Learn Self-Care Strategies from Camosun College Psychology Instructor Dr. Judy Caldwell

Do you find teaching stressful?  

Teaching is a demanding job; it has been said to be one of the most stressful jobs, as it can be 24/7 focusing on students’ needs. Camosun College psychology instructor Dr. Judy Caldwell has been teaching 1st and 2nd year psychology courses at Camosun for the past 16 years. Over that time, she has learned how to find work/life balance. I had the pleasure of working with Judy for a year while I was the department’s Instructional Assistant. Being in her presence and seeing the bright energy she brought to the classroom daily, I had to ask her to share her insight to inspire our days to be more positive. 

AM: Thanks, Judy, for joining us at the Self-Discovery Retreat! Let’s dive in. How do you maintain a balance between your work and personal life? Why is this balance important?

JC: Maintaining a work/life balance is important for both your physical and psychological well-being. In doing so, you are much less likely to suffer from burnout and you actually perform your job better. An essential factor in achieving this balance is realizing what is really important in life, such as your health, your family, and your friends, and ensuring that they get the time and attention that they deserve. To this end, I make sure to spend a great deal of quality time with my husband and my dog, as well as with my very close friends (the family that I choose :)). In regards to my health, I eat well, exercise regularly, and take time for myself to do the activities that I love. My next goal in terms of my health is to begin to meditate regularly, which will help to quiet my mind and relax my body.

AM: How do you practice self-care in your busy life?

JC: I may not appear to be an introvert, but I surely am. I have a job that I love, but it requires me to be very social, interacting with others constantly throughout the day. When I get home, I’m exhausted. To recharge, I spend a great deal of time on my own, usually engaged in learning activities, such as working on my Italian or learning to play the piano. These kinds of activities bring me joy and allow me to take care of my introverted self. My husband and I also take an extended vacation every year, which allows us to remove ourselves from work and thoroughly relax and enjoy each other’s company. A small, yet important, thing I do daily to psychologically separate my workday from my personal life is to immediately change out of my work clothes and into more comfortable wear when I return home at the end of the day. This helps me to unwind and move into a more relaxed state of mind.

(c) Judy Caldwell

(c) Judy Caldwell

AM: How has a positive mindset influenced your work and home life?

JC: Having a positive mind set certainly makes life more enjoyable. It makes it so that you are eager to get out of bed in the morning and start the day! To some extent, I believe that people have control over this. For example, I remember my husband and I were on vacation, and it was not going well (the accommodation was terrible, the weather was not cooperating, etc.). When it really started to get my husband down, I said to him: “You have two choices, you can continue on this negative spiral and not have fun, or you can decide that you are going to enjoy yourself regardless of the circumstances.” After some time he agreed, changed his mindset, and we ended up having a really great time. When circumstances are not working as you hoped (which often they don’t!), you need to ask yourself that very question: “Do you want to continue down this road of negativity and not enjoy yourself, or do you want to have fun?” We have only one shot at life; we need to make it count!

AM: How do you cope with negative self-talk?

JC: It is very important to deal with negative self-talk, as our behaviour follows from our internal dialogue. That is, believing that you can successfully accomplish a task leads to that outcome, as does believing that you can’t successfully accomplish a task. In other words, our thoughts become reality. One method I use to deal with negative self-talk is a form of cognitive restructuring. I identify the negative internal dialogue, recognize it for what it is, look for evidence that demonstrates that the line of reasoning is not rational, and then replace the negative thoughts with more positive, constructive ones. It seems to work for me. It is also important to know that our behaviour can affect our thoughts and emotions. When I am feeling negative or down, I force myself to smile. It actually works to change my mood. Making sure my interactions with others remain positive and saying ‘hello’ to other people as I pass by also helps to turn my mood around.

Camosun College's Young Building. Photo Credit: Arianna Merritt

Camosun College's Young Building. Photo Credit: Arianna Merritt

AM: How do you practice being confident daily?

JC: As I get older, I am finding that I am becoming more accepting of myself and my ‘imperfections.’ I am beginning to view these ‘imperfections’ as being uniquely my own; they combine to make me who I am. This self-acceptance definitely helps with my self-confidence. Of course taking care of myself in terms of my health and appearance is important as well. I make sure to eat healthy and exercise regularly. I also find that challenging myself, whether it’s travelling abroad on my own to take language classes or returning to school to complete a degree, helps as well. That is, taking on challenges that scare me but meeting them head-on really does wonders for my self-confidence.

AM: What is your number one productivity tip?

JC: This would have to be: “Don’t procrastinate!” When work presents itself, I like to get it done sooner rather than later. I don’t like having tasks sitting on my desk waiting to be completed as they end up being constantly on my mind, using up valuable cognitive resources. When tasks are complete, I no longer have to devote valuable energy to them and can move on.

AM: Why is it important to dress for success?

JC: How you dress is a statement about who you are. Dressing well shows that you pay attention to detail and that you have self-respect. In fact, research has shown that the way one dresses affects their performance! Feeling like you look great on the outside makes you feel great on the inside. When you dress the part, you feel the part, and you rock the part!

Thanks, Judy, for sharing the self-care strategies you use to lead a healthy balanced life! You are empowering all of us to follow our passions and to keep going! Thank you for being a leader in and out of the classroom.  

Do you find teaching stressful? What ways have you learned to cope? What self-care strategies do you use in your work? How can we make workplaces healthier environments for the employees? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below. We can all learn from each other. See you at the beach!