Friday, July 3, 2015

5 Things for School Psychologists to Do this Summer

July is the best month for school psychologists and you know it. June still has some lingering thoughts of the 60-day dash to get everything done before summer and August is tainted by thoughts of sitting in professional developments about how to fill out your timesheet or Medi-cal billing or some such fun. But July...oh sweet July...there's time to do whatever you want.

Pathetically, I decided to start off July by cleaning my garage. I heard a rumor that people put cars in garages instead of all the boxes they didn't have time to unpack from the previous 2 moves. I was intrigued by this concept. And so while kids were simultaneously napping* I tore through our garage on an organizing frenzy. I came across this gem:

You guys. It was full of sentence completion tasks, completed by 8 year old me. It's a projective time capsule! I died. So instead of cleaning out the garage, I read about my hopes and dreams as a yoot. I thought it would be full of poignant stuff and I was not disappointed. On a section about goals, I wrote:

I wish...I had long hair.
My goal is to...grow out my hair
This summer...I am going to grow out my hair.  

That is single-handedly the best goal ever. It's so simple, mindful, easy to do, and requires no effort. And with that, my summer goals were reset. I have been reading up a lot about mindfulness and how to be calm in your mind when you live in a fast paced busy world and I think this goal is just what the doctor ordered for the summer. I'm going to drop all my ambitions for a month and focus on growing out my hair. Here are some other goals we can all try to recharge for the next round of The Amazing School Psych Race in the fall:

1) See Pixar's Inside Out. Pixar has always been great about tapping into ways to teach about feelings. What if cars had feelings? What if fish had feelings? What if toys had feelings? And now: What if PEOPLE had feelings? It's a goldmine for teaching kids and adolescents (and ourselves!) about emotions. It's CBTastic. Here is an amazing list of the themes in Inside Out and a link to videos. Gracias, The Helpful Counselor!**

2) Forgive. You may have some residual grrrr feelings from the end of the school year. What about that colleague that said something hurtful? What about that parent who you bent over backwards for who didn't appreciate it? That hideous IEP? The list goes on. But holding onto those moments can make you feel worse and if you forgive the people involved, you can reduce your stress and let go. It sounds easy, but it's not always easy. Check out this great tutorial on how to forgive for suggestions. On the flip side, its also worthwhile reflecting on someone that made your life better throughout the school year. Maybe you send them a quick text or email thanking them, or just be thankful for them in your mind. Either way, it'll bring you happiness to think of the positive people in your life.

3) Be Mindful. I know, I know, I am a late adopter of mindfulness, but I'm hooked now. The research is overwhelming that mindfulness activities improve basically everything--focus, appreciation, happiness, health, executive functions, younameit. So I bought a little app to try it out: Headspace. Its full of 10 minute activities you can do and cute little animations explaining the concepts. And to boot, it's this British guy narrating. I don't know what it is about the British accent, but it's rather soothing. There's a free version to try. I bought the full version, and it has activities beyond meditation, such as mindful commuting, eating, walking, etc. Because I'm a gal on the go, I appreciate having alternatives to sitting and meditating. Plus, when will a toddler and a baby let you sit peacefully for 10 minutes? That's reserved for my dream journal. 

4) Instagram (or photograph) Your Happy. Okay, in my spirit of late adopting (Facebook? Who is going to use THAT?), I just joined Instagram. I think my elderly uncle joined before me, but whatever, we are all on our own path. Some butterflies fly high and far and some fly low and we are all beautiful butterflies. Or whatever. Back to my point. I have been taking pics of the things I am in awe of, things that are meaningful to me, little things I appreciate, and things that make me smile or laugh. Then I reflect on the end of the day why these things mean something to me. Now that I'm not stuck in a depressing special ed office building or a tiny holed up office, I can get out there and remind myself of the big, beautiful world and the little moments that bring joy (tiny baby feet, anyone?)

5) Get a Hobby. Or perhaps reconnect with that hobby that went by the wayside all year. I think school psychs can sometimes get so wrapped up in helping others and having their identity wrapped up in their job, because it's often a passion, not just a paycheck. But take time this summer to learn something new or bring back something you haven't done in a while that gives you joy. Go ahead, read a book for fun. Take a Mandarin class. Go back to that hip-hop dance class. Take a road trip. Unplug from your phone and computer (after reading this blog of course) and do things you love to do.

And now, if you excuse me, I have very important things to do this summer. If you need me, I will be back in the fall, a rested, whole, and happy. Rapunzel-eque school psychologist.
*BOTH were napping at the SAME time. I wrote it down in my dream journal.
**Oooh...who else can't wait to buy the little feeling characters for their office or mobile play therapy kit?!? Far better than my current Amazon recommendations to "get yourself a little something," offering up Elsa's coronation dress or a steam vacuum as suggestions.

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