Well, here we are again. As I write this, we are just days from heartbreak and reeling after yet another tragic school shooting in Michigan. It has been just over a year since our last one (November 2021). I’m at a loss for words about where we go from here and honestly, I’m not even sure any words really matter at this point, it’s more about action and healing. The number of people impacted is hard to measure and the depths of the trauma experienced will be felt for some time (forever?). I especially think about the families who lost a loved one so tragically, unexpectedly, and at such a young age. I am also aware of a particular student who attended Oxford high school during that shooting and now attends Michigan State University during this one. I can only imagine the feelings they are experiencing.
Because of my professional involvement with numerous entities that support young people across the education lifespan, I am in conversations consistently with others who work with students in K-12 and university settings. These last few days have once again been focused on how to support those affected by this tragedy. If/while things are underway legislatively and within public safety circles, there is also simultaneously work to be done on an emotional and mental health level. Not only do we need to attend to those directly impacted but also consider the professionals on the frontlines as well. It is natural to immediately think about those who experienced trauma firsthand and support them. However, too often we neglect the needs of those helping professionals or presume they are strong enough to shoulder the burden alone. This last week, the focus of the conversations has been about both, caring for the hurting and also for those helping the hurting.
There are some special people working to support those touched by the loss of lives as well as the feeling of loss of their safety and security. Meanwhile, my attention and those of a few colleagues has turned to those on the frontline of the healing process. We have circled up to pool our resources and devise a plan to help the helpers.
Historically, as a society, in my opinion, we have not done enough to consider and support the needs of those in caregiving professions. We ignore the working conditions some find themselves in day in and day out and how those circumstances can deplete their internal reserves. Assumptions are made that people can (and should?) sustain themselves, surely if they can help others, they can help themselves. This goes for educators, health, and mental health care professionals to name a few (truthfully everyone can benefit from a focus on their own wellness). If this was the case previously, now, especially these last few years it’s more pertinent than ever before.
As resilient as we are as a species, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t take its toll. Now more than ever before, the commitment to take care of ourselves and encourage others to do the same is essential. I am aware that no one has extra time, however I am convinced that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time to focus on our own needs. My experience as I continue to practice what I preach is that it can be easily embedded in our daily activities. As I’ve shared in previous blogs, there are many strategies we can adopt to ensure we are prioritizing our own needs, while also fulfilling other commitments to family, friends, employers and/or others in need. It doesn’t have to hard, but it does have to be intentional. Pay attention to warning signs that you are running low on your energy reserves. How can you tell? What are give aways that signal a need to slow down and adjust your focus? When you notice those signals, take advantage of an opportunity to close your eyes for a few minutes, take a couple deep breaths, do some stretching, take a quick walk, watch a funny video, or text a friend as some suggestions. I’ve been touched by the outpouring of love and support happening on MSUs campus. It helps to know we are not along in our time of need. It’s inspiring how the community has rallied to bolster those impacted. That’s the silver lining is the goodness of people prevails. So, let’s continue to commit to loving ourselves and one another, it is needed now more than ever before.