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In addition to being an educator, I am a poet. I started writing poetry over the last 2 years and I used it as a means of emotional survival; it’s a means of expressing myself, particularly during difficult moments. However, within the past year, my writing has become sporadic; I’ve found it more difficult to channel inspiration into more than three words, and I’ve used “I’m too busy” as an excuse far too often to explain why I can’t dedicate time to personal writing. This has all changed over the course of the last three weeks.

At the beginning of March, I set off to Jamaica (home) for spring break right before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on the island. It was a time of panic, anxiety, and fear. I had to make a quick decision about whether to cut my trip back home short in order to return to Canada. I felt disappointed as I hadn’t been to Jamaica, hadn’t seen my parents & friends in almost a year, and this break was meant to be a time for me to feel relaxed after a stressful start to my new semester at school. On top of the anxiety that came with the first case of COVID-19 in Jamaica, I was feeling overwhelmed by the constant influx of information on news networks and social media. I was glued to my phone screen, constantly scrolling down my Twitter feed, and refreshing my Instagram timeline and with each refresh came 10 new posts about the spread of Coronavirus. It added to my anxiety and made me feel even more frantic about leaving home.

Ultimately, I came back to Canada a week earlier than planned and things escalated (in Canada) quickly. Within a week, the borders were closed, schools were closed, and the number of cases in Ontario had increased significantly. I was feeling scared. So, I turned to my poetry and my creative writing. I rediscovered my love for creating and writing about my personal emotions. As such, this time at home has helped give me the time & space to really sit down and re-devote myself to a craft that I enjoy. It has also reminded me to consciously unplug from social media at times and be intentional each day.

As educators, we are always on the go. Even if we’re not literally running around our classrooms trying to get everything together, our minds are racing 100 miles an hour. This time is not easy for us; we’re worried about our families, our friends, our students and ourselves. We may get tied up in our fear and anxiety and find it difficult to take time for ourselves to decompress. Furthermore, it may feel harder to take time for ourselves because we’re at home and so Netflixing and sitting on the couch may feel like we’re already taking “us” time. While those are valid forms of self-care and relaxation, if you’re interested in other activities, don’t feel bad about doing other things. It is so important that we consciously set time each day to do something that we enjoy or something that makes us feel more centered as individuals.

Whether that be baking, meditating, writing, learning a new skill, dancing on our head tops, it’s important to find time for ourselves within this crazy period of self-isolation. If you don’t know what you may like, this may be a good time to learn about activities you might like and learn more about yourself in general. Put yourself first for at least 15 minutes out of the day. It’s so important for our sanity and for our mental health.

This week, I’ve spent at least 2 hours of writing, which I haven’t done in months before this period of isolation. So, this period has given me the time to explore my creativity and talents, and it has changed my overall mood for the better. Self-care must continue during this time, even if it feels harder to do.


Jheanell Lumsden is a young, black educator who hails from Jamaica but is currently working in Toronto,...

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