Journaling: What are the Benefits? What to Journal About? and How We Can Make it a Habit?

Journaling: What are the Benefits? What to Journal About? and How We Can Make it a Habit?

What do you do when you feel as if you cannot hold your emotions within you? When you are a cup, ill equipped to hold the volume of your feelings, and at any moment, it can all come spilling out creating a mess that would be more than a little inconvenient to clean? For me, the answer is I write it down. Since I was a child, I have loved to write, and very early on I realized that when I put my ideas into words, even if I was unclear when I started, by the time I finished, I would have more clarity than when I began. As an adult, I can add personal color to the widely accepted and research backed consensus that journaling can be life changing. When I post on my instagram story about my journal, I’ve had several people ask me how I journal and what I journal about. I am here to offer research, ideas, and resources for those who wish to know more and begin to journal. 

The Research

Deborah Christensen, MSN, APRN, AOCN writes that studies have shown that journaling helped Registered Nurses experience less compassion fatigue, make better decisions, and be more self aware. Though this study is specifically for nurses, I know that compassion fatigue and decision making are HUGE for teachers, especially after COVID. We encounter a multitude of student stories, some of which are traumatic. I remember my first year teaching. I was not prepared for the emotional toll of listening to my beloved students’ struggles. Not to mention, I had trauma myself as a teacher. One year, we lost a student, and I had to hold my students as they cried from hearing the news. I say this to emphasize that this profession has an emotional toll and our mental health should be taken seriously. Teachers also experience decision making fatigue. The amount of decisions that teachers make a day is ludicrous. Should we let this student go to the bathroom?; Should I address this behavior in front of the group or in a one on one?; Did my students grasp the concept, or should I re-explain using a different method? The list goes on and on.

I say all this to say, that though the nature or our compassion and decision making fatigue may be different than nurses, it is still a relevant concern in our profession. Journaling is a technique that can help, and why wouldn’t we want help?

What to Journal About?

Reflection is Key

Identifying emotions is one journaling practice that can help you process your emotions, while fostering the emotional awareness you need to set an intention for your day. I know what you’re thinking: “But I don’t have time, I already have to be at the school at the crack of dawn.” Well, I got you. Christensen shows a resource in her article that is has to be the quickest journaling prompt in the world. You just write down one word that expresses how you feel in all of the following categories: Physically, Emotionally, Spiritually, and Relationally. The example she gives in her article looks like this

Physically-Energetic

Emotionally-Anxious

Spiritually-Satisfied

Relationally-seeking

If you are having trouble identifying how you are feeling, you can save this graphic of the emotional word wheel to your phone, so you can identify exactly how you are feeling in each area. 

Gratitude is Good for Your Health

Celebration can be good for your immune system! Yes, when you write, celebrate what you are grateful for! Yes, for those of us who are on the more cynical side, who delight in satire and sarcasm, may find this unnatural and odd, but trust me, pushing through the immediate eye roll and making it a habit is worth it. By the time it is a habit, you will be looking around and noticing that you have more to be grateful for than you hold in your conscious mind on a regular basis. No, I do not think that this is a cure all, and I don’t think you should use it to gaslight yourself from a negative situation. But acknowledging that both gratitude and sorrow can exist at the same time is powerful. How can you expect to have a positive life if you never take the time to reflect on what is positive.

I started my gratitude journal by just writing down 5 things that I am grateful for in the morning. It doesn’t have to be life altering events to be worthy of documentation. Anything you are grateful for qualifies. The sun outside, the cup of coffee you’re drinking, the fact that you were able to take that last breath, anything that is positive. Eventually it got easier and the things that I am grateful for just flowed out of my pen.

Meditate on something you read

Another way I like to journal is to write about a poem or a quote that resonated with me. One book of poetry that I highly recommend for this is All Along You Were Blooming: Thoughts for Boundless Living By Morgan Harper Nichols. Wow, I loved this book so much I bought two more copies to give away as gifts. Morgan also has an instagram page where she shares her art and inspirational thoughts. I also love the book Celebrations by Maya Angelou. The poems are short enough to fit into a quick morning routine, but have deep and beautiful ideas to start your day off with.

