'Promoting healthy boundaries to support staff wellbeing' In Focus webinar presented by Angela Wunsch, Danae Watkins and Melinda Phillips on 6 June 2023.
Okay, so welcome to today's Be You In Focus, promoting healthy boundaries to support staff wellbeing. My name is Angela, and I'll be one of your co-hosts today, along with my colleague Danae. We also have our panellist, Melinda, joining us this afternoon.Before we begin our webinar today, we would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we're meeting. I'm joining you all from Turrbal and Jagera lands this afternoon. Danae, our co-host, is joining us from what Whadjuk Noongar lands and Melinda, our panellist, is joining us from the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.
We pay our respects to elders, past and present, and as an initiative with national reach, we extend our respect to all elders and aboriginal, and Torres Strait Island of people across Australia. Please let us know by the chat box which lands you're joining us from this afternoon.
In today's In Focus, we'll provide you with an understanding of what boundaries are and why setting boundaries can benefit our wellbeing. We'll have a look at some of the latest research on educated wellbeing and practical actions for educators that move beyond self-care.
We'll also have the opportunity to hear from Melinda in a panel discussion where we'll be responding to questions about boundaries from our audience and following today's session, as mentioned earlier, you'll get to take away certificate which will be available via the follow up email after our session today.
So, I'm sure many of you joining us today will be familiar with, Be You, but for those of you that are joining us for the first time, Be You is a national initiative that equips educators to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people from birth to 18. Be You is delivered by Beyond Blue, in collaboration with Early Childhood Australia and headspace. The vision for you is that every Australian early learning service, and school is a positive, inclusive, and resilient community, where every child, young person, staff member and parent and carer can achieve their best possible mental health.
So, it's time to hear a little more about your host and panellists with this afternoon session. I'm Angela Wunsch and I have a Bachelor of Social Science in Human Services, and my background is in supporting schools to implement health and wellbeing programs. My current role is Team Lead within the Queensland Be You team. My co-host today is Danae Watkins, and she has a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Promotion and Marketing and is also a registered primary school teacher. Danae’s current role is Acting State Manager for the Western Australian Be You team.
And we also have Melinda Phillips joining us today as a panellist. Melinda is a teacher, a psychologist with provisional registration and has over 20 years’ experience in supporting schools. Branching beyond her role as a teacher, Melinda has worked as a consultant with various organizations, such as the Association of Independent schools in New South Wales, Good Grief, headspace Schools and Communities, and Visible Wellbeing. Melinda is also an accredited coach with the International Coach Federation and a member of the New South Wales chapter of the Positive Education in Schools Association and the Australian Psychological Society. Her compassionate approach embeds positive Psychology Principles within an appreciation of the complex nature of schools as communities and systems. So welcome, Melinda, we're very fortunate to have you joining us in our In Focus webinar this afternoon, and we look forward to our panel discussion shortly.
In today's session we want to provide a safe and inclusive space to discuss information around setting boundaries, and we'd love to hear from you throughout the session today. So please feel free to participate through the chat function and the Q&A box. Please do consider confidentiality and privacy when using the chat function as other participants will be able to see any comments posted.If you are using the Q&A box, these will go straight through to our moderators today.
Once again, we thank you for making the time to join this webinar and learn more about healthy boundaries and wellbeing. We acknowledge that each of us comes to this webinar with different personal and professional experiences around mental health, and we hope that you come away from the webinar feeling empowered to try some new strategies, but also highlight the strategies that are already working for you. Remember that your own wellbeing is a priority. If any concerns arise as a result of today's webinar, you may like to refer to the wellbeing tools for educators which are available on the Be You website.
You may also like to access your schools Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), and at the end of our webinar today we will be sharing some information on mental health supports and services. Remember, please take care of yourselves, and please take a break if you need to.
So, what do we mean by healthy boundaries? Boundaries can be thought of as a limit between ourselves, and another person. They’re about knowing where we end and another person begins.
There are also different types of boundaries. So, some examples are emotional, physical, and resource boundaries. And these may be difficult to navigate as we all have different values and beliefs about boundaries.
We have different perspectives and ways of being. And boundaries can be influenced by a range of factors. Things like our family, culture, and past experiences. Healthy boundaries are also more than just saying no, it's about advocating our personal needs and values, and trusting our decisions and instincts. It's also important to note that our boundaries can change over time.
But we firstly need to have an awareness around what are our own boundaries and our values around these. We then need to be able to communicate about boundaries with others, and this is something we'll be talking more about with our panellist, Melinda, today, but this can take time. We may need to continually communicate about our boundaries to others, and to make them aware if our boundaries have been crossed.
I really love this quote on the screen, “When you're saying yes to others, ensure you're not saying no to yourself. And Dr Rebecca Ray talks about this being a mindful yes, and a protective no. So, it’s important to know that when we say no, it's a no for now. But it doesn't mean we're saying a permanent no.However, saying no when required is an example of a healthy boundary. Without healthy boundaries we can be left feeling emotionally drained and stressed.
