Scanlan Center for School Mental Health
Hamster wheel

Please release the hamster: 8 tips for changing your routine

Kelly Vinquist
Kelly Vinquist
written by

Kelly Vinquist, Ph.D., BCBA

Educator Wellness

Today I sat in the waiting room with my tween daughter, hurrying from home to be on time. Normally, I pull out my phone and read endless work emails or scroll through another high-drama news story. 

Sound familiar? I feel like I am a hamster on a wheel, worried if I slow down, I may not be as put together as I hope to be.

I stepped off the “wheel” and looked at her ever growing, sweet face. I listened to her tell stories about her friends, teacher, and the next social dilemma she was pondering. Fifteen wonderful minutes without chores, homework, or email. We laughed and shared stories. When her name was called, she held my hand, and she wasn’t embarrassed as she walked toward the nurse. Smiling the whole way. My heart soared. 

Self-care seems like something I needed to plan but there are precious moments when you can find time to fill your bucket. How can you find these precious moments for self-care? 

  • Give yourself grace. We don’t have to do it all.
  • Take a mental health day, don’t wait for the next holiday break or summer. You don’t need physical symptoms to justify taking care of yourself. A mental health day isn’t weakness or being “unwell.” It is a position of health and self-care. Embrace it.
  • Practice mindfulness: Be present. Multi-tasking only allows us to be partially involved in several things.  
  • Adjust your expectations. Maybe for today, maybe for the next year. 
  • Practice self-care with someone else. Step outside for a quick walk, shut off the computer, or walk to your colleague’s classroom.

  • Find your happy. Know what brings you joy and do more of it. What did you enjoy 10 years ago? 5 years ago? What have you always wanted to try? Do it. 
  • Time is precious, take advantage of telehealth therapy and doctor’s appointments. Better yet, take the time away from the screen to see someone in person. Connect.

We are here to help! The Scanlan Center for School Mental Health Clinic opened in September and is now open for referrals. Our clinicians offer free counseling services to K-12 educators and school staff both on-site in Iowa City, IA and via telehealth. Educators can email to learn more and schedule an appointment.

Photo credit: “Hamster Wheel” video