Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

A Blog for Teachers
by Mary Jean Powers

Christmas Vacation

Dec 13, 2020

Vacation – an extended period of leisure and recreation; the action of leaving something one previously occupied 

Oxford Languages

“Christmas Vacation” is a time when much of the academic world takes a break from institutional education. By the time mid-December rolls around, many students and educators find themselves thoroughly exhausted and in a year like 2020, the levels of fatigue are even more extreme. Unfortunately, many teachers and students return to school in January just as exhausted as they when they left.  Throughout my travels, I have found this to be a particularly common pattern in the U.S. What are we missing? Why is chronic fatigue the norm?

We may have a more complicated problem than we realize. We could just “give ourselves permission” to rest … but if guilt is stronger than permission, guilt will win every time. If we think that rest = laziness, we definitely need to revisit our basic definitions. If our value is wrapped up in our pace and/or accomplishments, we have some serious changes to make in our thinking and in our hearts. Or, we could just be (don’t get offended) ignorant. Maybe we don’t know how to rest, to restore, to renew.

Rest = Work.  Wait, what???

If you truly want to learn to rest well, it will take some work on your part. I don’t mean that you must “earn” rest (because many of us feel as though we never “do enough” … especially we who are Type A perfectionists) but rather that changing one’s thinking or lifestyle is going to require some introspective thought, time and effort. If you’re desperate enough, you will do the work to learn to rest. You’ll never regret it, and the rewards of restoration are far more valuable than you can imagine!

What has been depleted?

Here’s a great question to ask yourself at the beginning of your Christmas vacation: “In what areas am I depleted?” Where do you feel empty, dry, used up, consumed, drained? Take some time to look inward and honestly evaluate your level of wholeness in each of these areas. Are you depleted …

  1. Emotionally?
  2. Spiritually?
  3. Mentally?
  4. Creatively?
  5. Socially?
  6. Physically?

Once you determine how you are exhausted, here’s the next question: “What specific things can I do to ‘get my life back’ in the areas that are depleted?” In other words, you need to know yourself well enough to understand what will restore you … and then you must make a planned, conscious decision to do those things which will bring restoration.

Practical Suggestions

Can I help? Here are just a few suggestions that have worked for me. I realize that each of us are different, but most of these hints are universal.

  1. Emotional Restoration – develop an attitude of thanksgiving. Set yourself up for laughter and for healthy tears.
  2. Spiritual Restoration – personal time in relationship with God … simply being with God
  3. Mental Restoration – learn to focus your mental attention (i.e. meditate on) on positive and encouraging things. Unfriend worry! Lay aside tomorrow’s agenda and give yourself the precious gift of sleep every night.
  4. Creative Restoration –immerse yourself in creative beauty (music, art, etc.), including nature.
  5. Social Restoration – hang out with friends who “see” you; friends to whom you feel connected; friends you genuinely like and who genuinely like you 🙂 Hang out with those who truly revive you, who inspire you, who delight you. But also, take breaks from social situations (regardless of whether you’re introverted or extroverted) – spend time relaxing in silence and solitude, even in 15-minute spurts throughout your day.
  6. Physical Restoration – exercise appropriately and regularly; eat healthy, delicious food, and get enough sleep to recover from what has been lost. (A word of caution here: sleep is the remedy for physical exhaustion, not the other 5 areas!)

The truth is that you need to learn to rest. Human beings are not designed to just keep going and going and going. We are designed for regular rhythms of rest and work. Live your life – don’t just spend your life. Choose life! Love yourself enough to do what is best for you. Learn to rest. Your career-of-choice includes vacation at Christmastime, so take advantage of it. My counselor used to say, “Mary Jean, you don’t often get opportunities for extended rest, so when they come to you take full advantage of them!” The best gift you can give yourself for Christmas this year is the gift of restoration, and then you can return to school in January renewed and refreshed!

(If you’d like to read a fantastic book about this subject, I highly recommend Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith. It is very well written by a medical doctor who experienced burn out and learned to rest, even with a demanding career. I believe you’ll find this book to be very helpful!)

About Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

I am a teacher. You, too? I hope you love the profession as much as I do! I was 16 when I got my first teaching gigs – I had 20 private piano students and a Sunday School class of 4 and 5-year olds! At that point in my “career,” my definition of teacher was very limited. But now – after 45+ years of experience – I have come to realize that teacher can mean many different things. I’d like to share some of those insights with you! My posts will range from quotes to prayers, from cartoons to words of wisdom. Much of my teaching experience has been international, so you'll get to watch some video stories from around the globe. Jesus is the best Teacher I know, so I will be including Him in this blog, as well. I hope my thoughts and my story will encourage, provoke, and inspire you to become the teacher you’ve been created to be!

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Mary Jean Powers

Mary Jean Powers

B.A. in Christian Education
M.A. in Biblical Studies
Music teacher (band and choir director, private instruction) for 35 years
International Bible teacher for 17+ years
Certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor
Certified TESL International Instructor
CEU Provider for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International)
Certified Life Coach and Chaplain

Who am I? A teacher coming alongside teachers!