So, we'd love to hear from you this afternoon, and hear some examples of healthy boundaries being practiced in your school community. I'd love for you to post some examples into the chat box, and so while I give you time to pop those ideas into the chat box, I'd like to share some of my own examples of boundaries. And one thing that I've started doing is blocking off time in my calendar where I've got no meetings. So, allowing myself some time to focus on tasks that I need to get done.
Another example I'd like to share is utilising those transition periods. So, it's also referred to as the third space. So, when I'm transitioning between work and home, resetting my focus and not bringing work home with me, and vice versa. I'm just going to pull up the chat box and have a look at some comments that you might have this afternoon.Okay, so I'm sure we'll get some ideas coming through there, so please feel free to pop those in there. We'd really love to hear some examples from you this afternoon.But why do we need to establish healthy boundaries?
So, being an educator can be stressful and a demanding role, so putting boundaries in place can support us to take control. So, there's lots of benefits. And these are the reasons why we need to push through the discomfort. And that's something that we will discuss more in our panel session shortly.There are a few points I'd like to call out from the screen here. We've all heard of the oxygen mask analogy, and we can't give from an empty bucket. So healthy boundaries can help with that time and energy to fill our buckets and boundaries can help us focus on our roles as well. So, the expectations are clear for ourselves and for others. And they help us build a greater sense of identity which promotes connectedness and belonging.
So, when we have healthy boundaries as educators, this helps us support children and young people's wellbeing as well. We know that schools operate on a cycle of continuous improvement across everything required to support learning, and this should include supporting the mental health and wellbeing of everyone. So, staff, students and parents and carers within the community. And this is a shared responsibility. So the school community is made up of individuals that collectively make up expanding groups, such as peers, the whole school community and the local community. And we understand the importance and the interconnectedness of this and that what happens to either one individual or groups has the potential to impact on others, whether that's positive or negative. Maintaining a mentally healthy school community, therefore, needs to consider strategies for each component that make up the school.
There is a growing body of evidence linking educated wellbeing with the educational outcomes for children and young people. And over the last couple of years Be You commissioned Monash University to conduct five projects investigating educator wellbeing. The research included a workshop and 13 focus groups with a diverse range of educators from different sectors. The research showed the three components contributing to educated wellbeing most relevant to workplaces are: collegial relationships that are respectful and collaborative, workplace cultures that promote inclusion and belonging, educational leaders are pivotal in fostering wellbeing.
By prioritizing staff wellbeing, leaders can create a culture of care, autonomy, and trust and leaders are in a great position to model healthy boundaries within their school communities. You can find out more about this research on the Be You website, and a link will be placed in the chat box for you as well.I’d now like to invite our panellists, Melinda Phillips, to join the webinar and join the conversation, and share some of her knowledge in this space. So welcome, Melinda.
Thank you, Angela, just getting my camera on. It's great to be here. Thanks everybody for joining us today and thank you for having me Danae and Angela.
It's really important, and I can see coming up in the chat, to be really conscious of our current context as we're establishing boundaries at the moment. Schools are under such pressure, with staff shortages and additional pressures through syllabus changes here in New South Wales, and a range of other contexts, including people still getting unwell.And so, I guess when we're thinking about establishing boundaries, a good place to start is to be thinking about what's actually going on for us at the moment and the challenges that we're dealing with as teams in schools, as we work to face these challenges together.
And yes, thanks, Gillian just seeing your comment as well, but I guess what I'd like to start with and where my work with school teachers and principals and others, and thankfully, I've now got my registration and do some work each week with school staff individually supporting them around boundaries, is to really think about you as a person. So, in part, I'm very interested in your wellbeing, because we know that that supports great wellbeing for our students and also supports their learning outcomes, the research shows that. But just as important is how you're going outside of school, and that we have that capacity and that confidence to participate in life more generally as well as the work that we do in school. So, I guess, in the first instance, I just wanted to share that that's one of the reasons why boundaries are important. It is about us at school, but just as importantly, if not more importantly, it's about keeping us well as people, so that we can participate in life more generally.
And I guess some of the things that make us absolutely awesome team members in the school setting are also some of the reasons that come up as challenges for us when we're setting boundaries, and what can make us feel a little bit uneasy or that it's a little bit difficult to do that boundary setting within the school context. And so, some of those things include the fact that as a whole, we have the tendency be conscientious. We also have those very high levels of empathy, and can really feel along with others, including the students that have been mentioned in the chat, and sometimes it can be hard to set boundaries with students, but also with our fellow staff. And if we believe that our boundaries might be impacting on another, we can be very conscious of that.
We also often bring that sense of personal purpose to our work as educators and other staff within a school. You know, it's very special work that we do, and we can feel very proud of that sense of purpose, which, coupled with a sense of compassion that wants to help and to care for others within our school community, can make it feel, as I mentioned, quite difficult to think about “How am I going to put a boundary in place when this is who I am? And this is who I'm known to be at school?”.
