I can break the news now: I landed a teaching job last week! The job came out of the blue and through Facebook messenger. Can you believe it? With all honesty, I do think my life would give a great mexican soap opera. After three weeks without any phone calls to schedule a single job interview, an old coworker texted and asked me if I would be interested to take part in a school-based project. A week later, there I was, in a classroom surrounded by preteenagers, and right in the heart of Lisbon.
Having a job and a place I need to go to every week day has made wonders for my wellbeing. First, it gives me a sense of usefulness and worthiness. I don’t know what it is like not having a job since I was 18 years old. Second, it brings me confidence and motivation to keep working towards a life with meaning and purpose. The project I’m working in requires me to teach on matters such as Children Rights, Creativity, and Sustainability among others. I have also the freedom to shape the class’ dynamic as I see fit, so I have been doing my best to embrace Positive Education in whatever we do.
Doing something I like and having such freedom to go about it as I think it’s best for me and my students have allowed me to restore the faith in myself and in my professional performance. The time I spent working as a doctoral researcher and assistant professor was a huge bite on my confidence as a worker. I actually even thought I would never be able to work again. Thankfully I learned a lot from Dr Judith Orloff about empaths and how to manage hypersensitivity at work. The first (and maybe hardest) step was to recognise that a career in current academia wasn’t the best option for me.
I loved teaching in higher education, but I hate competition and battles of the ego, which are daily served to you when you are among academics – and sadly from all ranks, including PhD students. I also didn’t have freedom to be creative and come up with new ways of doing what I was doing. Science in modern days is not what I thought it would be when I was just a kid. More often than not, you have to comply and go by the book of the person who is above you, because you are doing research for them and their resumé, not to feed your burning and curious questions.
Now that I have freedom to just be myself at work, I’m happy. I’m genuinely happy about it. I don’t have to put a mask everyday and pretend I’m not struggling. I don’t feel I have to act like a smartass in order to survive on a day to day basis. This is a must when you’re an empath or a highly sensitive person, since faking is very energy depleting. There are, however, a few other wellbeing tips I would like to share with you in this post, especially if you’re teaching or an educator and you know to be highly sensitive.
Switch Off At The End of A Working Day
This one didn’t come easy to me. I was used to check my work email every 5 minutes. I wasn’t on work mode eight hours a day. I was technically 24h connected to it through email. There were notifications on my laptop and on my phone. Eventually, I removed the email app from my phone, but that didn’t help me to break free from checking emails all the time. People would send emails at any time of the day. At work, that wasn’t questioned. It was actually part of the hidden academic culture, and it made any conversation about work-life balance hilarious. I even feel stomach sick just for writing about it. The good thing now is that I’m willing to stick by my wellbeing and I’m no longer engaging in checking emails or doing anything work-related beyond what I call my working day, which now starts early in the morning and ends at 7pm. This way my brain can relax and I can prepare myself to sleep at a decent hour – which brings us to tip #2.
Have a Good Night Sleep
I already talked about the importance of sleep for wellbeing, but I’m going to say it again: rest and sleep are essential for everyone’s wellbeing, and highly sensitives in particular. To make the most of your sleep, it’s important that you synchronize yourself with your body’s natural rhythm. Falling asleep before midnight and waking up somewhere between 6 and 8 am seems to offer us a greater sense of restfulness. I had my sleeping pattern messed up and there were days in which I was falling asleep in the very first hours of each morning. I could still sleep six or eight hours, but I never woke up feeling rested. Now that my days are structured and that I’m physically active everyday, I’m finally in tune with Nature and I can attest for the power of a good night sleep as a way to prevent me from being energy depleted and stressed out.
Keep Your Blood Sugar On Track
Having irregular blood sugar peaks is one of the worst things that can happen to highly sensitive teachers. It can easily happen if you skip meals or you don’t pay much attention to the nutritional value of the foods you are choosing to eat. It’s important to prioritise and incorporate healthy snacks in your routine. Make time to have that apple or cracker between classes. Don’t let yourself be driven by rush and overcommitment. You will perform much better and produce better work if you keep your blood sugar on track. So be sure to have a healthy snack every two hours and do your best to respect meal time. Also – keep that water bottle full and always around you!