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By Dr. Laurel Willingham-McLain

Are you too tired and busy to read this?  That may mean that you really need to.

Brain Breaks for Zoomed Out People provides ideas for short and long breaks from screen life.

Today’s post focuses on ways for people to be mindful of their work as faculty, to welcome both the highlights and challenges, and to find new energy for moving forward.  Here are some ideas that take about 15 minutes.  Get away from the screen and workspace into a different environment if possible.  Use pencil and paper.  Choose one idea that speaks to you.

  • Bring to awareness what you have already accomplished this semester, knowing that during the pandemic, seemingly small accomplishments take extensive time and effort.  Recognize that the pandemic itself has demanded cognitive load.  List the tasks that have felt effortful.  Give yourself permission to be less “productive,” in the typical sense of the word.
  • Note those things you had hoped to do in fall 2020 that you have had to let go.  Release them again, with intention.  Feel the joy, grief, relief – whatever it is for you – of letting them go.
  • Consider the obstacles you have faced this semester.  What problems have you solved?  Which ones are ongoing?  Is there a solution you can seek?  Or is it something you also need to let go?
  • What about the rest of the semester makes you anxious or afraid?  Bring it to your consciousness and acknowledge it.  To whom can you talk about it?
  • Who has encouraged you?  Who has brought you joy and insight?  Remember the moments by picturing the persons involved and the insights you received.  Seek out someone who encourages you and meet up, however you can, without an agenda.  For just a few minutes.
  • Note something in your teaching that has worked quite well even in this chaotic pandemic time.  Savor that memory.  Try not to allow your critique machine to destroy that moment.  What do you think made it work so well?  How might you capture aspects of that experience and bring it to other areas of teaching?
  • Look around you at your now combined living and work space.  What might you accomplish in just 15 minutes to make the space more life-giving to you.  Organize piles? Sort the mail? Rearrange the lamps? Add an art object or a keepsake that brings you joy or laughter?
  • In what context have you mustered more resilience than you ever imagined?  Remember the sustained effort you put into the work, and take a minute to be grateful for the outcome, however small.
  • Stoke your curiosity.  What questions or ideas have come up this semester?  Complete these thoughts, “If I had the time, I’d love to learn more about… I’d love to dive into... I’d love to get back into…”  Even as we grieve the loss of connections and favorite activities (e.g., sports, choral singing in the same space), let’s not lose track of the joy they give us and the promise of re-creation in future.  Explore one new kind of connecting and creating that has arisen recently.
  • In Mid-semester sinking feeling, Kerry Ann Rockquemore shares a practical technique for getting organized.  An updated version appeared in the October 5, 2020 Monday Motivator email from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.  Syracuse University has an NCFDD institutional membership, and you can sign up to receive the Monday Motivator.
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