And I guess the challenge here is to think that we want to make sustainable careers for ourselves, and we want to be well enough to continue doing this beautiful work with our students and with the other staff, and with the families that we support. And so, we need to stay well to be able to do that. We can't pull from an empty cup as the saying goes. And so, this is why we need to think about those boundaries, many of which you've shared some beautiful examples in the chat as we've gone.
And I guess it's also really important to think that often in schools our boundaries are set within relationships. While some of the things that have been shared in the chat a little more tech focused, which is awesome. So those email notifications and getting emails off your phone and not checking WhatsApp and other stuff when it's late at night. Those are excellent. But even those are happening in relation to the people who are sending those emails or sending those texts. And I think if we are aware that we work in systems in schools, we're part of a system, and all of the different parts impact on the whole. But that's okay because there's many, many workplaces that work as systems, too. We're not alone in that. And so, even though it can feel difficult, boundaries are absolutely possible.
And I guess, as the little call out box, the speech bubble shows on that slide, one of the key things to remember with that is very much to think about boundaries as a process, not a one off. So, it's not a set and forget. But instead, if we do think about boundaries as a process that we're working toward to get where we need to be, that can be very helpful. Another thing to remember is that because we're within a school context and a system context, we want to stay a little bit flexible, that we can't have rigid boundaries in schools because it just doesn't often work that way. It doesn't allow us to also be available and to be part of the teams that we are. So, flexibility is a real key to being able to set those boundaries.
And finally, that we do need to take time to maintain them. That we do need to reflect and think, “Is this getting me what I need? Or do I need to make some changes here? Who would I be best to speak to about this? Or what do I need to reflect on and think about in terms of putting that boundary into place for me?”And so when we're thinking about boundaries, when is the boundary actually necessary for us? Well, it's such a personal thing, and one of the key rules that we often talk about with boundaries is, you often know, from your emotion. So, calling on is the emotional literacy that we're always teaching our students.
When we're feeling a little bit off or a little bit frustrated, or resentful, or upset, or put upon; these kinds of emotional responses are often telling us the context that we're in at that time is something that potentially we’re enduring a boundary being overstepped for us. And so, if we can pay attention to those emotional responses that we're having to work out, “Okay, what exactly is it that I need here? And what can I put into place to best support me?”.
It's true, though, that sometimes it’s not a gentle knock at the door from those emotions that's letting us know that we need to set a boundary. Sometimes the cavalries arrived and we might be feeling very stressed and worn out even, you know, verging on burnout and those stress and overwhelm symptoms that might be coming into both our work lives, but also our personal lives might be yelling out loud and clear that it's absolutely time that we start to understand and think about setting some boundaries.
And so, the three-step process that I've shared on the screen here is from Herbst and colleagues, and it was published this year, and we were doing some really good thinking around, how best can we access information on setting boundaries for schools given that schools are a really rapidly evolving and changing landscape. As we all know, you can walk into school at 8 o' clock in the morning and have a day that you expected or have a day that's nothing like what you anticipated.And so, we need to have, I guess, processes and ways of approaching this that really reflect the living, breathing communities that schools are. What we've drawn on here is some health research actually from hospital settings and looking at physicians, and how physicians might be able to set boundaries within their rapidly changing high stakes environments with a lot of staff and things involved. And Herbst and her colleagues have suggested this three-part process as one way that we can start to think about setting our boundaries.
So, in the first instance, if we have made the decision and decide that we'd like to put a boundary in place, the first thing that we need to do is to think about what's our comfort and our confidence like in setting this boundary? What are the pros and cons that might be occurring to us? So, what are we getting out of it versus what will it cost us if we set this boundary.We also, I guess, want to keep our eye on the prize in terms of, “What are we aiming for? What's the valued life outcome that we're trying to enable us to have?”, which might be, for example, more time with family.
And finally, it's good to think about, “Who are we setting this boundary with?”. And in schools this can be a bit tricky, because often our relationships with colleagues can also be a relationship that's between friends. And so, we can feel a little bit awkward or uncomfortable in approaching this relationship in a new way and making time to set a boundary, because, as we know, we don't want to ask permission to set our boundaries, we do want to step in with some confidence around the boundary.So, the first step is to build some skills in thinking about “Okay, how my feeling about setting this boundary?”. Then the second thing we want to do is have those conversations in setting boundaries, and we want to be, I guess, very open to starting with our more straight-forward boundaries or our easier boundaries. So lower hanging fruit if you will. And emails, for example, are a great example of that for many of us that we can start to put in some of the boundaries that everybody suggested earlier in the chat and start to think about when we might be replying to email, when might we be replying to WhatsApp groups. That can be a good place to start.