Dream

You can also use your journaling routine to dream. Some days I start off my day by free journaling about what I want out of life. I think about my goals, my desired emotional state, and the nature of my desired relationships. This helps to motivate me throughout the day. It is important to think about your goals in the positive. Think about your goals as if they have already happened, so you can focus on the good feeling, and not the feeling lack.

Look it Up

If you are still stumped on what to journal about, you can look up journal prompts. When I was researching for this post, I googled journaling prompts, and there are hundreds of resources to help prompt you to write if you are at a loss for words. 

How to Get Started and Keep Going

Journaling is a habit. It is something that you will need to put into your routine until it becomes automatic. You must be intentional especially if you are not naturally inclined to writing. If this is a new habit or you struggle to be consistent it might be helpful to stack this habit with something you do already. If you would like to learn more about habit stacking, I give an overview on my blog post “Personal Habits for A Successful School Year.” I go over techniques for creating and maintaining habits from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. 

Sources:

Wilson, D. R. (2014). Mindful Celebration: It is Good for You. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 29(1), 4–5.

Christensen, D. (2018). Writing for Wellness. One Voice, 25–25.

Quick Meals for Busy Teachers!

Quick Meals for Busy Teachers!

Recently, I have noticed that education must have some sort of vendetta against eating lunch. Many teachers only get 30 minutes, which definitely isn’t enough time to wrap up, go out, and have a nice meal. Many of the administrators I work with forgo lunch all together. Not to mention that there is lunch duty and other responsibilities that call to us during our lunch hours. I know it is legally required, at least in the state of Texas, for educators to receive a 30 minute duty free lunch, but in our current landscape, that is often not the reality.

Let’s expand this vendetta against lunch to meals in general because let’s face it, eating is a challenge. When you get home the last thing you want to do is cook a meal. You’re exhausted mentally and physically. Sunday meal preps seem like an impossible feat when you must also create a lesson plan for the week. The Sunday scaries are real, and batch cooking 5-7 meals many times is not possible or sustainable. Soooo, what do we do?

A teacher suggested to me a quick meal called egg roll in a bowl. I made it when I got home, and it was so easy that it took less than 30 minutes and little to no prep. I also had lunch for the next couple of days. It made it that much easier to win a battle for food in this education world. It inspired me to go on a journey to find quick meals, I mean super quick meals, with the smallest amount of effort possible! Here are three of the recipes I found!

For this recipe, I used Italian sausage because it is already seasoned, an “asian mix chopped salad” from Aldi, and PF Chang’s sweet red chili sauce. It was so quick, delicious, and I had enough for lunch the next day! I linked a full recipe if you need more step by step instructions! (the subheading of this section is a link to a recipe for this!)

  • Rotisserie chicken Alfredo

I got a rotisserie chicken from Kroger and Primal Kitchen’s dairy free Alfredo sauce, but you can use any Alfredo sauce. I sautéed some spinach, mushrooms, and combined it all together. Cook some pasta, and you have an easy, quick, after school meal. 

  • Italian Chicken

My coworker told me about this one, and it was easy and great! All I did was wrap chicken and Italian salad dressing in foil, then bake it in the oven. Yes, it was that easy! I roasted some veggies and potatoes also, but you can make this even quicker by buying microwave steam-able veggies and potatoes.

I also have a blog post on eating well in a hurry, and I still employ those tips and techniques so, it’s linked to this post!

Please, please, please eat well. Your body does so much for you, and it needs nourishment to function. So many times I have seen teachers and administrators alike skip lunch and eat snacks from the vending machine because they do not have the time to prep, and or they spent their lunch prepping for another class or task. I want us as educators to prioritize things that will enrich our lives both mentally and physically because both elements are more connected than you may realize. 

