I just returned from a week away, in the Upper Peninsula (aka UP) of Michigan, where I was able to spend time discussing self-care practices with teachers and administrators from various districts as they prepare for back to school. I also had the opportunity to expand my circle and share some self-care tips with employees of a county health department down state in Michigan. Even though the job responsibilities of those professionals differ, the level of stress experienced is quite similar. Anyone who is in a field where caretaking of others is involved, knows it can be draining. Then you add in a pandemic and things are magnified. It’s obvious how much everyone is carrying. People are tired and tense but are also resilient and seem to be fighting for hope.
Even though I had an amazing time running from small town to small town in the UP and then with my new friends down state, it is hard to be away from the “office”. Work life doesn’t stop just because you are out in the field. It is unbelievable how quickly emails pile up isn’t it? Additionally, I was responsible for a training kick-off that took place the first day I was traveling. Fortunately, I had a couple colleagues graciously agree to stand in the gap for that event and also while I was unable to attend to email requests and meetings. I tried to check in as often as time and inconsistent Wi-Fi would allow but knew I would not be “on top of it” as usual. Being a “control freak” in recovery, I frequently have a difficult time, letting things go. It is hard to me to be ok with not being in the fray and allowing others to take over. This week was a good opportunity for me to practice. Some days I did better than others.
I could either choose to buy into the lies of “you are burdening someone else by not being available” or “you should handle your own responsibilities” or “no one can do this as good as you” or “it’s the end of the world if a ball gets dropped”. Anyone else out there relate to those myths? I had to realize it was my ego talking, none of those things are based in reality, especially in this particular situation. Yes, I do need to own my responsibilities, but I was responsible in asking someone else who is fully capable to pitch-hit. Why second guess or criticize my own selection (or their proven professionalism)?
Instead, I can choose to trust and to let things work themselves out. On good days, I had to intentionally decide that it was ok to just focus on what I had on tap for the day and not think about the rest. There is something to be said for staying out of the know, sometimes. In some cases, the less I know the better. I’ve often said that to and about my adult children. There are some things I’d rather not know about, at least until after the fact (especially once I know they are safe).
Now, granted I am a social worker, so I definitely care about people and their well-being. However, I also often joke that I became a social worker so I could be in everyone’s business and get paid for it. Historically, I’ve been very nosey and didn’t want to miss out on anything. However, I’m learning as I get older that I don’t necessarily need to always be in the mix (minimal case of FOMO here?!) I’ve determined it’s ok for me to not know all the scoop with so and so, or to be concerned with whoever’s drama, or to hear the latest on such and such (although I do still LOVE my weekend People Magazine reads, in all fairness). There can be a benefit to limiting my intake of information. Being selective about what I pay or give my attention to, can have its advantages. I can choose to reserve my energy and brain capacity for things that are important, that actually need my focus. Do I really need to be involved in this situation? Am I a decision-maker here? Is someone else better suited for this circumstance? Is there a legitimate reason I need to insert myself? In many of these cases the answer is no, I don’t need to be included or involved. In those situations (& arguably others) my ignorance is bliss.
As I spent HOURS with educators and other health care professionals over the last week, I know there is a tendency to want to know everything especially about particular students or families with whom we work. My encouragement is to go slow…check in with yourself. Do you really need to know? Will it help you help them, or will it cause you to expend energy you could be using elsewhere, like on your own well-being? Sometimes the world does need you to be in it ALL and other times all will be well if you are away.