And then in setting boundaries, for example, if it was a request that's made of you, we want to develop those skills in, firstly, really listening to the person and then reflecting back to them what they've asked about, so that they know that we understood and then we might want to state pretty clearly what our boundary is without too much explanation. And then also to call, thirdly, on a shared experience or a shared value around this. For example, the care of a young person that might have approached you from for some additional support, and you might feel that you're not right person for that, or that it's on a day that you don't work, and then you might say that I understand that you've asked me because we both really care about this young person, so let's figure out who else we can call on to get some support.The third point that we've shared here is that you need to reflect and act to keep maintaining those boundaries so we can set them, but as I mentioned before, they're not set and forget, we do need to reflect and think, “Has this got me what I need? Is this answering the value that I decided on? Or is this getting me the time with my family that I wanted?”. And we want to revise, if necessary, they not set in stone. This is a new way of working that's really making sure that we prioritise our wellbeing and our self-care at the same time as delivering good work for our school community, and as that little pull out quote at the bottom there says, ‘our wellbeing is really worth protecting”, because it's so much harder to restore wellbeing than it is to maintain wellbeing. Thanks, Angela.
Thanks so much, Mel. I'm just sitting here listening to you and so much is striking a chord of you're saying. And I really like that 3-step process and that sort of practical application as to how we do that. And yeah, we know that schools are, you know, within that system. And so yeah, thank you so much for sharing, Mel.
So, we've reached the part of our webinar this afternoon where we are going to have a bit of a panel conversation. And I'd like to bring Danae into the conversation. Welcome Danae. And I'm just going to stop my screen share whilst you're joining us today
Fantastic thanks Ange. Well, Mel we've got some questions for you that we've taken prior from the fantastic people that registered today. So, I'll start with the first one.What’s some practical advice that you would give a client who really is struggling to start with setting a boundary, and they just don't know where to start?
Thanks Danae, that’s such a great question. I think it really speaks to some of the struggles that have been shared in the chat as well. As teachers, as we mentioned, we are often so supportive of others, and we're very happy to put their needs first. And so, this can mean that the idea of setting boundaries is overwhelming, that we don't know where to start. But it's really important to encourage us to remember that we're people that have value and worth just like everybody else in the school community, the students, the staff, and the families. And we need to look after ourselves, too, in order to be able to keep doing the work that we do, because it's really human work. One of the practical ways that people might be able to start finding, I guess, some of the petrol to put in the tank to make that decision, is to think about what you value in life and how you're spending your energy and your time at the moment.
So, one way to do that is to draw two circles on a piece of paper, two pies if you like, and divide the first circle into pieces of the pie and pop in how you're spending your energy and time at the moment, on all the areas of your life that are important to you. And so, school might take up one or two of those pieces of the pie, and then family and self, and others.
And have a think then, about the second circle, and drawing that up as how you would like it to be, you know. where would you like to shift to? What ideally, or even in the next step, would you like life to look like? And in doing that we've really identified how we're spending our time now, and how we'd like to spend our time and energy.
And this can help clarify for us why we're setting boundaries, what are we doing it in the service of? Which can then strengthen our resolve and strengthen our sense of the importance of boundaries to give us back the time and the energy for the life that we're hoping to create for ourselves and potentially for our families or other ones to our friends.
Thanks so much. And I really like that analogy Mel. I think I’m going to have to use that one. So, another question which has come through very strongly from our audience is, ‘what do you say to people when they say I just can't say no, in terms of the workload there's nobody else to take it on, you know, yeah when I can't say no. So how do you, how do you address that?
Oh, look, I think it's such a critical thing, especially at the moment with what we're all facing in schools. There is too much work. And I'd love that Briony Scott, who's a principal of a K-12 school here in Sydney, but she's also the president of ACEL, so the Australian Council for Educational Leaders, and Briony said recently, too, “there's too much for us to do. We cannot fit it in all of the demands of teachers and also school leaders and principals. There's just not enough hours in the day.”
And so, I guess, in answering how we might address our own boundaries when there's too much work to go around, and we don't want to hand any off to other people to do, is then to look at what happens within your own school-work life. What if the parts of work that you really enjoy. What are the parts that give you a buzz, that give you energy? Most often it can be to do with the kids, but not always. Some people love other aspects of work, too. And also think about what are you skilled at? What do you contribute to school that you is sort of a special thing from you.
And finally, what are the priorities that are just unavoidable. These are the fixed priorities that need to be done. And in thinking about what you enjoy and what you skilled at, and what the priorities of the school are, you can start to prioritise your own work. And then, as Briony says, “we can just start at the top of the list and get as much done as we can within those healthy working hours, and what we don't get to at the bottom, we don't get to, and we have to make our peace with that.” Because although these boundaries, and the workload issues that we're facing, and the staffing issues and onward, they’re system wide issues and school wide issues that absolutely need to be dealt with, too. So, we don't want to put this back on individual people. Btu while we're all managing in this current climate, it is really important to give your self-permission where you can, to not get everything done.