Building Personal Habits for a Successful School Year

Building Personal Habits for a Successful School Year

I am just going to be transparent: I fell off on my healthy habits. I am inconsistent, some days I will make it to the gym or a long walk with my dog. Some days I will pour myself into bed right after work, sleep, and then wake up, eat, then go back to sleep. Some days I get up early and do some blog writing in the morning, and some days I will keep pressing snooze and miss my window all together. I know that this doesn’t sound too bad, but not only does it fail in comparison to past me, it is also significant because I attribute my healthy habits to why I am able to maintain a positive mindset while tackling significant challenges like teaching 9th graders and convincing them over and over again that they should read! I mean have you ever tried to convince a teenager to read, it is exhausting and it takes the utmost self care to maintain.

Last year Me was killin’ it! I would get up, meditate, journal, workout and walk my dog all before even getting dressed to go to work. I would come home and still, somehow, have energy to do all of my grad school work, and on Wednesday’s I would be in class until 8:00pm and then still have time to read a non-school related book. All while full time teaching. Life has taken a turn, and I look back on that woman as unrecognizable, amazed by her go-getter attitude and the discipline to wake up so early everyday. 

Curious about my own tendencies and habits, I, being me, wanted to learn the science behind this… How could I be so consistent in one season, and in the next, the habits that came to me with ease seem like herculean feats. I started my investigation by beginning the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, and I think I might have figured out the answer. 

According to his book, each habit that you have starts with a cue, something that signals to your brain that it is time to start a habit. Our life is littered with cues, so much so, that sometimes we don’t even know we are being triggered. Something that we think is a choice, may actually be a reaction to a cue.

Forreal y’all… not an ad, not sponsored, just really enjoying the book!

I started to think back to past bad-ass Stephanie, and I realized my environment completely changed, and one major cue was gone. I got married, so I moved in with my husband, so the life I designed to support healthy habits changed, and a huge thing that used to cue my habits, GRADSCHOOL, was over. I had no school work to design my self-care around. This led me to a journey to regain my healthy habits and intentionally design a new routine to fit my new life. I am going to share some of my research in hopes that it is helpful to you as you try and live your best life while educating in such a time as this!

  1. Identify your desired habits.

What is going to make your day run as smoothly as possible? What is going to pay off for your mental health in the long run? Do you know that exercise makes you feel amazing even if it is a pain to get to? Will it be so much better for your morning to have your lunch already packed? Do you reach the end of the day and realize you forgot to do something, so a planning routine will pay off? Identify what will make life easier and thus support your mental health.

  1. Schedule it, make it obvious, and make it easy!

In his book, James Clear explains the principles of behavior change. By nature, the entire world is lazy! Yes, it is literally a law. Everything from water to humans will take the path of least resistance, so you need to make sure that the desired habit is a part of that path. If you want to work out, make sure you have easy access to your gym or equipment. Set out your workout clothes and make sure your gym is on the way home. If you want to plan your day in the morning before work, set out your planner on your desk, so you see it right when you come into your classroom.

  1. Stack it and make it attractive!

Habits work best when you pair it with another, attractive habit. When James Clear says “attractive,” he means that you already like to do it. For example, I knew that after work I love to watch something to get my mind off of things, but I also know that I need to cook dinner right away to avoid the call of the drive-through and I also needed to be done cooking in time to work out, so I put a movie on my ipad, wash the dishes, and start dinner. I am not allowed to watch anything if I am not doing the dishes. Now I associate the chore with something I like, and it’s pretty fun (Well as fun as doing the dishes can be haha)!  Another technique is habit stacking. Habit stacking is doing a habit you are trying to build right after a habit you already have. For example, I write this blog everyday after I meditate and journal. I meditate and journal everyday without fail, so if that becomes a cue to write my blog, then I will begin to write everyday without fail.

  1. It isn’t about how long, it is about how often. 

This sounds simple, but for some reason when I read this it blew my mind! It doesn’t matter if you have been doing something for a year, if within that year you have only repeated the action 20 times. Building a habit and how it sticks is about repeating it enough, so the behavior moves to the habit part of your brain! This means you can start slow but often. For example, to build my morning routine, I used to just get up and sit on the couch, so I can get into the habit of getting up. Once I did it enough times, getting out of bed was automatic. Then I began to add in routine and since I did it everyday, it also became automatic. Now I feel completely off when I don’t complete it when in the past, I hated it!

