From burnout to balance: Festivities I’ve said no to

The temperature has really heated up over these last few weeks. Towards the end of school there was a little more silliness and bickering than usual, and a smidgen more truancy, along with a couple of last-minute interviews to make sure we start next year with all the teachers we need.

It’s a busy time (at home and at work), and it’s been a long, long year. Centuries ago, back in February or March, I remember telling a particularly difficult colleague that I didn’t have a limitless reservoir of energy and goodwill. High school teaching is one of those jobs where you really need to make sure you have plenty of petrol in the tank: a good night’s sleep, a proper breakfast – whatever it takes to help you deal calmly with whatever comes your way.

The team I work with went out for burgers and bowling, but I was not there. I was tired. I don’t like bowling. I’m not a night person. I had a blog post to finish. It was far, far better for me to be in bed early, and up in time to go for a run and to pack lunch and snacks for work the next day.

I’ve said no to another end-of-year ritual as well. I’m privileged to work with a diverse group of people, with most of the world’s major religions represented in our staffroom, and almost every single one of us joins in the annual secret Santa gift exchange. I feel a little mean, a little Scrooge-y, but it’s just not for me. Yes, ‘joke’ presents are funny the second they are opened, but straight after that they just add to the accumulation of stuff in our houses, our rubbish bins, and our landfills. I would probably get given a big box of chocolates or an assortment of biscuits, and I would almost certainly munch through them all by myself in a few days, so I have become a secret Santa refusenik.

Gretchen Rubin, who writes about happiness and habits, says one of the rules she lives by is to ‘Be Gretchen’, to be true to her own likes, dislikes and needs. For example, she would love to be the kind of person who loves jazz, but she has tried and tried, and she just doesn’t get it. She writes, “although you can choose what you do, you can’t choose what you like to do. You can’t control your tastes”. I’m learning that I just can’t override my needs for early nights and nourishing food, my inability to stop at just one chocolate or one biscuit, or my need to go with what my gut tells me is right for me. That doesn’t make it easy. I want my work colleagues to like me, I want to join in celebrations, I want to fit in and be nice, and I definitely want that big box of chocolates or assortment of biscuits (or part of me does). Saying ‘no’ is certainly a risk because nobody wants to be the odd one out. But, for the sake of my health and well-being, I believe it is a risk worth taking.

*Lynne Glen is a guest blogger and reader of Healthy Food Guide. She has taken up the challenge to use the mental well-being and resilience advice from the July 2017 issue and write about her progress.

Read more of her pieces here:

First published: Dec 2017

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