Thanks, Mel. Another question. So, there's lots of boundaries that you could start with, I'm sure, once, you've done some of those exercises. But where do you start in terms of low hanging fruit which you spoke about earlier. What would be an example of the low hanging for that someone could start with? Say, tomorrow?
Thanks Danae. I think that's a great question. And it's so dependent on your school context. And I'm having a little look, I can see some people in leadership roles, some people are in small schools, and I have certainly worked in small schools to where everything does get divided up between less people but I think, so one of the low hanging fruit that I can see that many people mentioned earlier is starting with our technology use.
Because we can get comfortable with putting some boundaries in place for ourselves around how often we check tech. And of course, this is us, too. I don't know about everyone else, but I get a real buzz out of checking my phone and checking my email. So, we do need to set boundaries that we can be intentional about and that we can be consistent about because we want to share messages with others, absolutely, if we're leaders. But also, if we're staff to, and we're setting some boundaries that we’re consistent with over time. So other people understand what we're up to and what we're trying to achieve.
Thanks, Mel. And I think yes, really great advice there on setting those boundaries. My question is about maintaining those. So, firstly, you know, we've got to set them. What would be your three top tips in maintaining healthy boundaries.
Okay, let's think of three. Gosh, I've got like 30. But three important things, I guess one of them I've already mentioned. We want to be intentional with this work. When we're looking at work around boundaries in schools, it's inviting us to look at our work as the professionals that we are and to think about, “What do I want to bring to my work? What's really critical to me showing up being part of the team”.And absolutely, sometimes we can't say no. We might need to ask for additional support, or ask for additional time, or see if we can do it with somebody else to share the load. So, absolutely those things come into play when we're being intentional about trying to set those boundaries in the first place.
But intention also helps us maintain our boundaries, because if we can remember why we set them in the first place, this can help us say true to them. And as we reflect on them as number two, I guess ad think about, “is this boundary giving me what I need?”
Because boundaries can't do everything. Boundaries can't fix work overload, and boundaries can't fix difficult workplace relationships, and a number of other things, too. But what boundaries can do is start a conversation and allow us to put some things in place to support our own health and wellbeing, and to put some limits on different things, to give us more space and time to be proactive. So, the first one there was be intentional. The second one, I guess is to be reflective. And the third one I'd suggest in terms of maintaining is to talk with the trusted peer or someone that you report to, or even a friend at another school. And sense check what you're trying to do.
So sometimes schools are a place that have run from for many, many years without us having too many boundaries in place, and they've done quite well out of it. Because we all care so deeply, and we're all in it up to our eyeballs trying to give the students and the families and each other the very best of us.
But I think it's really important sometimes, if we're not too sure how our boundaries being received, or will be received in the first instance, to sense check that with another friend or colleague, either in our school or another school, can be a great way to make sure that we're on the right track, or to, you know, gently get some feedback, perhaps, that there might be another way to approach this, and perhaps it's not a boundary issue at all. It might be a courageous conversation that we need to have. Or it might be a conversation where we sit down with someone at school and to help us from their perspective, prioritise all the bits and pieces that we've got on.
So, are they boundaries that are unhealthy?
Great question Danae. Thank you. Well, I guess if we think about healthy boundaries as those that we are we able to enact, and that allow us to participate in the school as a system. And so, we need to be a bit flexible, so that we can enable the school to keep running, even if sometimes we need to change some things. I guess, in the flip side of those what is an unhealthy boundary? And sometimes we have pushback inside us about boundaries, and sometimes we have pushback from outside us about our boundaries. And I think there can be unhealthy boundaries that also impact on inside us and unhealthy boundaries that impact outside as well.
So, for example, if we hold tight to a really fixed boundary that we've kind of built like the Berlin Wall, rather than a boundary, that can be an unhealthy boundary for us internally. because in the school context it won't always hold, and then we might be disappointed or frustrated because we set our expectations too high at a level that schools can't sustain. So, I think if we get really attached to a very fixed boundary that can be unhealthy.
The opposite of that is also true that sometimes we can be in relationships with others in the school that might dictate what we do, and they make decisions for us. And they might say, in my case, “Mel can pick that up, she's always got a little bit of extra time”, and that's also an unhealthy boundary. That boundary is so wobbly and so flexible that it's not allowing us to stand up on our own two feet as a professional, and to really express what we need and express our intentions and our desires about how we want to work.
So, I guess to have a healthy boundary, therefore, is the flip side. What we're looking at is that capacity to look after our own wellbeing, to be a little bit flexible, and to consider what other people need, as well as what we need. But certainly not putting ourselves last. We need to put ourselves first in order to be able to continue doing the work that we do in schools.
Thanks, Mel. There’s some great questions that we received, didn't we? So, thank you for everyone that that sent them through. So, we've talked a lot about, you know, taking time to reflect. And there's some great reflective tools out there, and reflective questions that we can ask ourselves, that I thought we could discuss today. Ange would you be able to utilize the slides because I can't.
Yes, we should have control on that Danae.
