knowledge who can support me in all that I am wanting to do.

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There are several reasons why I started this blog – I had wanted to write ever since I can remember. I used to write stories about my dolls when I was really young. Then I wrote alternate endings to TV shows. I used to write horrible short stories in university too – I don’t think fiction was my calling. Finally, I decided that I needed to write what I know to be true. If not for others, then just for me. Of course, I hope that maybe someone else can actually relate to what I am going through and we can learn together – that would be amazing! The best thing about this blog is that I am creating something. If nothing else, I can refer to previous blogs to remind me of what my goals are or to help me use my tools to de-stress. The best thing is that I am writing. I am always writing. I am convinced that eventually all of this writing will serve me in my career and vice versa.

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So, while I work through all of my various projects this September, I will continuously remind myself to enjoy the moments. I will remember that I am exactly where I need to be at this time, doing exactly what I need to be doing. If any friends reading this see me stressed, please remind me to breathe, smile, refer to my own tools and keep working on my goals. Slow and steady might not win the race, but it will get me to where I want to be!

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Stay tuned to find out how all of these events play out!

Peace and love,

Michelle

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Back-to-school – 7 Tools to Ease Anxiety and to Help Make Each Day Positive

I want to share some ways in which we can focus on the good so we can have a better day, a better week and a better life – no matter what is going on around us.

For me and for any teachers, educational assistants, school staff, parents and their school-age children, September means back-to-school and back to routine. Routine is good, but it comes with a bit of anxiety for most of us. With changes in our schedules, many people find it difficult to focus on the positive.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since focusing on the positive is the whole purpose of this blog. I want to share some ways in which we can focus on the good so we can have a better day, a better week and a better life. No matter what is going on around us, if we focus on what is good, we can continue to attract good. If we focus on what is wrong with the world around us, we will only see the negative. It took me years to learn this, so I know it is a valuable lesson!

Several years ago, I was quite open about my inability to deal with the negative way others were treating me. I often asked co-workers for help because I could feel that what I was doing was not working. When someone was negative, I was straight up negative back at them and our anger always escalated. A very wise and respected principal with whom I worked at the time, told me that we can’t change other people’s actions or beliefs but we can focus on ourselves and change how we react. Although I did not admit it to him, I was frustrated with him because I didn’t think that others should be able to treat me like garbage and that I should have to focus on my reaction. I thought that people should just be nice to me. (My naivety makes me laugh out loud now.) I tried to control my reactions anyway though because I had so much respect for him and over 10 years later, I am still a work in progress.

At least today, I understand what my boss meant and continuously focus on spreading positivity and love in this world. I still make mistakes, but my goal is to focus on love. Now, I am proud to say that I can usually choose my “go to” people and vent to them while keeping the actual problematic situation at bay. Also, if I do make a mistake and react negatively to a situation, I can apologize for my actions. I can admit when I know I am wrong. My next goal is to get to the point where I won’t even need to vent or apologize anymore because I will no longer react. Jen (my co-worker) and Brad (my hubby) will be very happy when I reach that goal!

How do I plan on reaching such a lofty goal? I focus on self-care above all else. Everyone needs different forms of self-care. For Brad, it involves alone time playing video games. For other friends, it’s running. For me, it involves various kinds of exercise depending on my mood, yoga, meditation, sleeping late when I don’t have commitments, getting up really early when I do, and various creative outlets. During summer, I can do these self-care rituals at any time of day. However, once school starts my day begins by 5:30am. Before I leave the house I have to make sure that I feel grounded, that I am calm and that I remind myself to live in the moment. Before I even start my day and before anyone’s negativity can affect me, I have to remind myself of a calm, centered space where I can return quickly if a situation escalates at work. That way, if something does happen, I am not reacting to the negativity. I can quickly come to my centered space and calmly find a solution to a problem. The following are some ways that I prepare myself on any given day. I have learnt that if I forget to use these tools, my day does not go as smoothly as I would like. If you find yourself anxious, try them on yourself or with your children or students. Maybe one of them will work for you!

1.Eating well and eating enough –

I absolutely never leave the house without eating breakfast or having a plan for a lunch. If I do not take a lunch with me, it means I have a plan for where I am buying it and what I am buying, but 9 times out of 10 I will pack a lunch. I don’t mind if I am running out the door a little later than I would prefer, in my head I tell myself that no one stands between me and my food. This is real! I always have water, maybe a hot beverage of my choice for the day and tons of fruit, veggies and other peanut-free, gluten-free and lactose-free food for the day. It is incredibly important to know what foods work for you and to nourish yourself throughout the busy day. My students have gotten used to me eating my apples, granola bars or chickpeas while I teach or talk. I also encourage them to eat as well. I believe it shows them that self-care is important, without preaching about it. I like the “Do as I do and not as I say” mantra. Does it work? I have no way of knowing, but the students benefit from me not being “hangry” and that is a good thing!