This is an oversimplified explanation of what the book explains, but I hope that it was enough to get you started or inspire you to get the book. I think it is helpful in designing my environment and a life that serves me, but I also think it could be helpful for teaching. We try to instill healthy academic habits for our students. Understanding behavior change and the way habits are formed and maintained could benefit us greatly in assisting students to building their own academic habits. Maybe that will be my next post! Let me know if you’re interested. 

Thank you for making it to the end. And remember Mind, Body, and then Classroom. In that order!

Procedures: Different routines to think through BEFORE the beginning of the year.

Procedures: Different routines to think through BEFORE the beginning of the year.

Many of us are stepping into new roles this year. Whether it is our first year teaching at all, or our first year at a new school, or our first at a new grade level, being intentional at the beginning of the year, before you ever see a student, can save you so much time, and mental sanity throughout the entire year. The best piece of advice I got when starting my teaching career was to think out my procedures and make sure they are clear and intentional. After 7 years of secondary teaching, I have a list of student facing procedures that I revisit, and adjust each year to fit my context. I also revisit this list before the start of the second semester when students come back from winter break. I am sharing in hopes that it will act as a resource for you when you are starting your next school year!

  • Entering  the classroom
    • What noise level do you want them to be at? 
    • What do they do when they first walk in? 
    • Should they borrow their supplies before class? 
    • Where can they find the warmup? Where are you while all of this is happening?
  • Exiting the Classroom
    • What noise level do you want them to be at?
    • What needs to be done before the bell to make sure the room is ready for your next group of students? Ie: trash picked up from the floor, materials turned in etc.
    • Are there daily deliveries that students need to return before they leave?
  • Bathroom Passes
    • In a perfect world, how often would you want to allow students to use the restroom?
    • How will you track restroom usage for documentation to identify patterns if need be?
    • Will a student helper be useful?
  • Borrowing supplies
    • Where in the room will the supplies be located?
    • How will students be held accountable for returning your supplies?
    • What time of the class period will you allow students to borrow the supplies?
    • Who will be in charge of making sure supplies are returned (maybe student helper?)
  • Late Work Policy
    • First, what is your district/campus policy on late work?
    • How will you go back and check late work? Will it be turned in in a different location?
    • How will students communicate special circumstances to you?
  • Turning in assignments
    • If you have paper assignments, where in the room will students turn in these assignments?
    • What time of the class period will students turn in assignments due? (before the bell ringer? Part of your exiting procedure?
  • Phones and technology
    • First, what is your school’s policy on cell phones?
    • Where will students store their devices durning you class. (I find that it is helpful for students to have options when it comes to their phones. I let students put it in their backpack, face DOWN on the top right hand corner of their desk, or in the lock box charging station)
    • What are the consequences for unauthorized use?
    • What are the rewards for responsible use?
  • Incentive System
    • What opportunities are you going to provide for students to gain positive feedback?
    • How are you going to track it?
    • Who is going to be in charge of tracking it?
  • Student Jobs
    • What opportunities are you going to have for students to share responsibility over their learning space?
    • How are you going to rotate the jobs for everyone to get an opportunity?
    • How are you going to hold students accountable for doing their job well?
    • Where in the room are you going to track who has what job for that week?

Thank you!

I hope that this is helpful, and I wish you the best for the upcoming school year. Remember mind, body, and then classroom. In that order 🙂

Journaling: What are the Benefits? What to Journal About? and How We Can Make it a Habit?

What do you do when you feel as if you cannot hold your emotions within you? When you are a cup, ill equipped to hold the volume of your feelings, and at any moment, it can all come spilling out creating a mess that would be more than a little inconvenient to clean? For me, the answer is I write it down. Since I was a child, I have loved to write, and very early on I realized that when I put my ideas into words, even if I was unclear when I started, by the time I finished, I would have more clarity than when I began. As an adult, I can add personal color to the widely accepted and research backed consensus that journaling can be life changing. When I post on my instagram story about my journal, I’ve had several people ask me how I journal and what I journal about. I am here to offer research, ideas, and resources for those who wish to know more and begin to journal. 

