Sunday, April 24, 2016

No Guilt Relaxation

Greetings faithful, readers.

This week passed by in a flash, and I realized I haven't updated the blog. Today, I want to write about a topic that people with 24/7 jobs may relate to: the guilt that comes with relaxation. For many of us with careers that never allow us to feel "off the clock," the weekends can be difficult as you try to balance your own life with your work life. I've finally found a solution that has done wonders for my health and wellbeing, and I wanted to share a little about my strategy.

These days, I rarely work on the weekends, and when I do, I schedule it ahead of time and make a very conscious decision, before starting a work project, on when I will finish it. This actually allows me to be more productive since I don't waste time procrastinating. I now use my weekends (with the exception of the weekend before finals week) to fully relax and recharge, which makes me a happy teacher come Monday morning.

The first step is to manage other people's expectations. For me, this included being honest with my students about two things: when I will check emails and how long I will take to grade their work. My email policy is now a part of my syllabus and lets my students know that I will check email Monday-Friday from 8AM-5PM, excluding college observed holidays. I am very careful to always do a 5PM email check and keep my word about responding to anything sent before 5PM. If a student writes me at 5:40PM with questions about an assignment due that night, I write back the next morning: "I missed your question, please remember to write to me before 5PM if you need a same day answer." It's important to keep your boundaries. For feedback, I return major assignments within two calendar weeks for a 16 week class and one calendar week for an 8 week class. All of my assignments are due at 11:59PM, so this gives me some wiggle room to work at night, but usually, I exceed my own grading deadlines.

The second step is to manage your own expectations. In my planner, I make a note of when I need to have each assignment returned, so I can work towards that goal. I make the most of my weekdays, but if grading or something else work related must happen on the weekend, I set deadlines for myself such as "I am going to grade lit essays from 12-2 on Sunday" or "I am taking one hour Sunday evening to make handouts and update assignment sheets." I plan out when I will work ahead of time, just like I think ahead of time about when grocery shopping, making dinner, or doing laundry will happen. By doing this, it allows me to fully enjoy the time I'm not working instead of spending large chucks of time in a state where I "should be" working but am instead procrastinating.

I think the most important step in all of the process is to nix the guilt you associate with relaxation. I truly believe that I am an engaging teacher that goes above and beyond for my students. In order to do this, I need to rest, so I can feel healthy and have energy to bring to the classroom. This same concept can be applied to many work situations. When people (patients, clients, students, etc) need the best of you, you have to take care of yourself first to be able to give that. Stop feeling guilty about taking time to relax and make sure your life is in order before the week starts. Instead, think of relaxation as a necessary part of performing well (because it absolutely is!)

Here's what my weekend looked like (so far):

A long nap on Friday afternoon. I was exhausted from 6AM barre class and a full day at work. When I woke up, we decided to eat dinner out rather than hassling with making something. I called my mom, watched TV, and was in bed for good by 10:15PM. We bought this TemperPedic mattress topper a few weeks ago, and it is making all the difference in quality of sleep.

Saturday morning, we went out for breakfast and then did our grocery shopping. We spent some time appreciating our backyard, and we are both more than excited about the hummingbird that has decided to build a nest in our maple:

Photo by Brendan Egan 
I spent the afternoon getting a manicure and pedicure, and we enjoyed a stuffed peppers crockpot dinner that we had prepped together earlier in the day.

Saturday night, we joined the world in watching Beyonce's Lemonade. While the plot seemed more like afterthought, the project was visually beautiful and the music was undeniably powerful. I haven't seen anything like this, and it was exciting to witness. Afterwards, I did yoga in my living room and caught up on the new season of Girls before heading to bed.

And today? Plans with friends galore! Catching up with friends and their baby, doing yoga with a friend, and Game of Thrones with more friends.

It's been a relaxing and wonderful weekend. And you know what? I don't feel an ounce of guilt.

Here's to guilt free relaxation!

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