Great. Thank you. So, this is a great reflective tool. That is, the relationship circles by Beck Thompson. So, I really love this reflection tool, because you can actually start to envisage where you're spending your time and who you're spending your time with, and ask yourself some of those reflective questions like, ‘how you're actually spending your precious resource’, such as your time, which is limited.
It's not infinite. ‘Are you spending that with those people on the inner circles or the outer circles. How you're living your life, is it in alignment with your values? Are you spending more time, and are you more flexible or rigid with your boundaries on those out of circles?’
So perhaps, do you find it really difficult to say no to your work, colleagues versus saying no to your family, or vice versa. And I think if you ask yourself some of those reflective questions and, also think about the relationship circles, it can start giving you an insight into what aspects of your life you may consider implementing some boundaries.
So, have a look at that, and perhaps consider asking yourself, are your current boundaries in alignment with your values, and how and whom are you spending your time with, and who do you actually struggle saying no to? There might be some boundaries, or aspects and people in your life you might need to consider, maybe introducing some boundaries.
Now, when we think about, this is a great, I love this image. You could utilize this in your classrooms. You can utilize this, you know, in the staff meetings, and it can definitely give you a gauge as to you know, reading the temperature of the room. Your own energy levels, you can reflect on, are you really at a state, or having a day where your energies are quite low and also going back to those relationship circles, are they people and tasks that you do in your life that actually drain your energy versus replenish your energy in your battery.
So, sometimes, having a really good analysis and that real reflection on who you're spending your time with, who really fuels and enlightens your spirit, and really gives you that energy in your battery, and really trying to assess your boundaries and think about well, could you get some time back where you could spend more time on those tasks that energize you versus diminish your battery.
This can also act as a great reflection tool, when you're considering where to implement some boundaries in your life and whom with, and what task might you say no to, that can actually give some of that time back to yourself, to actually be able to participate in those activities that will replenish your energy and spend time with the people that are more in line with your values.
So, having an understanding of your ‘Windows of Tolerance’ can be helpful too, because, as Mel suggested earlier. It can be the symptoms that all the feelings and emotions you feel, either in the hyper-arousal state or the hypo-arousal state that can also give you an insight into your boundaries, and where, perhaps some boundaries need to be put into place. So, for instance, when you're at work, and your boss comes up to, or your principal, or your colleague comes up to and says, “Oh, I'll ask. I'll ask Mel, because Mel's always so good, she'll say yes, and she'll be able to help me out”. And inside when you get asked that you're already starting to think, “Oh, I can't say no, but I'm feeling irritated by the thought of, how am I even going to find time to do this additional task?”. So those feelings of irritation that can actually indicate to us that we're in that zone of hyper-arousal which Dr. Dan Siegel, who's a professor of psychiatry, talks about when your heart rate, you know, might be racing a little bit, your sympathetic nervous system is definitely activated. And you're feeling that fight and flight response. So those feelings that you're feeling can definitely give you an insight into, maybe I need some boundaries.
Or hypo-arousal when you actually feel like someone's giving you another task, and you actually feel the complete opposite where you feel overwhelmed. And that's how you're responding to that additional stress, that additional danger. That’s the state of hypo-arousal, that withdrawal. And as you start to disassociate. We might actually feel a bit depressed, and sometimes when you start feeling like that, that can also be an indication as to you know, I'm just not feeling great. I'm just not myself. And people actually can see that withdrawing of yourself. If normally, you're quite a bubbly person, and you're actually starting to get a little bit quieter. And those can be times in your life, or you know, particularly when you're being asked of things where you're feeling completely overwhelmed. That can be definitely a signal to yourself when you are reflecting to maybe you know, great opportunity to try out saying no, or implementing a boundary that you feel comfortable to implement.
So, this just really illustrates that, that sometimes when our boundaries are being crossed, our zone of regulation is being limited, and in fact, we can either move closer into feeling in a state of hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal. And, as I said, that can be times when we need to implement some boundaries, we can actually widen our regulatory state, it can widen our Window of Tolerance, and they’re things like having that time in our day to actually incorporate some self-care strategies that actually can, as I say, open that Window of Tolerance and make us feel, you know, actually more ourselves and we all more in that state of a balanced state which is really the state that we, you know, prefer to actually live in. It's a nicer state to be.
So, when we talk about self-care, for some it means going to a Yoga or Pilates class, but you know, not all of us love Pilates and Yoga. But, it can be as simple as making time to stop at your barista that you love, to stop on the way to work. It can be making time to make sure you do have lunch. It could be finding those little moments in that third space where you can take a breath. You can chat with a colleague, that can be really distressing. So, it's any little moment of care or little activity of care that you can do for yourself that re-energizes that battery, that re-energizes that spirit, and it can actually be in all the different areas and aspects of your life. It can be in the workplace. It can be psychological, where you might go and seek out the services of people like Mel, psychologists or mental health professionals who can practice talk therapy, and really help by sharing our worries with someone else who can give us a different perspective, can be very helpful. It can be looking at the spiritual aspect of our life, doing some mindful practice and breathwork. Making sure that we're taking some of that time back by implementing a healthy boundary, so we can attend the gym. We can go and take our dog for a walk. We can go down to the beach and just breath in some salt air.
