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Wellbeing 2021: A guide for early years practitioners

date January 5, 2021 Sonia Mainstone-Cotton

As we enter into the new year, for many of us there is a feeling of deep relief that 2020 is over but also a feeling of trepidation of the year ahead. This year, especially during the last 3 months, I have been aware that it’s very hard to think ahead, plan ahead. In many ways I have been living on a day by day existence. It feels hard to think beyond this day or this week, as so much keeps changing.

This has felt especially true in my role in education. I work in schools supporting young children with social, emotional and mental health needs and nothing has remained normal. I feel like I am standing on shifting sands. When that happens it can feel hard to think and plan beyond the smallest of things…

The power of small mindful actions

Often many of us start a new year with plans, and hopes. Looking after our wellbeing is often part of that. However, as I just mentioned, it can feel hard to plan in these current times. I have been thinking a lot about how I support wellbeing in 2021, for myself and the children and staff I support. My thoughts are that we need to think small, think about small habits we could create, that become part of our everyday life, but small things which nurture us and support us and do not take much thinking about. My feeling is that so many of us are at capacity, we don’t have the head space, or the physical energy to make big changes and that is ok. In the rest of this blog, I am going to offer some ideas that maybe you could give a go, which might become new habits of self care:

cup of coffee and cosy blanket

Smell the coffee

Coffee is an essential part of my morning routine. Stopping and smelling as it is being made, and noticing that first taste. These are tiny things, but I have learnt the moment of noticing and appreciating at the start of the day can be a nurturing way to start my day. Coffee might not be your thing, but there will be other moments you can notice and appreciate at the start of the day.

tree sparrow eating off a bird feeder

Notice what is outside

I have some pots on a wall outside my dining room window, I try to have flowering plants in them all year. At the moment they have deep red cyclamen in them. I also have bird feeders outside this window. During the day, I take a moment to stop and notice the colour of the flowers or the birds on the feeder. Both of these things brings me moments of joy, just fleeting moments, but enough to make me smile.


view of a country path surrounded by trees

Taking a short walk

Where possible I have started to try and walk just a little more. This might be around the park at the back of my house, or sometimes it is as simple as parking slightly further away from the school I am in and walking along the road. When I am walking I try and notice something, it might be a flower in a garden, the colour of a door, or a bird; at the moment it might be the decorations in peoples windows. The aim of this is to help me to stop thinking for a moment, to find something that gives my brain a moment’s respite from the busy thinking in head.


Switch off the news and listen to something positive

I have found listening to the news has become overwhelming, so I now listen to a small amount and then instead will listen to some music, or a funny podcast, or some poetry. Just making this small change has helped me to feel more in control.


Be kind to ourselves

I think the biggest change we can make in 2021 is to learn to be kind to ourselves, to speak gently to ourselves in the way we would speak to a loved one or a close friend.

woman playing with baby and toy

Final thoughts

We have all survived an unbelievably challenging year, we need to be gentle to ourselves as we enter this new year.


About Sonia
kinderly expert card sonia

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton – is an early years participation trainer, consultant and author, specialised in wellbeing and mental health. She’s the author of “Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing” and “Promoting Emotional Wellbeing in Early Years Staff”.  

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