Happy staff, happy setting

 

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton, early years nurture and wellbeing trainer and early years consultant, explains how you and your staff can take care of your own wellbeing.

This article originally appeared in the Alliance's Under 5 membership magazine. Find out more about the magazine, request your free taster copy, or sign up to the newsletter mailing list here

Alliance members can now also read the latest issue of Under 5 online by logging in to their members' area, here

 

Wellbeing is a term that is increasingly used in the early years. We hear it so often in relation to children and young people, but as early years workers we are not always very good at implementing the ideas for ourselves. I firmly believe if we have a good wellbeing then we will be in a much better position to support children’s wellbeing.

Here are some simple ideas that you could try out to help promote practitioner wellbeing in your setting:

Eat well

Each day make sure you eat something that is both good for you and makes you feel good. We talk a lot about children needing to eat breakfast, but how often do we skip it ourselves? Thinking about the food we eat does not need to be hugely time consuming, but if we give it some thought and make some easy changes we can improve our wellbeing. Foods that are classed as ‘good mood foods’ include: blueberries, avocado, kale, marmite, sweet potato, spinach, dark chocolate and chamomile tea.

Sleep well

We need around eight hours of sleep each night. Between hours six and eight, the mind goes through a ‘detox’ process, making memories and problem solving. If we don’t regularly get this amount of sleep it will start to impact on our wellbeing. It is important to form good sleep habits – turn electronic devices off at least an hour before you go to sleep and avoid stimulants such as smoking or alcohol. Think about having a hot bath or warm drink before you go to bed. If you’re still finding it hard, try a lavender essential oil in the bath or a few drops on your pillow.

Spend time outside

There is a growing amount of research about the benefits of spending time outside. In Japan, people practice ‘shinrin-yoku’, which means forest therapy or forest bathing. This is simply about spending time in the woods or forest. There have been several research studies in Japan looking at the effects of being in forests. The research showed that a casual walk in a forest had a 12.7% decrease in the participant’s cortisol levels and a 103% increase in their parasympathetic nervous activity.

We could all find five or 10 minutes to go for a walk, ideally in a park or wood if possible. We don’t all live or work near green spaces but even the act of parking slightly further away from your place of work and walking in, or walking around the block at lunchtime can improve your wellbeing.

Be kind to yourself

We put high expectations on ourselves so often. We can be very self-critical when things are not perfect or if we think we haven’t got enough done. Think about the words you use when talking about yourself. If they are negative – change them. Tell yourself that what you are doing is good enough and remind yourself that it is okay to feel tired – you will get through this!

Do something that makes you happy

Do something every day that makes you happy and is just for you. When I asked people what they did that made them happy the list was varied – crochet, baking, reading, listening to music, gardening, walking the dog, yoga, painting, singing… As early years practitioners and as parents, we often get so wrapped up in thinking about what will make other people happy. It is okay to think about yourself for a little bit. If we are feeling good about ourselves then we are better equipped to help others. Swimming makes me happy so I swim early each morning Monday-Friday and I know it has helped my wellbeing.

"It is okay to think about yourself for a little bit. If we are feeling good about ourselves then we are better equipped to help others."

Experience some silence

Our lives are so often full of noise from radios, TVs, music, traffic and even the people we live with. We are often surrounded by lots of noise all day and when we work with children this can be really intensified in our workplaces. Research shows that lots of noise can have a negative impact on our health it can lead to high blood pressure and cause people to feel increasingly stressed. Having time to stop and be silent, even just for five minutes, can be very good for our wellbeing. Some people use mindfulness, yoga or spiritual practices for this. Others just enjoy the silence while in the bath, or during a walk by themselves. Experiencing silence can be liberating and can help you to find some calmness.

Be thankful at the end of the day

At the end of the day, look back over your day and think about something you are thankful for and, if possible, something that bought you some joy. Cultivating a practice of thankfulness can help people to feel happier.

 

 

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton will run a practical workshop on Promoting Emotional Wellbeing in Early Years Staff at this year’s Alliance annual conference on Friday 1 June 2018: Minds matter: protecting the wellbeing of children and practitioners in the early years. Find out more about the event, including more about Sonia's workshop, here

 

This article originally appeared in the Alliance's Under 5 membership magazine. Find out more about the magazine, request your free taster copy, or sign up to the newsletter mailing list here

Alliance members can now also read the latest issue of Under 5 online by logging in to their members' area, here