Physical activity can actually re-energize that battery and move us into that green zone when we feel re-energized, and we can feel more ourselves. Also, that emotional self-care, by spending time with our loved ones and our friends, that make our ourselves feel more authentic, and that can actually nurture our soul and those social interactions and relationships that also rejuvenate our spirit and can make, you know, we're all social beings.
And we all know the effect that COVID had on us, that being isolated is not healthy for social beings. We need to be finding time in our day, in our week to spend time with our loved ones, and our family and friends.
So, I'd love to see if you could share in that chat box, perhaps some other self-care strategies and how self-care is actually celebrated in your school environment. So, then we can learn and share from each other.
So, I'm not sure looking at the time now, whether we've got too much time for anymore Q&As but we will definitely attend to those in the follow up email that comes after this In Focus session. So, we do thank you for all your questions that you have posted to us, and we'll be sure to send them out, and some answers, as well as some fantastic links, of resources that we have talked about today in the post webinar email.
Some key messages from today are, we know that boundaries can actually be vital to our mental health, both physical and mental health, we know that by practicing them, this makes us feel more energized, and can give ourselves that time back so we can continue to care for others. As we’ve said several times, we can’t pour from an empty cup.
We are in a caregiving profession. We can't continue to care consistently, sustainably, without really finding ways and time in our life to re-energize and to take care of ourselves, it's really important.
And boundaries can actually be a strategy in itself to self-care, and give ourselves some time back. Honour our precious resource, which is our time. We know that it's limited. It's not infinite. And by honouring our boundaries we can actually honour our time. And being okay with being uncomfortable because it is really uncomfortable, when you're a caregiver to say no, because we're all wanting to help others. That's why we're in the profession that we are. So, it's about being a little bit uncomfortable until you feel comfortable in saying no, and it takes practice and time and starting small, you know, in in terms of implementing some small boundaries that can actually give us all some time. That can be a great start in the right direction. It can be uncomfortable, and it takes time and practice, and boundaries are all about respecting ourselves, respecting our time and honouring ourselves.
Knowing our mental health service supports that are available to us, do you know EAP provider? How many sessions can you access throughout the year? Are these sessions that can be accessed for yourself and your family? We all encourage our young people and encourage our friends and our family to reach out for help. But it's really important that we're doing that ourselves. You know, we're actually modelling what we want to see in others. And this is a fantastic resource that is actually available. It's the first option under the resources tab, and it's ready to go for you to access. It can be utilized on your newsletters. It can be utilized in your schools and laminated in common areas so everyone can see it, both students and fellow educators. So, it's really knowing your support networks yourself. So, who the friends and family that you can call upon when you need support. That's really, really important.
This is up there just to, you know, really refresh yourself and take that time in that reflection space to know who your support services, and support people are that you can reach out to help.
So, in terms of feedback, we would love to hear from you. If you haven't registered, and you're actually sharing off a screen from a colleague, it’s really important today that you answer this survey. So, we can actually find out, what do you want to learn? What are some professional learning sessions that you would like to see? Some topic suggestions would be great.But also, if you can go down to question 5 and answer question 5 and ensure that you're putting in your name and your email address. Then we can be sure that we're actually sending out to everyone that's come, the 405 people that are with us now. We would love to know who you are and even if you could email us that would be great. I think Ruth is going to put that in the chat box for you.
And you can email us with your name and your email address. So, we can be sure that we can send you the post webinar email, which is going to be full of some fantastic direct links to all the resources we've talked about. There are some fabulous educator wellbeing resources. If you go on to the resources tab, and you scroll down to Educator Wellbeing, you will find some fantastic, it's a one-stop place where you can find all the wellbeing resources that you can access for your professional learning that you might do on your professional development days for your staff.
And that's always being updated. So, it's well worth having a look. So, if you can fill out the webinar now from the QR code that would be most appreciated. And if you haven't registered, please do so by ensuring that you answer question 5.
There's some fantastic sessions and events coming up, there’s one coming up just this Thursday on responding to self-harm in primary schools, also one coming up on June fourteenth, on staff fatigue. Make sure you're registering for those great events that we hold.
We've got conversations we're going to come back and connect with you all on August third. We'd love you to register because we really want to find out, what are some key learnings that you've taken away from today, and perhaps what boundaries you put into practice that you can share with these fantastic Be You participants from today, and also others that might join us because these events are about learning and sharing off each other. And thank you for posting all the ideas that you have in the chat box, because, you know, I'm sure these people out there that today who have read some of those ideas on the chat box, and they're thinking I might be putting that into practice, either for yourself or in your schools.
