Guest Blogger: Emma Tempest – The Play Coach

Play is children’s work and I think it should be adult’s work too – if we are looking after our own well-being by using the power of play, the children and families we serve will also feel the impact.

The start of the school year, as a person who works with young people, comes with a barrage of often intense feelings. Excitement about meeting the children you will spend the next year with, worries about how you will help them to grow and learn, hopes and dreams about your personal and professional development, eagerness to get stuck in after a (hopefully!) relaxing break. We often take full advantage of our time off work to reset, recharge and reflect on ourselves and our lives. We spend time with our families and do things we enjoy without feeling guilty. When we return to work, these things should not be replaced just because a new school year cycle has begun.

If you are putting your all into your work and your all into your life you will burn out at some point. The balance may start to swing one way or the other as you start to focus more on one while the other starts to suffer. The demands in the fast-paced world we live in right now are counter-productive, even with all the apps/hacks and other time-saving technology out there that are meant to boost our productivity and save us time. Striving for work-life balance just leaves you feeling like a failure, time and time (and time!) again. You missed your kid’s sports game to attend a meeting at work = you feel guilty that you didn’t see them, and you spend the meeting not working at your optimal level. You take a day off to have a break and work on your mental health = you feel guilty for even asking, then spend the evening worrying about going back to work. Are we spending all this time aiming for a work-life balance…that might not even exist?

Everybody has the same 24hrs in a day. If you are telling yourself that you don’t have time for self-care, what you really mean is ‘my priorities are jumbled up right now’. Self-care must always be at the forefront of your mind. If you are not looking after yourself, you cannot give to anybody else. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s HARD trying to be consistent. I’d go as far to say that nobody is 100% effective 100% of the time. It’s impossible. We all have our ups and downs, life gets busy, work deadlines get closer and before you know it you are exhausted, grouchy and caring about nothing – let alone yourself. The thing I really want you to hear is that the mindset you have about time is changeable. With practice, you are going to be able to discover ways to prioritize your time effectively, to feel accomplished not overwhelmed. Please note though, this is different to time-management. Also, as another side note; I can pretty much guarantee that by next week I will be saying, “I’m so stressed! I don’t have enough time in the day to do all the things!” It’s ok to relapse, to fail, to stumble. It is normal. What is important is that you recognize the signs, ask for or get help, then start again.

When I think back to my happiest days at work and my happiest days at home, I notice similar trends. The days are full of joy, laughter, creativity, work that doesn’t feel like work, recognition, appreciation and gratitude. It got me thinking. A lot of these trends are like how children feel when they are playing. So, maybe we need to take a leaf out of their book and make our life and work more playful. Instead of a work-life balance, let’s go for a PLAY-life balance. I have a ton of ideas to help with self-care, but I want to hear from you. What mindset changes can you make to weave self-care into that same 24hrs per day? Tell me some of the struggles you have with integrating self-care into your day and let’s see if I can coach you through some playful solutions! How many other ways can we think of to play throughout our day while also addressing the work part of our lives?

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Please note that I am not medically trained, and I would highly recommend visiting a medical professional if you are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or even if you just want to discuss some ways to move forward with your physical and emotional well-being. Put your own oxygen mask on first and take care of YOU. You matter.

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