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A healthy lunch makes all the difference.

2. Grounding exercises –

The website Living Well explains that “Grounding exercises are things you can do to bring yourself into contact with the present moment – the here and now. They can be quick strategies (like taking three deep “belly breaths”) or longer, more formal exercises (like meditation). Different strategies work for different people, and there is no “wrong” way to ground yourself. The main aim is to keep your mind and body connected and working together. ” (Living Well, 2018) In their article that I have linked above, they list many different grounding exercises. Here are 3 very quick and easy ones that can bring us back to the present moment if we get anxious or feel a panic attack coming on.

  • Notice five things you can see, five things you can hear, five things you can feel, taste, or smell.
  • Put on a piece of instrumental music. Give it all of your attention.
  • Take ten slow breaths. Focus your attention fully on each breath, on the way in and on the way out. Say number of the breath to yourself as you exhale.

(Living Well, 2018)

3. Using art to focus on the positive –

If you like to draw, use art to focus on what is positive or on the positive outcomes you would like to see in your life. Drawing something great happening before the day even starts – can help focus on what we want to bring into our lives, instead of on what is not working. Drawn Dreams is a gratitude journal that can be used to help focus on what we are grateful for and what we want to draw into our lives. Simply colouring can also bring you peace of mind. I love this Stress-Free colouring book that I got from my in-laws for Christmas one year.20180825_1108084070159866476148543.jpg

4. Journaling exercises –

I have a journal that I use from time-to-time and I am currently using this blog as my form of journaling. I have always found that keeping a journal was a great way to release pent-up feelings, brainstorm solutions to problems or even make positive ) plans for the future. On the website verywellmind Elizabeth Scott (2018), explains that “journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool; oftentimes, one can hash out a problem and come up with solutions more easily on paper.” (Scott, 2018)

5. Practicing Meditation-

I tried to practice meditation in my 20’s but back then I never found it easy to sit still long enough to really benefit from it. Luckily for me, meditation has been gaining popularity in recent years and I when I decided to try again, I was able to find lots of different meditation techniques that can work for anyone. Now, it is something that I practice whenever I need to calm myself, to prepare for the day or to remind myself to focus on what is important, instead of getting caught up in a stressful situation. I usually meditate for a few minutes before I go to work, but I even meditate with my students if they are open to trying it. I find that if a student is too upset to talk about what is bothering them, sometimes a very short meditation will be enough to calm them, so that we can the assess the situation and see what the student needs at that time. The app Insight Timer, which was suggested to me by a friend, has thousands of different types of guided meditations that can be done in anywhere from 1 minute to 30+ minutes. There really is something for everyone on that app. Here is another guided meditation for anxiety that I like to use, the visuals in the video are great for those of us who have a hard time keeping our eyes closed during meditation. It’s especially good for students or beginners to meditation.

6. Doing Yoga or Other Exercise –

I like to do relatively easy yoga poses as often as I can (my goal is every morning, but it doesn’t always happen). Not only am I getting a good stretch in and preparing my body for a busy day, but I am clearing my mind of negativity as well. Yoga Journal has several different yoga poses that help with anxiety.

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Yoga bricks and chairs can help you modify your poses. A foam roller works wonders after any exercise.

7. Writing or stating your intentions for the day –

Another tool I like to use is to set my intentions for the day.  Usually after I do yoga or meditate in the morning, I like to state 1 to 3 simple, positive actions to focus on throughout the day, in order to bring myself back to a calm place, no matter what is going on around me. For example, I state to myself (in my head): Today I will take the time to breathe deeply. Today I will smile. Today I will enjoy the moment. Then when I get stressed throughout the day, I remind myself of these 3 statements to bring me back to what is important for me that day. If I forget to do this practice before I leave the house, I will often do it in the car while driving to work. It takes no time at all and I find it very useful in reminding myself of what is really important for me that day.

These are all little tools that I like to have in my tool box, to help take care of my mental health. If you, like me, are a little anxious about back-to-school try adding one of the above techniques to your morning routine or choose something else that works for you. If you want to play a half-hour of video games before you get ready for work, do that. If you want to spend an hour doing your make-up meticulously, go for it. Even if you have to get up earlier to do it, having a fun routine in the morning can help you focus more on what is going well and let go of what’s negative. It can help you stay in the moment instead of worrying about what is going to happen next.