So, if you've enjoyed today, we would love you to reconnect with us on the third of August to find out more of what boundaries you’ve put into practice, and perhaps share with the learning community those so we can continue to get better, and we can get better at implementing some boundaries.
So Be You offers a suite of comprehensive resources, free and available for you but one of the greatest resources is your Be You consultants. We're here to save your time and find you the resources and tools that you need, that can help your school community. So, we know that your time is precious and a part of connecting to the Be You consultants is about saving you time and finding those resources that you need specifically for your school.
So, thank you very much for today, there is so much that goes into putting together an In Focus.
There's so many people behind the scenes, so you know who you are. Thank you so much for today. And we really appreciate everyone's time. I've just wondered whether we do have a few more minutes in in today's event, whether perhaps, Mel, I could ask you some of those Q&A questions that have come in?
Absolutely, always happy to chat.
Great, so one of the questions that we received earlier was, how do you actually balance the boundaries of your staff while managing parent expectations which can also be quite great.
I think it's a really valid question for our environment as schools because we're such a unique community in that we serve our students, and we exist for our students, but we absolutely exist to support our families as well. However, I think that a few things over time, including social media, has made us even more accessible to families than we've ever been before, and given our gorgeous, conscientious characteristics and our tendencies and our want to provide families with support as much as we can, and access to ourselves. My sense is that perhaps the pendulum has swung a long way toward, for example, giving parents access to us.
Let's say, back in that technology sphere that we talked about earlier and in terms of the times that we might answer emails, what might be expected of us in in terms of participating in other groups that we might be on with parents. For example, WhatsApp groups if we are part of our class group, and even the different systems that we use to keep parents up to date in the different states, and I think that it can be really important to set some boundaries that are respectful of our staff's wellbeing around the use of these different apps and different technologies, and how available our staff are to answer and share information with parents, and then to communicate those very clearly with parents.
We might need to communicate in multiple methods. For example, we might need to have standard out of office replies set across emails as we help parents and carers understand our new boundaries as a school. We might also communicate that through the newsletter and other means that we use. And generally, because I'm guessing this question came in from a leader, we need to take a whole school approach if we're trying to change the ways that our parents interact with us as a whole workforce. And we are a workforce. So, we're not on 24/7 and I think parents are very cognisant of that. So, building in some boundaries for our staff, but then communicating them really effectively with parents, and encouraging all staff to be consistent with those boundaries rather than perhaps the odd one who might think, “oh look, I'll just keep replying, it's just easier for me if I keep it up”. But to really encourage everyone to act as a team and respond as you set the boundaries up for the team.
That's great, and boundaries are going to be different for different people. How do you negotiate them? How do you say no politely and negotiate a boundary with perhaps a leader or a colleague that you really like at school, and you just really struggle with saying no to them.
Yeah, I think that it's a trick that befalls us in schools that we start to get a little bit muddled with who needs to do what. So, I think one of the first places to start, whether you are a leader within your school community, is probably the best place person to do this, but is to get really clear on what are the expectations of everybody? Because if we want to be fair with those boundaries across different people and support different people to set their boundaries, we really need to have those shared expectations of what is the work, what does need to be done? And you know, what can we potentially leave for another day, or who owns what tasks.
And once we've done that work, and it's clear at the team level and even at the school level then we can start having those individual conversations about boundaries, because everybody's singing from the same song sheet. There's a shared understanding about expectations. And that means that if I'm making boundaries regarding my time, for example, regarding my availability for particular projects or regarding my interactions with a particular staff member, or leader, as you mentioned a particular leader, that you might find it difficult to say no, you’re working off some shared facts and shared understanding about what's essential in this school as a workplace. And what are the optional pieces that we might be able to talk some more about which might be, what time are we going to finish for the day? What time are we going to set those email rules? So, I think it's about shared expectations and building from there.
Sounds good. Any suggestions on how to say no. If you're new to saying no to people.
I think that in schools it can be difficult to say an outright no, at times, so what we might need to do is redirect people to other resources or offer to help them to access support from other areas. So that it's a no, but it's a gentle no, and that we're managing and maintaining the relationship because we do still want to provide that person with support and the young people that they're caring for with support. But we're also being true to ourselves. So perhaps, a no, but… is a good place to start.
And I actually love what Allison said in the chat too, “I don't have capacity at this time” is a lovely way to say it. You might also like to say, “Can I have a couple of days to think on that?”.
And I think we can get into saying automatic yes, so we need to start practicing, taking the time to give ourselves time to think, thanks Danae.
That's a great way to end. And thank you for that chat suggestion. I think a few people will be utilising that. So once again, thank you everyone for your time.
We respect and appreciate very much all the work that you're doing in schools and thank you so much for joining us today for this great chat, our In Focus on healthy boundaries. Thank you to everyone involved in the In Focus. And thank you again, and I hope you're going to do something kind for yourself this evening. Take care.
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Promoting healthy boundaries to support staff wellbeing
Last updated: June, 2023