Today starts our mini-unit on self-compassion in the mindfulness class I’m teaching. It’s a hard unit, even as a teacher, because so much of our culture says we need to be hard on ourselves–and probably much harder than we already are. It’s almost painful to be self-compassionate, and it’s about as awkward to talk about it to kids.
And on top of that, I’m still feeling sick. I got to bed a few hours earlier than usual last night, and I woke up feeling so much better–but my throat is so dry it’s raw, and I can barely open my mouth to talk without feeling the pain of it. I was talking to myself last night, and I know when I’m feeling sick I have the least amount of willpower, so all my normal challenges look like massive mountains right now.
So it’s the perfect time to talk about self-compassion.
I’ve been down all weekend. Despite some fun outings with friends, an itch in my throat slowly spread until it erupted Sunday into an all-out cold. My plans to do a big weekend social media push for my Kickstarter instead ended up with me napping on the couch.
Now that the school week has begun, it’s time for me to turn my attention back toward willpower in my mindfulness class. Today’s multifaceted prompt begins by asking us to think about our willpower role models. Who inspires us most to meet our goal?
I love it when I get to use puns in my titles–it’s not quite clickbait, but it’s almost just as good. Anyways, stress. We often feel defeated by stress. We think stress is a sign of failure and inadequacy (and then we get stressed out for failing and being inadequate), but according to Kelly McGonigal, that perspective on stress is incorrect.
One of the hidden stress responses Kelly McGonigal talks about in her book The Upside of Stress is the “tend and befriend” response: Stress physiologically compels us to help others and strengthen relationships. We can tap into this stress response, she says, whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed simply by answering one question:
In Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct, she talks about how tapping into our want power–the drive we have towards the things we desire–can help us draw forth our willpower reserves when we’re feeling low or defeated.
This week also happens to be the longest week of the school year: Over thirty hours of teaching, plus zero prep time while at school. In a typical week I teach only twenty hours and have about ten hours of planning meetings and prep time, so this shift is intense and can be quite exhausting. There’s no better time than right now to find my want power.
In an age of primetime scandals and uncertain politics, there are four things I like to watch: fun TV shows like Steven Universe and the Punisher, fun YouTube videos from creators like Lockstin & Gnoggin or Bird Keeper Toby, satirical news commentary from personalities such as Seth Meyers (if only he were single) and John Oliver, and TED Talks.
TED Talks, as it happens, also form the basis of the mindfulness elective I’m currently teaching. Inspired by the works of Kelly McGonigal and Brene Brown especially (my self-help gurus), this course strives to provide my students with a stress mindset intervention as well as strategies they can employ to conquer stress and shame and boost willpower.
Rather than a large number of quizzes and exams, most of the course is driven by self-reflective journals, and throughout this month, I’m committing myself to reflecting on each of these journals alongside my kids. Practice what you preach, right?
Here’s a fact about gematria, the alphanumeric philosophy that relates words with numbers: In Hebrew, the word “life” and the number 18 are synonymous.
And here’s a random thought: 0, representing nothingness, is like a blank space.
So here’s a play on words: 2018 literally means “to life”!
Okay, okay, you’re right, it should be “two life,” but that’s not as much fun. And it raises significantly many more psychological concerns than “to life,” which is not only reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof, but also a sign that this year is a year for living.
It’s been a long minute since I’ve taken the time to truly think about my goals. For over a year, my life has consisted of headbutting deadlines vying for my attention–child interview report due Monday, grade data analysis due Tuesday, dishes in the sink reaching critical mass and are those leftovers suddenly living?–so much so that it’s seemed like my standard state of mind has been stuck on survival.
You can’t really make progress toward long-term goals if you don’t take time to think about what those goals are, and today I’m determined to do this at least once before my students return, grad school begins again, and I feel stuck in survival mode once more.