*If ever I feel like these types of tools aren’t working, and I need the help of a professional, I will also check in with a therapist or counsellor. For teachers in Manitoba we have the Educator Assistance Program, which offers free short-term counselling. I have used the program a few times and I would recommend it to anyone – healthy teachers are great role models for healthy students. I have also used private counselling in the past, when I needed more than the AEP program could offer. If you feel that your anxiety cannot be controlled by using tools like those mentioned above, I would encourage you to talk to your doctor, a counsellor or a therapist. There are different avenues for different needs and I always encourage people to explore them all.

Good luck with your back-to-school struggles. I’m cheering for us all in my little office, hoping the next 10 months will be filled with joy, resilience and for me personally – a little less coffee than last year (just putting that out there).

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Peace and Love,

Michelle

 

Sources:

Anderson, M.-J. (2018). Drawn Dreams. Retrieved from https://www.drawndreams.com/

Cruz Bay Publishing. (2018). Yoga For Anxiety. Retrieved from Yoga Journal: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/yoga-by-benefit/anxiety

Elizabeth Scott, M. (2018, April 01). verywellmind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-journaling-for-stress-management-3144611

Living Well. (2018). Retrieved from Living Well: https://www.livingwell.org.au/well-being/mental-health/grounding-exercises/

Positive Magazine Meditation. (2013, May 08). 10 Minute Guided Meditation to ease Anxiety Worry, Overthinking & Urgency . Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoYnqvadurg

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2018). Educator Assistance Program. Retrieved from http://www.mbteach.org/mtscms/2016/05/24/educator-assistance-program/

 

 

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Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere!

My goal is to help others through sharing what I have learned from life lessons, from teachers or from other influential people.  I hope some of the posts I write will inspire you to live your life to your fullest!

I have always wanted to write something worthwhile, something to inspire others and to make people feel good.  Last summer I started a blog, but it didn’t feel quite right.  I had written three posts, but I didn’t like the site.  I decided to wait on it until it “felt right”. I told my husband about my plan and he didn’t think it was crazy.  He always supports me in everything that I do.  He suggested using WordPress, so I’m giving it a try.

Anyone who knows Brad knows he is a sweetie.  Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Canadian Museum for Human rights.  We had a wonderful day together.  If you haven’t been there yet, it’s worth the visit. You have to go all the way up to the Tower of Hope to get a great view of Winnipeg and to be truly inspired.

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Today’s inspiration came from a show on Netflix.   Yes, that is correct I was inspired while I wasted time watching Netflix.  The show was Girlboss, which I stumbled upon by accident.  I thought it was quirky and funny.  Then I realized that it was loosely based a real person’s journey – Sophia Amoruso.  She is a writer and business woman.  I was inspired.  In case you decide to check it out, her journey has not been flawless or easy. Her life is not perfect.  Like I said, inspiration can come from anywhere!

My life has not been flawless or perfect either.  I’m coming to realize that no one’s is.  So I am restarting my blog today and this time I’m sharing it.  This takes guts on my part.  I am usually quite private but my intuition is telling me to write this, so I am doing just that.  (Coincidentally, as I wrote that last line, I looked at the clock and it was 10:10.  I’ve read that the meaning of the number 1010 is to follow your intuition.  I guess I’m on the right track.)

It can be fun to check out the meaning of numbers from time to time.  I use Joanne Walmsley’s site.  If you want to look it up, go to:

http://sacredscribes.blogspot.com.au/

I am not sure how often I’ll write or where this will take me, but I know I’ll enjoy the journey.  Hopefully, you will too.  Some posts will be about challenges I’ve overcome, some will be about new beginnings and some will be strategies I have used to make my life happier, easier and more fulfilling.  My goal is to help others through sharing what I have learned from life lessons, from teachers or from other influential people.  I hope some of the posts I write will inspire you to live your life to your fullest!

