From my experience, having reached a certain age, my body allowing me to sleep through the night uninterrupted is a rarity. Either my bladder needs attention, or my temperature can’t regulate, or my arm, neck, or leg gets stiff, tingles, cramps or I can’t shut off my mind. Sometimes it can be all of the above! Maybe some of you can relate? After nights like that I don’t typically feel very rested and ready to face the day ahead. Subsequently on the nights that I do get full rest, the next day I feel like a new woman!
As I write this blog, I am coming off one of those nights. I slept 8.5 hours straight through. I’m not even sure I moved at all. That’s when you know you are tired. In talking with educators and colleagues who work with educators, that is the reoccurring theme. Everyone is tired! (truth is it isn’t just people in the education field, almost everyone I talk to, regardless of their profession, is exhausted). I keep thinking “why?” How is it that the majority of us now stuck at home, not running around from meeting to meeting or managing 30+ students in a classroom, or traveling from conference to conference, are still dragging? How can things feel busier now when we were at the breaking point before? Why is it so draining to sit in front of a computer on zoom?
I’ve been asking those questions in the last few weeks and many of us just speculate. But what keeps coming up in those discussions is the emotional toll this time in our lives is taking on us. It’s the calibration of a new way of working; the shift from our typical routine to a new approach. That is compounded by the strain of an ongoing (no clear end in sight) pandemic, and social unrest coupled with political and economic tensions, and oh yeah let’s not forget, Mother Nature is having her say too. It’s a lot to shoulder. For any of us just one of those issues would be a lot to manage.
This past week I co-presented with a professor from Louisiana State University (fortunately Hurricane Laura didn’t impede his ability to join in) to a group of school and district administrators on the need to prioritize their own self-care. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people attended and by the level of engagement (which is much more challenging via zoom). But to me, it just re-emphasized how much people need these reminders. It was great to process with them, validate the things they are already doing to take care of themselves. We brainstormed new ideas of ways to integrate self-care into their busy days. We gave them permission and support to recommit to their own well-being. I think all of us were re-energized after that session.
What’s become clearer to me during these various conversations about self-care is that it takes energy. I’ve noticed that as I purposefully establish boundaries, either in relationships or work expectations, it can feel tiring. Trying to protect myself, my own well-being can be hard sometimes. I worry about letting others down, hurting or burdening someone else. I fret about making sure I’m saying just the right thing or sometimes I may simply have the fear of missing out, although as I get older, I feel that less and less. It takes deliberate intention, consciousness, and awareness to prioritize your own needs, and that takes energy. I have to be courageous, stand my ground with strength and determination. It can feel awkward and weird but in the end it feels right.
How I see it is, if we are going to spend our energy regardless, we might as well spend it on ourselves. When we put our needs first, we are then healthy and whole enough to in turn help support those around us. We cannot pour from an empty cup. It’s simply not possible. But when we fill our cup, we are then able to share with others from our supply. The end result has been worth it, every time. Staying true to my needs, regardless how hard it may have been to get to that point, has been worth it. There is freedom on the other side (and perhaps a full night of uninterrupted sleep as well, doesn’t THAT sound good?!)