Two months ago I attended a yoga workshop for stress relief. The yoga teacher began by asking each of us to say our name, occupation, and why we were stressed. Every person in the class, except one who was a mom with two teenage boys, was a teacher. I was surprised at this and so were the other teachers in the room. Teaching can become stressful when you are trying to juggle research, professional development, conferences, teaching, and helping students. I am always looking for a way to change this.
In the book “The Resilient Practitioner: Burnout Prevention and Self Care Strategies” written by Thomas M. Skovholt and Michelle J. Trotter-Mathison, the editor points out that “the helping professions: therapy, medicine, social work, and teaching, is demanding because of the nature of the work and these professionals can burn out, basically by giving too much attention to the clients instead of themselves.” Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep will help you maintain your health so you can cope with stress easily. But what I got from the book was that problems will arise if you do not believe that you are the most important person that you need to care for. It is easy to say this but acting on it takes an effort from me. Especially since in my culture a woman is expected to care for others and if she chooses to put herself first she is seen as selfish. Being selfish should be a positive thing that we all strive for when it comes to our well-being. I always think of the announcement in the airplane where the attendants tell you “in the event of an emergency place your mask on first and then you can help others”. The book expands on this by stating “Within this larger pull of altruism versus self-care, counselors, therapists, teachers, clergy, and health professionals do their work attempting to live on the balance beam between too much other-care and too much self-care. For example, how much sleep deprivation should the practitioner endure to adequately prepare to help the client, student, or patient the next day? This is just one of many dilemmas continually faced by practitioners in the high-touch fields.”
The school semester begins next month and I’m reflecting on how I can put myself first this year. Exercise such as yoga classes or tai chi are great choices to strengthen your body and relax your mind. Massage is also an excellent choice especially for tired hands that teach apparel courses. I am also interested in practicing guided meditation which helps you refrain your thinking to stop old patterns. Belleruth Naparstek is my favorite source and she offers many free online options. I hope you can join me this school year and make a pledge to take care of yourself first. I would love to do another post next year and see how everyone did with self-care. Please let me know your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.