Oct 9, 2020 Message to Members

Overheard This Week…

In this first week of National Principals’ Month, I heard many comments from our members.  One of those comments, “We’re discovering how to be in a pandemic,” was spoken by a member reflecting on the challenges of the last eight weeks. “Creating something new instead of running as fast as I can to keep up,” was observed as a member reflected on the fresh canvas presented by the present situation.

Innovation cannot be dismissed with ‘we’ve always done it this way’ – we haven’t done anything in a pandemic before! Among the comments, and observations of novelty and learning, one comment resonated strongly with me as it revealed the fatigue that many of our members feel. The speaker suggested we’ve hit a saturation level with messages promoting self-care. It resonated because that very point has been on my mind, too:  what practical good will come of such messaging?  The assertive application of self-care may be the difference between getting through this time intact … or not. I do believe that if we feel ‘done’ with messages to encourage self-care, then we probably need the messages more than ever.

I would never reflect on my youth – or any portion of my life, for that matter – and use the term ‘athlete’ to describe myself. And, I had the morning routines down, staying under the covers until the last possible second, allowing just enough time to be showered and shaved and presentable for the day. Breakfast? That would cut into my sleeping.

Daily exercise was obvious: a Principal can log many kilometers walking around the campus.  My wife is my opposite, very much an athletic morning person; she regularly challenged my lifestyle habits, telling me that walking around the school didn’t count. One day, a Fitbit clocked 6 kilometers for me, and for some of it my heart rate was even elevated. She dismissed this, telling me that a trip to the parking lot to deal with wayward adolescents is not exercise.

As I approached a milestone birthday, my body began sending me signals that I had better change things up. The messaging got louder and, with deep gratitude to my wife, a gauntlet of sorts was thrown down in the form of a membership to ‘get into shape’ – Happy Fathers’ Day!  I’d give it a month.

I won’t tell you how many years ago that was now, and I still wouldn’t call myself an athlete, but I’m healthier and better.  And while I don’t love getting up early, I do love the time it affords for some peace and calm – and breakfast!

I’ve done the reading and understand the physiological impacts of exercise on the body and mind, but it was the words of Dr. Kristin Buhr this week that fine-tuned my focus through a metaphor: exercise is Teflon, helping us get back to baseline faster.

Like the messages promoting self-care, taking time for exercise will not diminish the challenges in our days. It will not make any tangible dent in the workload. It will not empower us with greater control over our environment and the circumstances of a global pandemic. But healthy practices and self-care are things we can control – maybe all we can control right now – and even modest measures can help us to find equilibrium and a mental respite from days of overwhelming demands.

The BCPVPA is committed to effectively communicating your perspective, concerns and experiences to government and senior leadership. Keep your stories coming to me, so that I can keep sharing them.

And those messages about self-care? Try to welcome them in, if you can. Sometimes it’s not until we hear the ‘right’ message – the one that resonates clearly for our own unique life experience – that we take that small step to breathe, or stretch, or laugh, or run. I’ve talked recently about our ReCharge initiative, designed to help you hone your coping skills through focused communications over the course of each month. Just this week, we launched a companion initiative ReFresh, which lives up to its name in offering quick and manageable activities that you can slip into your day wherever they may fit. You’ll receive the ReFresh email from me every Wednesday, and I hope you encounter an idea or two that will help you to build on your personal self-care regimen.

My last word today on health and self-care is … thanks. Thanks to you, thanks to your families and thanks to our staff and school communities. We are looking ahead to a weekend where we can gather with close family, and connect in the great outdoors with others. Over the past seven months, so many aspects of our lives have changed and it can be grounding to pause and give thanks. I hope that you can all find your space to rest, recharge and refresh this weekend.