Wellness in a Stressful World

I talk to a lot of heads of school.

That’s a big part of my job.  I have things to share and things to learn.  I have advice to offer and advice to take.  I spend a significant amount of time each day talking with leaders of Jewish schools.  And the one thing I can say with great confidence, is that regardless of whether they head a large school or small; a successful school or one which struggles; whether they have been in the position for five months or fifty years…they are not bored!

is-it-friday-yet-704781-mI think we associate “stress” with negative situations, but I am not so sure that is always the case.  I think there are some settings, some professions, some situations that even when functioning at or near their best are inherently stressful and, thus, create significant wellness concerns for those entrusted with leadership.  I am confident that Jewish schools are one such address.

Let’s skip an enumeration of why leading Jewish schools is stressful.  Let’s assume there be some connection between stress and burnout.  Let’s take as a given that one cannot take care of others when one cannot take care of oneself.  Let’s hope you can make changes to improve wellness.  Let’s be honest and admit that despite having attending two different conferences on this topic that you haven’t yet made those changes.  (OK, that one was just for me.)

We’ve all seen this, yes?

And yet I still get to work by 7:00 AM, am still checking email at 10:00 PM, still not going to the gym, still grabbing a donut from the faculty room, etc., etc.

How can we better understand what is going on?

In their book, “SWITCH – How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, Chip Heath and Dan Heath talk about “immunity to change”.  Essentially the behaviors we say want to change are serving some purpose and until we can figure out what that is, we will struggle to replace them.  I say I want to make healthy eating choices…I say I want to get more sleep…I say I want to exercise more…I say I want to achieve greater school-home balance.

How do I dream the new dream?


What do you think?

I would love to hear from those who have thought about this topic.  I would love to hear even more from those who have done something about it.  What are you doing to address wellness either for yourself or your school (or your organization)?  What has worked that you can share and what are you struggling with that we can learn from?

There are 525,600 minutes in one year.  However, when you consider that approximately 175,200 minutes of that time will be spent sleeping, 16,425 minutes spent eating, and if you’re in education, 72,000 minutes spent in school…well, you have less than half that total to spend on the rest of your life.

It is essential to do the important things first—if you leave them until last, you might run out of time.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.

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