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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

December Break Recovery Strategies

I think the pandemic has put a whole new spin on December break for teachers. For me December break has always been a time for reflection, rest, and rejuvenation, but dealing with the level of emotional, mental, and physical stress put on us by the pandemic, and the latest threats to school safety on top of it all, has forced me to adjust my priorities and plans for what I want to accomplish over break. My main goal is now to just give myself the space to process, and hopefully start recovering, from the trauma. 

I dealt with trauma before, and I've been through some highly effective therapy for it in the past, so this is how I've learned to cope and heal- I'm obviously no mental health expert and not everyone handles stress and anxiety the same way, but I hope this post will at least help you feel seen and encourage you to take your mental and emotional health seriously over this break.

1. Listen to your heart

I know that sounds like a Disney movie but hear me out... Just like we hear recommendations to "listen to your body" when we're sick- resting when we need it, eating and drinking what our body needs, etc- I've learned to tune into what my brain and soul need. 
  • I am used to being super productive over weekends and school holidays, and sometimes it does help my anxiety and/or depression to get busy checking things off my list, getting physically active, cleaning up my physical space, etc- it's not "sweeping things under the rug" if your brain needs the opportunity to focus on other things for a while, and checking things off your mental list can be very freeing. 
  • But other times, especially recently, I've found on the weekends/ breaks I need time to literally stare at the wall, nap, and allow my brain to wander.
  • Other times, I find I want to pull out a paper and pen or a private google doc and just write out my thoughts. Sometimes that turns into a phone call or text to a friend to talk through those thoughts, or sharing the google doc with someone. Sometimes those thoughts stay private but it gives me the opportunity to express the nebulous ideas swirling in my brain.
The point is I've learned to accept what my brain, heart, spirit, soul need. I may start off break thinking I need to relax and find I really need to get active, or conversely I may start off the day feeling good checking things off my list and halfway through feel my brain telling me to shut down for a while. Paying attention to what feels helpful and what feels like torture has been key to processing and recovering.

2. Identify the undercurrents

I think one of the most challenging aspects of being a human in 2021 has been the ever-present, ongoing stressors that I can't necessarily pinpoint to a specific incident, but are ongoing situations that put me in a permanent state of anxiety to a certain degree. Obviously that includes the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, school safety threats and violence, and systemic issues in education and society that have become more and more apparent. There are ongoing stressors at work and at home related to those realities, and sometimes I forget that on top of the day-to-day ups and downs, there are those ongoing issues in the background that have changed my starting point level of stress. Identifying those ongoing undercurrents of anxiety is really helpful in processing my emotions.

3. Circle of Control

After identifying and naming ongoing stressors, I find it really helpful to categorize them using the idea of "circles of control" adapted from Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits": which things do I have direct control over, which things can I influence, and which things are areas of concern over which I have no control? Putting things into perspective this way has been really helpful for me in finding a path forward when I feel overwhelmed by the cares of the world.

4. Set priorities

All of the previous strategies are what I have found I need right now to get back to some sense of equilibrium and wellness. Processing those bigger issues gets me to the place where I have the mental and emotional energy to productively reflect in the way I did pre-pandemic, reflecting on the semester so far, re-aligning my priorities for the coming year, and making some concrete action plans to keep me on track with where I want/ hope to be. Here are a couple of previous blog posts explaining the process I go through:


To say this has been a tough season for all of us is an understatement I know, but I hope this December break we all have the opportunity to process and recover. 


  1. These are great suggestions. I use Penzu for journaling because I'm a much faster typer than writer. Also, I too have struggled to remember those undercurrents, which my therapist often reminds me. Oh yea...COVID and everything else that's terrible right now.