I often forget how tiring and stressful the beginning of the school year can be. And this year there are a few added challenges that is making it even more difficult. I've changed from 2nd to 4th grade, so I am learning a whole new curriculum. I had to move classrooms and am still trying to get some things in place. We have a new math program that is really challenging for the students (and teachers). And maybe the most frustrating aspect of life right now is the fact that our house is still in disarray due to the remodel not quite being done. Having the house be a mess and so many things being where they do not belong is really getting old!
The first week of school has been a real roller coaster emotionally. When stress hits me I tend to fall into some negative habits and thinking. Especially the thinking... I'm extremely hard on myself and have difficulty allowing myself to just be human. Being in a new grade level it's natural that I have a lot to learn. But time after time this last week when things don't go well with a lesson or I need to ask for help from the other teachers I have really gotten down on myself. I don't give myself the same compassion I would offer any of my colleagues in the same circumstances. From there it has a tendency to just snowball. At least, I fear it's going to snowball and I'll fall back into a deep pit of depression.
So I brought this overwhelmed and stressed out attitude to therapy yesterday. I went on for about 15 minutes about my negative thinking, the things that weren't going well, and all of the stress in my life. Once I slowed down she asked me if it was possible that I'm just stressed and overwhelmed because I have a lot of change and challenges in my life right now. She's right. It's frustrating how when things are tough I just go straight to self-judgment instead of just acknowledging that things might just be difficult and challenging right now. It's such a persistent habit that I often don't realize it's happening. I'm working on being more aware of my thoughts, and challenging them with reality.
Another thing I noticed I am doing is focusing on the negative aspects of my day more than the positive ones. Yesterday, for example, I felt really down and stressed as I went to school. I was lacking confidence and my energy wasn't very good. Then once I started teaching things went really well. The technology in my class that had been broken since school started was fixed, which makes teaching so much easier! And I was just kind of in a groove all day with my teaching. The kids were engaged, I was having fun. It was a great school day! After school on the way to therapy that heavy and down feeling I had in the morning returned. I carried that into the session. But what I notice now is that I was completely focused on the fact that I was having this heavy, overwhelmed feeling instead of the fact that I had felt really good all day at work.
I think over the last several months I've been working on changing my perspective about how I react to my moods. Somehow I have this expectation that I should always feel good. That's not realistic. Nobody feels good all the time, especially those of us who battle depression. So I'm trying to change my expectation. I'm trying to be okay with the fact that sometimes I won't feel well. Sometimes I'll be stressed, sad, tired, frustrated, angry and a variety of other not so great feelings. It's okay to not feel okay sometimes! The real trouble I think is not that I have these feelings, it's that when I do I get so down on myself. I think they won't pass, or they mean there's something wrong with me. But the truth is that life can be hard at times and I will not always feel good. The bad feelings pass and I can often remind myself that the negative thoughts are just the depression lying to me. It does that a lot, for everyone who suffers from depression.
The truth is that the beginning of the school year is challenging and takes a lot of energy! I'm going to be tired sometimes. Stressed. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. But I can't let myself forget that I also love what I do. And I'm good at it. I connect really well with my students and the other teachers. I laugh and smile a LOT during the day. I also have amazing co-workers. We work well together and really do our best to do what's best for kids. Not all schools have that. All of this is true!. The negative that often creeps into my head does not take away the positive. I have a feeling I'll be reminding myself of this fact a lot over the next several weeks...