Preventing the Sunday Scaries

Sunday Scaries is deeper than just deciding not to work on Sunday, or getting all your work done before you go home. That dread of going to work may mean that you are burned out. By focusing on improving your physical and emotional resources, you can begin to make steps to take not only your Sunday back, but also your life.

How to Find True Rest

Thank you for reading, and I really hope this helps. I mean it when I say that being intentional about rest and fun has changed my perspective and outlook on life. I am hoping the same for you. You deserve to have joy and peace in your life. Until next time remember, mind, body, and then classroom. In that order.

5 tips to get you through school and a full time job! (or any busy season!)

I know that I have been away for a while, and that is because I had a busy season within my life. I planned a wedding and got married! I moved twice! I got into a graduate school program and earned my degree. All while still teaching 9th grade English full time. 

This blog, formerly known as everydaylicious, has truly helped me turn everyday delicious, but not just from a food standpoint. It helped me to find value outside of work and learn that making life amazing is a daily choice. Now that I have taken a step back, I realize that cooking and recipes are just a piece of the puzzle. I truly wish to bring joy to educators, and busy people alike. Moving forward my blog will be a platform to share lessons learned throughout life in hopes to help others nourish their mind and body to affect their classroom.

For my inaugural blog post, I want to share how I survived such a busy season with my mental health intact. Here are some tips I learned along the way. Hopefully this will help you with any busy season that you’re in.

This busy season culminated in me graduating from The University of Texas with a Masters in Educational Leadrship and Policy

1. Be Kind to yourself!

If you are not your cheerleader, then you very well may be your enemy. This seems like a simple tip, but I chose to put it first because without this, I feel like it doesn’t matter what you do because you will always feel like you are not good enough. I was hit hard with imposter syndrome when I started my school work. It took me a long time to realize that I need to talk myself up! I started putting positive sticky notes all over my house saying things like “You got this!” and “You go Glen Coco!” It worked to remind myself that I am doing my best, and that is enough which leads to more productivity and the push I need to complete tasks.

2. Lean on others!

You are not alone. Speak to your professors, lean on your classmates, lean on your friends and support system. I did my graduate program with a cohort, so it was easy for me to identify those who I can reach out to when I needed clarification or motivation, but even if you do not have a cohort to lean on, I strongly encourage you to find your people or person because they could be the difference between you giving up and finishing strong. Put your pride and competitive nature away, and ask for help!

3. The slow cooker is your best friend!

With a full time job, a new marriage, and a full time course load, finding time to eat is one of the most challenging things to do. I did not want to fall into a cycle where I am getting fast food every day because my wallet and my body could not handle that. I leaned on slow cooker meals to set it and forget it.The food would either be done when I woke up to pack and take to work for lunch, or I would set it in the morning, and come home to a meal just before I had to hop on zoom for a class!

4. Find a system that works for you!

I made the best purchase when I bought my ipad because I knew that I needed somewhere I could store all of my notes and reading materials. I downloaded the “good notes” app which allowed me to electronically take my lecture notes and import my pdf’s from the syllabus where I could highlight and make notes on them just as if they were paper. I also downloaded all of my books on kindle to read on my ipad. This made it convenient. If I had my ipad, I knew I had all of my study materials, and I didnt have to worry about leaving anything anywhere. 

I stress that you should also have a system for your personal care. If you do not make time for things that feed your soul, you will run out of steam before your reach the finish line. Take your mental, emotional, and spiritual health just as seriously as you take the health of your GPA. Schedule it in your calendar, and actually do it. If something comes up, you can move it, but don’t cancel it. Trust me it is worth it.

5. Lastly, Balance is the best option.

Sometimes I would have to say no to things that I really wanted to do. Sometimes I knew that I needed to press a little harder because I had overlapping deadlines, but if I did have to push harder, I would be intentional about my rest. Understand that there are ebbs and flows to your work. You cannot poush 100% all the time at anything and expect to endure with your mental health. Give yourself a plan for how you are going to set boundaries and say no to some stuff when it is difficult.

Thank you!

Remember, you’re amazing just for being you. I hope these ideas help you in your journey and remember, mind, body and then you can worry about the classroom.