Peace and love,

Michelle

47 for 47 – Act of kindness #10

Act of kindness 10 leading up to my 47th bday – let a parent know how great their child is! It’s easy for me to do this, since I’m a teacher, but anyone can do this. We all know someone with children. How great is it for a parent to hear, unexpectedly, how wonderful their child is? It could be that they always make you smile. It could be about a child who was struggling and is now doing well. Whatever you choose, the parent will love it! Give it a try! #actsofkindness #kind #bekind #kindnessmatters #47for47 #consciousactsofkind #consciouskindness

47 for 47 – Act of kindness #9

The 9th act of kindness before my 47th bday is pretty easy to do on Easter Sunday – be kind to the kids in your life. Brad and I don’t have kids, but we have lots of children in our lives. Today we have a special surprise for our nieces, which I hope we can turn into a new tradition. Happy Easter everyone! #actsofkindness #kind #bekind #kindnessmatters #47for47 #consciousactsofkindness #consciouskindness #happyeaster

47 for 47 Act of kindness #8

Act of kindness 8 of 47 – spend time with friends. My 40s have been mainly focused on my relationship and my career and financial goals, which is great but it leaves less time to hang out with friends. Tonight I am lucky that my amazing friend @jodiharr got some last-minute tickets to #kinkyboots. So that is my Act of Kindness for today – spend quality time with Jodi (and her other besties). (I think I might have to add in a surprise for her as well.) HER act of kindness was finding us the tickets! I have really kind friends!

I had really wanted to go to Kinky Boots but I didn’t get tickets, so I am very happy that she included me in her plans for tonight. I will miss the Jets game though…I’ll be checking in on my phone, no worries! I also better wear my Jets gear on my night out. My Mother-In-Law gave me a Jets shirt with little jewels on it. That’s my dressy Jets gear! #kinkyboots #gojetsgo #wpgjets #wearewinnipeg #funwithfriends #consciousactsofkindness #consciouskindness #actsofkindness #kind #bekind #kindnessmatters #friends #47for47

47 for 47 – Act of kindness #7

The fall and winter are really busy for me at work and at university. It makes it difficult for me to spend time with friends and family. That’s partly why I love Spring so much! Once April comes, things slow down at work, I have no courses and it finally gets warmer outside. I have time to enjoy my friends, family and being outside again! This Spring has been filled with activities too.

My 7th act of kindness leading up to my 47th birthday is to spend quality time with a loved one. I have been so excited about this weekend because it will be all about friends and family! Tonight Brad and I will be attending a Michael Bublé concert! Thanks to Brad and Jennifer de Rocquigny – I got surprised with concert tickets at Christmas! I can’t wait to spend an evening just relaxing and enjoying the entertainment.

This is the first of several fun activities this Easter weekend. I hope your Easter or your long weekend (for those who don’t celebrate Easter) will be as fun-filled as mine!

#actsofkindness #kindness #kind #47for47 #kindnessmatters #consciousactsofkindness #happyeaster #family #friends

47 for 47 – Act of kindness #6

I have lots of friends and relatives who live far away. I am used to being away from them, since I have lived away from “home” since 1990! But I still miss them. Being far away from people who you grew up with, who have known you for your whole life (or almost), is hard even at 46! I don’t get to drop over for coffee or tea with my uncles and aunts. I don’t get to go shopping with my sister and to laugh as we finish each other’s sentences. I don’t get to visit with the women who knew me when I was in their Girl Guide troupe or who rode bikes to Dominion Beach with me. I never get to see the people who drove around “town” with me in circles on a Friday nights, with ridiculously BIG, curly 80s hair, hoping to get to talk to some cute boy but too shy to actually try to talk to him on my own.

These people know me and I never have to be anything but myself with them. They have seen or heard about ALL my ups and downs and they still like me – some even love me! That, I am learning, is very rare!

So sometimes, I have to connect with those people across the miles. My act of kindness today is to write a message to a few of these amazing friends and relatives to say “hi”. That’s it – just to say hi and that I am thinking of them. I hope you will message someone special in your life today too!

47 for 47 – Act of kindness #5

A few years ago I realized that Brad and I seemed to have several pairs of eyeglasses stored away “just in case our others broke”. Obviously we don’t need 3-4 old pairs lying around with outdated prescriptions, so I looked for a place where we could donate them.

The last time, I went to Pearle Vision. This time I found a website that lists several stores around Winnipeg who accept the glasses and who bring them to the Lion’s Foundation. Look on their website to see where you can donate your old glasses too!

Winnipeg Locations

I chose the following place because they are super close and I can drop off my donation on the way home from work:

Hakim Optical

Saint Vital Mall near London Drugs

Phone: 204-253-2020

47 for 47 – Act of Kindness #4

Letting someone merge in front of me should be easy, considering there is construction on the way to work from the gym each morning. This morning, I can change my perspective on the slow-moving line and think of it as an opportunity to be kind. What a positive perspective that will be! #bekind #kindnessmatters #47for47 #kind #consciousactsofkindness #kindness #actsofkindness